Talk to a developer or architect about working in Providence and the difficulty of getting a permit for any project is oftentimes the first thing out of his mouth. Some recent changes at the city’s Department of Inspection and Standards may be changing all that, however.
First, the city has launched an online permitting system for projects that don’t require a zoning change or are large enough to require review by the City Plan Commission, so it’s not applicable to every project.
In addition, the office has hired three employees to help with smaller projects and allow more senior staff to concentrate on the most complex proposals. Taken together, the changes are still not game-changing, but they are a welcome start and point to other reforms that the city could take to make the process even better.
The office itself is also moving into the digital age, by supplying inspectors with tablet computers that allow field work to be filed when it is complete, as opposed to waiting for staff to return to the office. Records kept by paper for years are being digitized, making them more readily accessible and searchable.
The changes are a key component of Mayor Angel Taveras’ economic-development plan, and for good reason. In a city starving for more development activity, making the process more user friendly and efficient should be a given.
Next up: A fair and simple tax-stabilization regime to help unlock more development. •