Pulling Permits in the Age of Covid
March 2020 marked the beginning of a new process. Lockdowns changed the permitting process everywhere
Jeff Diego is our permit coordinator here at Cutler Bay Solar Solutions.
Every single project needs permitting and Jeff coordinates with cities from Key West to Orlando to get all our permissions and paperwork for solar projects. We wanted to take this week to share a little bit about the permitting process. Especially in the last 12 months, the permitting process works differently than it used to.
March 2020 marked the beginning of a new process. Lockdowns changed the permitting process in EVERY city, from Key West to Palm Beach County.
Jeff speaks daily with around a dozen permit clerks and building reviewers to track and expedite the permits. The message that every city is communicating is they want to keep their workers, as well as the public safe. It’s a challenge for everyone involved and we push for better every day.
Let’s outline the new procedures that Building Departments have adopted to prevent the spread of Covid as well as some additional reasons why permits might be delayed in the “Age of Covid”.
Before March 2020, the only way to submit permits was to physically take them to a building department, wait in line, submit paperwork to a permit clerk, and then wait until your permits showed as being approved online. Then you would have to physically go back to the building department, pay for the permit, and pick it up. There are only a handful of cities in all of South Florida that still have this procedure in place.
Here are some of the new methods that cities have rolled out in the “Age of Covid”
Online - Temporary Portals and Programs set up to swap out the in person portions of permitting.
Notes From Jeff! -“Several cities are allowing scanned, or digitally signed and sealed plans to be submitted via email. I expect that cities will stop doing this in months to come.”
2. Online - Permanent Systems
Several cities have invested money in online submission platforms. Miami Dade County rolled out a system last March which I expect will remain during the post-Covid era as they seem to have invest much thought and money into rolling out this system. Call us biased, but it’s efficient and easy to use! The turnaround on permitting in Dade shows how well this works.
3. Physical Plans – Drop Box
Most of the Southern Municipalities have rolled out a Drop Box system. For these cities we drive by, fill out a contact sheet, and place the plans inside of a bin. These bins are often quarantined and then opened at a later date in the order they were received.
4. Physical Plans - Appointment ONLY
There are a handful of cities that have moved to an Appointment Only system. In these cities, you have to make an appointment days in advanced to go in to drop off or pick up a permit. You are limited in how many permits you can drop off at a time. The permit clerks all wear masks and there are hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere. Only one other customer is allowed in the room with you.
Challenges which cause delays:
Less permit clerks working in the building department to process new applications
Plans being placed in quarantine as they go from one reviewer to the next.
Positive Covid Tests. Several Building Departments have had to shut down for weeks at a time because a clerk or a reviewer tested positive.
So what does this mean for you?
Check with your installer about what your municipality’s process is now. Knowing ahead of time if your city is digital or dropbox can set up the right expectations help you better plan for a project.
Encourage your municipality to implement efficient, digital processes. These benefit the city, the homeowner and your contractor.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! We are here to help at every stage of your solar project.
Till the next time let the sun power your lifestyle!