Due to delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other factors, many municipalities across Long Island are experiencing significant backlogs of processing building permit applications. In some towns and villages, applicants are waiting several months to obtain a building permit. Currently, building permits can only be issued by local municipalities and their officials tasked with such duties. However, lawmakers and other groups seek to change that.
Earlier this year, in an effort to expedite building projects and relieve municipalities of the permit backlogs, New York State lawmakers introduced a bill which would allow state-licensed architects or professional engineers to issue building permits. Under the proposed law, before issuing a building permit, the architect or engineer would be required to certify that the work proposed in the application complies with the applicable fire and building codes. In order to ensure compliance with the law, the bill also allowed for random audits of such applications.
The bill has received significant pushback, mainly from the union representing municipal employees tasked with issuing such permits. Opponents cite safety issues as their main concern with the proposed law, but others argue that nothing in the bill jeopardizes safety. First, proponents argue, that aside from the issuance of the building permit, the entire remainder of the process would not change—that is, projects would still need to pass building inspections and obtain other necessary approvals. Next, proponents also argue that architects and engineers are well-versed in building code requirements and must certify compliance therewith, effectively risking their professional licenses if they grant an application for a project not up to code.
The law is not meant to be a permanent fix, as it would expire in 2024. Rather, its goal is to alleviate the current backlogs of building permit applications currently burdening Long Island municipalities and applicants alike. Further, in an effort to address some of the union’s concerns and protect municipal employees, the bill provides that cities, towns, and villages who allow architects and engineers to issue building permits under the law cannot eliminate existing municipal positions responsible for such duties.
Although it faced significant opposition when originally introduced, the bill currently remains in committee in the New York State Senate. Keep an eye out for state lawmakers to reconsider the bill in the coming months.