A How-To Guide to the Initial Permitting Process in Miami Shores

The dreaded permit process; a major deterrent for homeowners looking to renovate. Some conclude that bypassing this process all together will save time and money, however, it is proven time and time again that following through with the proper permitting process can and will assist in the completion of your project with satisfaction and confidence that your job was done right.  Every time we turn around, there is a new code or compliance to adhere to and trying to keep up during construction can be arduous. Along with your contractor and other hired professionals, we hope that this go-to guide will help smooth out any of those unsettling details to ensure your CO (certificate of occupancy).

All projects begin with an idea, a vision or a dream that is desperate to become a reality.  Your ideas and dreams are a far cry from what is feasible and can be built.  One of the most important first steps taken is hiring an architect and/or designer that understands your vision and can produce an attainable representation that complies with the long list of building codes in your area.  It is a long way from your set of plans to the actual job site so assuring that your contractor and your architect are continuously value engineering is key.  This concept will pop up constantly throughout a project.  Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so take your time!

Once your drawings are complete, we suggest a meeting with your city’s building department.  It is usually quite easy to schedule a meeting with the department head, introduce yourself and your proposed project.  A lot of uncertainties could very well be cleared up in a few short minutes of discussion.  This can save you a lot of headache down the road.

Depending on your design, your city’s zoning board may need to approve your drawings. This occurs when there is a change to the footprint or exterior of the home such as an addition, balcony, perimeter wall, or driveway.  Any changes that can be seen from the street.  A homeowner will submit a zoning application as well as 7 sets of drawings, home survey, photos of the area proposed and a few other items.  Presenting this information in the most organized manner is key.  We suggest a report style presentation with dividers for easy browsing and referencing.  Keep the information concise.  The goal is to walk each member through your vision on paper.  Remember, you may study these drawings for hours at a time, however this is new to them so make sure all pertinent information is included.  Check with your building department on submission and hearing dates.  Meetings are held once a month with your submittals due the month prior.

Once you have zoning approval, if applicable, your drawings need to be engineered by a structural and mechanical engineer. Engineers are in charge or bringing your drawings to life.  For example, if you are re plumbing your home, your mechanical engineer will enhance your drawings to describe the materials/equipment used, locations and loads/pressures to ensure the proper system.  You may be asking yourself, “who regulates all of these changes and why?”  Other than your municipality, there are four outside agency requirements that must be met, DERM, WASD, HRS and Impact Fees. Bare with us as we breakdown each agency and why they are important in a nut shell.

The Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) protects our water quality, drinking water supply, air quality and natural resources that are vital to the health and well being of our great city and its residents.  This is a pretty important department with a big job on their hands so patience is key when submitting.  We suggest submitting to DERM first as they usually take the longest time to review.  Once the review is complete and approved, DERM will send the plans to The Miami Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD) for their approval and fee calculation.  You will notice that each department has their own way of charging unavoidable fees.  It is possible that each department will have comments for disapproval.  Actually, it is highly likely.

The best approach during this complicated process is to go in person and become familiar with someone in each department that can get you the answers you need.  You would be surprise as to what a smiling face and pleasant attitude can do as apposed to a phone call to an automated system that just sends you round and round.  Think of it as a field trip to somewhere you have most likely never been before and likely never to return.  As you continue your journey, there are impact fees that will be due once your plans have been reviewed.  Miami-Dade County collects impact fees for public services such as fire and emergency, police and parks and educational facilities.  This helps in keeping taxes for these services to a minimum for current taxpayers.  The developmental fee is based on the size and type of land use.  On a two story home with 250 square foot addition, fees can range +/-$500.  The last agency is HRS or DOH (Department of Health).  This agency regulates the construction, modification and operation of all septic tanks.  This is very important as all properties in Miami Shores are on septic.  Good news here, your septic contractor will walk your plans through this whole process for you!  A fee will be due, of course, and this can usually take up to three weeks.

As you can see, this will take some time.  However you’re in luck!  Miami Shores offers a “dry run” submittal for $360.00.  This means that while you are navigating through the outside agency process, your plans can already be in for review and comments.  Plus, you will receive their comments back in 10 days!  This saves a heap of time.  The project drawings can be corrected as per the “dry run” comments to then be ready for re submittal once you have the blessings of DERM, HRS and WASA.

Whether this is your first time renovating or your 100th, the requirements are constantly changing. Ask as many questions and talk to as many people as you can that will offer insight and information. In a process that takes nothing but time, make sure to take your time!  Good Luck and Happy Renovating!

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