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Tools in aisle 10; up front, permits

A new Home Depot will offer customers the chance to purchase construction permits.

When a new Home Depot opens in South Tampa next week, contractors and do-it-yourselfers will be able to pick up a home improvement tool never before available in a store: city construction permits.

City workers will issue the permits for jobs that don't require plan reviews, such as replacing toilets, sinks and water heaters, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Thursday through Saturday at the store on Dale Mabry Highway south of Gandy Boulevard.

If all goes well, the city will try to set up a regular weekend schedule and eventually expand the permitting to other home repair stores, said Nick D'Andrea, city manager of commercial development services

"We want to make it as easy as we can for people," he said. "They can get their material, walk over, get a permit in less than five minutes and be on their merry way."

A spokesman for Home Depot, a chain of 1,600 stores, said this was the first time he knew that a local government issued permits at a Home Depot.

"It's a great idea. We'll see how it pans out," said spokesman Don Harrison.

Many homeowners and some contractors don't know they need permits or don't bother to get them for seemingly small jobs, he said.

The city lists work that doesn't require permits: non-structural repairs worth less than $1,000, repairing faucets, unclogging drains and sewer lines, installing air conditioning units not connected to ducts, painting, carpeting and small roofing and siding jobs.

Most everything else does, he said. Inspectors check all permitted work to make sure it is safe and meets building codes.

Contractors usually fax or call in permit applications to the city's Construction Services Center, but homeowners typically drive to the office at 1400 N Boulevard.

City officials tried for six years to work out a deal with Home Depot to test the permitting of home-repair work in a store. The company agreed after finishing the city permitting and inspections process for the new South Tampa store, D'Andrea said.

Most permits cost $27, he said. Officials at the Home Depot will take checks, Visa and MasterCard.