Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa to make getting building permits faster, easier and trackable online

TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn often says Tampa's permitting system ought to be modern enough to let a builder track a permit on a smartphone.

Now City Hall is moving in that direction.

City officials said Wednesday they will buy a fully automated electronic permitting system from Accela Automation, a company based near San Francisco that provides web- and cloud-based software applications to government agencies.

The system will replace an inefficient patchwork of old software and is designed to provide businesses, homeowners and contractors with online access to permitting and licensing information.

The result, Buckhorn said, should be "quicker permits, less hassle and more money saved in lost time."

"This software will certainly make us far more user-friendly, whether it's someone adding onto their house or someone building an office tower," Buckhorn said. "Any builder who deals with the city on a regular basis knows how archaic the system is. This will be a huge improvement."

Accela Citizen Access, part of the software package, will allow businesses to apply and pay for permits, submit construction plans electronically, schedule inspections, check the status of a permit or inspection, and print an approved permit online any time, officials said.

Residents and businesses also will be able to look at maps and access permitting services from devices such as iPhones and iPads.

The software is expected to cost an estimated $2.7 million the first year, and the City Council will likely vote on its purchase later this month, officials said.

Most of the money for the system will come from the city's Construction Services Enhancement Fund, which was created a decade or more ago at the request of builders and developers.

The construction industry agreed to slight increases in permit fees in exchange for some of the money going to a special fund that has been used to buy better computers and software needed to review their applications.

As a result, "most of this is being paid for by the industry that we regulate," said Thomas Snelling, the city's acting growth management and development services director.

Once purchased, the system will likely be available to users in three or four months, he said.

For companies with construction loans, time is money. So they will welcome anything that expedites permitting.

"This has been something that the Tampa Bay Builders Association has been advocating for years," said Jennifer Doerfel, the group's executive vice president. "Gone will be the days of having to print out pages and pages and pages of building plans and make an appointment and go down and pay for parking" to apply for a permit.

Since taking office in April, Buckhorn has talked of "changing Tampa's economic DNA" to foster redevelopment, boost the local economy and make Tampa more appealing to bright young professionals.

To do that, last summer he appointed an economic competitiveness committee to study ways to change the city's reputation as a tough place to get a rezoning or a building permit.

The committee — 17 lawyers, engineers, developers, builders, plus a City Council member and a neighborhood representative — began meeting in early July.

It is expected to continue its work through at least the end of this month. But it is close to recommending changes in three areas, including the permitting upgrade announced Wednesday:

• Codes and ordinances: In a draft report, the committee describes the city's existing process as "confusing, unpredictable, time-consuming and costly for anyone trying to do business in the city." It is moving to recommend taking development regulations that are now scattered throughout the city's codes, eliminating unnecessary ones, and putting them in one unified code.

• Process and technology: Along with the new online permitting system, this is expected to include establishing a single authority over interpretations of the code and creating a more "customer-driven culture."

• Staff and organization: The committee is recommending bringing city staffers who work on different aspects of development review into one department and creating an "ombudsman" position to help facilitate complex projects.

Richard Danielson can be reached at, (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Tampa permits

FY 07FY 08FY 09FY 10FY 11


Commercial16,53613,9999,878 9,48310,062


Source: city of Tampa

Tampa to make getting building permits faster, easier and trackable online 01/11/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:25am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Have your say Tampa Bay on the region's future transit options

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — It's time, yet again, for Tampa Bay residents to tell officials what kind of transit options they want for their region.

    The Cross-Bay Ferry docks at the Tampa Convention Center on its maiden voyage on Nov. 1, 2016. A regional premium transit study will determine whether a ferry, or other options such as express buses or light rail, would be a good addition to Tampa Bay. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
  2. Today, a total eclipse of the sun will span the entire United States, crossing from the West Coast to the East Coast, for the first time in 99 years. (Dreamstime/TNS)
  3. What is poke? Here's how to make the Hawaiian dish at home


    In Hawaiian, "poke" simply means "to cut."

    Tuna Poke Bowl: For a classic poke bowl, try this recipe with ahi (yellowfin) and only a few other ingredients.
  4. MOSI, SPC, libraries offer safe solar eclipse viewing Monday


    If you couldn't score some of the hard-to-find eyewear that will let you watch Monday's solar eclipse, have no fear, there are safe viewing choices across the Tampa Bay area.

    Twin Falls High School science teachers Ashley Moretti, left, and Candace Wright, right, use their eclipse shades to look at the sun as they pose for a portrait at Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls, Idaho. The district bought 11,000 pairs of solar glasses, enough for every student and staff member to view the solar eclipse Aug. 21

(Pat Sutphin/The Times-News via AP)
  5. SOCom seeks civilian drone pilots to develop new technology through ThunderDrone


    TAMPA — For the last three years, Nicole Abbett has been using drones as part of her photography business, with clients like the city of Tampa and construction companies.

    Josh Newby, 31, Palm Harbor, of Tampa Drones fly's a drone in England Brothers park, Pinellas Park, 8/25/16. As drone popularity increases as a hobby and business, local governments are navigating a legal grey area- where, when, and how should drone flights be allowed?