TAMPA — Hoping to speed the pace of development, city leaders plan to make their building permitting system available online next month.
Beginning Jan. 13, developers and builders will be able to go online to file permit applications, view the status of outstanding permits and request inspections, eliminating time-consuming trips and phone calls to the city’s Development Services Center on North Boulevard.
The move is the final phase of a plan to modernize the city’s building and regulatory systems, a key recommendation of the Economic Competitiveness Committee formed in 2011 by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to identify ways to make Tampa more business friendly.
The city paid $2.7 million to Accela Automation to develop the online system.
“Last year, Tampa permitted a record $2 billion in development. That number indicates that Tampa is growing, and in order to continue to facilitate that growth, we have to make it easy to do business with the City of Tampa,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a news release.
“From the simple home renovation to major development projects, Accela will save our customers time and result in a quicker response.”
Developers who work in Tampa have been calling on the city for years to modernize its permitting process, said Jennifer Doerfel, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.
Under the current system, bulky paper applications are sent back and forth among 13 city agencies that weigh in on projects. The new system will let all agencies work on a single set of electronic plans at the same time. It also makes plans available for the public to view online through the Accela Citizen Access portal.
“You don’t’ have to go downtown to Construction Services anymore; you don’t’ have to find a place to park,” Doerfel said. “There’s a lot of people who get paid to do nothing but run permits — that’s a huge advantage.”
Most other city land development processes are already online. In December 2013, the city launched an online system for applications to handle subdivisions, special uses, design exceptions, variances and re-zonings. Early in 2014, planning and urban design and historic preservation processes were also computerized.
The majority of the cost of the new system was paid for through permit fees. Roughly $1 million came from property taxes.
Online permitting will not only help large developers but will save time as well for plumbers, electricians and small builders, said City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione.
To prepare tradesmen for the transition, the city has scheduled 14 free web-based 2-hour training sessions beginning today and running through Dec. 18.
“The folks in Development Services are aware that a majority of the folks they deal with will need that helping hand to get over the learning curve,” Montelione said. “Once they get trained, once they get used to it, they’ll really love it.”