Pittsburgh’s Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections opened a digital service counter Tuesday with the launch of online licensing on its site, OneStopPGH. Department director Maura Kennedy described it as a “sea change,” and another step to “completely modernize” development in the city.
“It’s going to be an accountable, predictable and transparent process for any homeowner, developer, or business owner who wants to do business or renovate a property here in Pittsburgh.”
Before PLI could launch the new site, department officials overhauled the business licensing code. Those 75 pages revealed a different Pittsburgh, Kennedy said.
“There are multiple licenses that regulated discos, which apparently were a big scourge in early '80s Pittsburgh,” she joked. “But there wasn’t a license regulating fire suppression contractors … making sure that sprinkler systems in buildings are being installed and maintained by people educated and equipped to do so.”
The department’s fees were out-of-date, too, she said. Staff realized PLI overcharged for licensing fees while undercharging for permitting fees.
“We were able to right-size those fees,” said Kennedy. “Now developers and others doing business here in Pittsburgh are doing their fair share and covering the cost of their work.”
Beta testing for online licensing began in January. Since then, more than 1,200 of the city’s license holders signed up for an online account, Kennedy said. There are three more phases to roll out through OneStopPGH: building permit applications, City Planning reviews and permit applications for projects that occur on city streets.
Mayor Bill Peduto thanked the department for taking on the challenges of a growing city. He noted that until 2014 city inspectors had neither computers nor cell phones, even as the pace of development quickened.
“This is the beginning of four phases that will allow city residents and businesses to get online and not stand in line,” he said. “It will affect every department and we will be following your lead.”
During an analysis of recent licensing data, Kennedy said they’re beginning to see development expand to new areas.