Online Permitting

Parishes streamline permit filing for locals, implementing a user-friendly online system

By Topher Balfer

 

Of the many obstacles and procedures that make up the building process, one of the most dreaded has been eliminated: waiting in line.
Online portals in both Orleans and Jefferson parishes now allow builders and citizens to file and view permits without ever visiting the inspections office.

 

Most recently, The City of New Orleans launched One Stop, where users can file permits for residential and commercial projects, events, filming and more.
Jennifer Cecil, Director of One Stop for Permits & Licenses, said that the portal has alleviated several problems for both users and the City.

“Fifty-one percent of applications for permits and licenses are now applied for online,” Cecil said. “This has allowed the City to dedicate more staff time to performing high-quality reviews and developing ways to consolidate permitting functions. Since applicants can check on their permit status online, the department receives fewer follow-up phone calls.”

 

Similar features have been offered in Jefferson Parish with the online My Permit Now. Aimee Vallot, Director of Inspection and Code Enforcement, said that Jefferson is currently working on another new feature of the portal that would connect their internal system to the public, but that My Permit Now will continue to be in use throughout the time that the new feature is added.

Vallot said that the goal is to roll out this new system in Jefferson Parish within the next year.

 

The benefits of online permitting have been clear for both parishes, too. Cecil said that the City of New Orleans has also seen alleviations in the amount of time spent dedicated to data entry, repetitive office visits, time spent accessing a permit’s status and lack of coordination between departments.

However, the portal could never have gone live without ironing out the small details, something the Home Builders Association helped the City of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish to accomplish.

“Feedback from HBAGNO was critical in the development of the project and helping our staff understand how technology can assist local builders in redeveloping our City,” Cecil said. “One of our biggest challenges has been transforming the reputation of City Hall, which the HBAGNO has helped to do, which includes becoming more efficient and effective in our operations, showing other businesses and larger developers that New Orleans is open for business, and improving customer service from top to ground-level.”

Scott Morse, builder and former president of HBAGNO, was involved with the software development in both Jefferson and Orleans parishes and said that such systems are necessary because of the “interconnecting layers” of the permitting process.

“As builders, we’re continually submitting plans, and the plans go through each department in the network and get reviewed,” Morse said. “With the online portal, you can actually track where those plans go and where they are. If anybody has signed off on them, if anyone hasn’t, if there are any questions from any of the plan reviewers. So it’s a real-time process.”

Bruce Layburn, HBAGNO member and contractor, said that this open communication was one of the factors that motivated the Jefferson Parish Department of Inspections to begin working on their own internal software.

“The Department of Inspections is working to eliminate all possible communication delays,” Layburn said. “The Department is seeking to build a multi-departmental interface that will allow our private sector customer base the opportunity to request the needed, construction-related Parish services in one location.”

Morse also said that he formerly visited the inspections office up to four times for one project, but that now he “never has to go in” due to the accessibility of the information online.

 

Layburn said that the online streamlining has improved efficiency all around. This same resource allows one to make the application, upload construction documents, pay the required fees, receive the approved documents for downloading, schedule inspections, track the progress of the work, deliver surveys, or other documents required by the licensed professionals, and document the successful completion of the work.  “It is no longer necessary to do any of these things in person, by mail or by telephone.

This one streamlining step has dramatically reduced wait time, and has produced a strong increase in user satisfaction.”

Information on how to use One Stop for Orleans Parish can be found at nola.gov/onestop. Residents of Jefferson Parish can find instructional materials and training videos for My Permit Now at jeffparish.net, and visit the portal directly at mypermitnow.org.