Lox Groves Seeks To Streamline Permitting And Code Enforcement

Permitting and code enforcement have been thorns in the sides of residents for years, agree Loxahatchee Groves Town Council members. On Tuesday, May 18, the council took a step toward removing that thorn, or at least easing the pain.

The council voted 4-1 to instruct town staff to bring back an executable contract with SAFEbuilt Inc. to provide permitting and code enforcement services for the town. Vice Mayor Laura Danowski cast the dissenting vote.

“I think bringing services in-house will benefit residents tremendously,” Mayor Robert Shorr said after Town Manager Jamie Titcomb told the council that contracting out the package of services would be less expensive than the current method of running permits through Palm Beach County and hiring an outside firm for code enforcement.

Shorr made clear, however, that his final support would hinge on SAFEbuilt’s plan for implementing on-site personnel, which could include a permit tech in office five days a week, supported by a permit administrator three days a week, and code enforcement personnel as needed.

Titcomb recalled that when he arrived in 2019, there was a sign in the lobby of town hall that read “90 Days for Permits.” That timeline already has been significantly reduced, he said, but “code enforcement has been hit or miss… It has been done all kinds of ways… It’s important that the link be made between code enforcement and the building process.”

While some worried that a more proactive and focused code enforcement department might look for reasons to fine homeowners, Titcomb said that the town would not be “trying to police people’s yards.”

“It’s about providing better response for the needs of the town,” Titcomb explained.

SAFEbuilt is headquartered in Loveland, Colorado, with offices in 10 states. The Florida office is in Fort Lauderdale. The company (www.safebuilt.com) provides full-service building department services, including plan review, inspections, code compliance, building officials and permit technicians.

Exactly which services and the extent to which they would be implemented must be worked out before a final contract is voted on by the council.

If a contract is finalized, Titcomb said it would take approximately 3 to 6 months to transition to SAFEbuilt from the current bifurcated process.

“I got involved with the town because of code enforcement,” said Councilwoman Phillis Manigla, who made the motion to seek the contract with SAFEbuilt. “Since prior to 2012, code enforcement has been a huge issue.”

In other business, the council approved a purchase order with D.S. Eakins Construction of Lake Park to provide all labor and materials for replacing the existing 60-inch culvert at C Road and Collecting Canal Road for $114,709. At a previous meeting, hope had been expressed that a PVC sleeve could be inserted into the culvert at a considerable cost saving. However, the nearly 100-year-old culvert is in such bad condition that an insert is not feasible, Public Works Director Larry Peters said.