Pittsburgh makes it easier for businesses, contractors to obtain licenses
Businesses and contractors no longer have to wait in long lines to obtain a license required by the city of Pittsburgh.
The Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections is in the midst of a $5 million overhaul of its system and is permitting contractors and businesses for the first time to apply for, amend, and renew licenses online through the OneStopPGH website.
In coming months the public will be able to apply for and receive permits and planning department paperwork through the site.
“PLI now has online licensing,” PLI Director Maura Kennedy said. “This is Phase 1 of a four-step process. Later this summer, we’re going to have PLI permitting, so all construction permitting, as well as city planning reviews and processes will go live online.”
The public can also search a OneStopPGH licensing database for existing business license holders via name, address, or license number. More than 1,200 people have so far signed up for a license through the site.
One of Mayor Bill Peduto’s top priorities when he took office 2014 was to modernize PLI, formerly the Bureau of Building Inspection.
Kennedy said the department had 10 computers for 80 people when she was hired five years ago. The department operated almost exclusively on pencil and paper, she said. Developers and homeowners had to wait in line sometimes for hours to submit plans for a new building or to remodel a kitchen.
It took building inspectors three weeks to notify an owner of a code violation. Kennedy said the process now takes 24 hours and the city’s Buildingeye website allows users to find properties that have been cited with code violations.
Kennedy said her offices had to be rewired for internet service and staff had to completely rewrite a 75-page licensing code that contained such outdated licenses for such things as discos.
“It had not been rewritten since the early ’80s,” she said. “Obviously Pittsburgh had a very different mix of businesses at that time and different safety concerns.”
The department also recalculated fees for licenses and permits.
“We realized that we were overcharging for many of our licensing fees,” Kennedy said. “ We realized we were under charging for many of our permit types.”
PLI dropped the fee for renewing a contractor’s license from $278 to $75. Permit fees are now based on the cost of a project. The city charges $5 for every $1,000 of construction work and offers an online permit fee calculator to estimate the total cost of a permit.
Peduto lauded Kennedy and her staff for the improvements, noting that the number of building permits has increased by about 40 percent from the 10,000 issued in 2014.
“This is the beginning of four phases that will allow city residents and businesses to get online and not stand in line,” the mayor said.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .