The National League of Cities published a collection of ways localities have been able to keep their licensing and permitting processes moving during the pandemic.
In a blog post, the NLC says continuing to accept, process and issue locally-required permits is one aspect of teleworking that local governments have had to address. “In some communities, this process was largely online prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and thus little, if any, change has been necessary. For others, limited access to buildings and staff requires at least temporary changes to the typical permitting process to enable permits to be issued where appropriate,” says the NLC.
It notes the transition out of isolation is likely to be gradual and extended, local governments may need to adjust processes for these types of interactions for the foreseeable future to limit in-person interactions. In the document, the NLC explains the tools that can be used for electronic filing of permit applications:
- Portals: Create an open portal on the websites or leverage existing online permit application systems so applicants can submit all relevant documents related to their applications. For example, the City of Boulder, Colorado has created a customer self-service portal for permitting to replace in-person services.
- Email: Establish a dedicated email address for permit applications or designate a staff member as the point of contact for all submittals. The City of San Antonio has set up temporary inboxes for different kinds of permitting activities, linked from its planning and development department page.
- Notifying Applicants: Communities should update all relevant pages of local government websites with information on how to access new processes, portals, or contact emails for appropriate staff or inboxes.
The Wireless Infrastructure Association, which has been working on the issue specific to 5G equipment deployment, praised the publication of the new resource. It says the collaboration with organizations representing municipal governments and industry partners has taken place for over a month and continues.
“WIA is proud to collaborate with representatives of state and local governments and is glad to see them issue these important ways to move the permitting process forward amid daunting challenges. We are grateful, with all they have on their plates, that local governments are actively addressing issues and engaging in constructive dialogue with industry to pursue our mutual goals of connectivity,” said WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein.
“This advice is best coming from peers in the municipality community, not from industry,” he explains. “Local governments are facing a myriad of challenges right now. We hope that by providing alternatives for the permitting process, such as using electronic filing and drop boxes, that industry and government can work together when so many people and businesses are increasingly reliant on wireless broadband.”
The NLC is collecting examples of how local governments continue to adapt processes to the crisis on its Local Action Tracker at: covid19.nlc.org.