Village breaks in new building permit website


The Village of Valley Stream Building Department has modernized its building permit application process by going digital with streamlined, user-friendly software. Residents can now submit their building permit applications online through the village’s OpenGov website. The latest update was launched in early November, following the example of the Town of Hempstead after it went live with its software upgrade a year and a half ago.
For those new to the seemingly mundane world of building permit applications and assessments, any person looking to remodel or construct a building on their property generally must apply for a building permit to ensure the project complies with local land use, zoning and construction standards. That could mean something as small as a new window to an extension on a house.
With this new website, gone are the days when residents had to make the trek to Village Hall to manually fill out and file a carbon-copy paper application. Gone, too, is the rather arcane rule that the village could only receive cash and checks to pay for building permit fees. Residents are now able to do everything online from anywhere and anytime and make their payments via credit card.
Building Department Supervisor Jen Piazza-Minori said the village’s old system ran on a traditional KVS server from the 1980s using physical hardware. That meant that if the physical server went down, everything would stop, and precious information could have been lost—not to mention time. The latest upgrade made hardware failure a thing of the past by replacing the physical server with a data storage space hosted virtually in the cloud. The provider of the cloud-based business process management software is OpenGov, whose software has been used by more than a thousand state and local governments nationwide. Engineering teams at OpenGov are making constant updates to the system, according to Minori, to ensure that information is safely stored and accessed efficiently.
During application review, rather than wait for a letter through snail mail regarding the status of your application, applicants receive an email notification immediately. Virtual documentation is saved at each stage of the process and made available to Building Department officials and residents. This means building inspectors can log in to the software, make their report on their iPad, and an email will immediately be sent to applicants notifying them of the reports on their files.

“It saves a lot of time. It’s easier for us. It’s easier for the resident because we can stay in constant communication with these guys through the comments,” said Mohamed Azeez, village building inspector.
Inspectors and engineers can also mark up any submitted commercial or residential construction plan for review and send it back for evaluation.
“So far, it’s been running smoothly…We have a workflow now that is more streamlined than it was before, but the volume [of applications] has increased dramatically,” Minori said. “Since Nov. 3, we’ve received well over 100 applications online.”
Minori worked closely with the Town of Hempstead, which was the first in Nassau County to incorporate the new software. It was “chaotic” for Hempstead during the initial phasing-in of the software, according to Minori, who used the town’s hard-won advice and recommendations to ensure a smoother technology transition for the village.
“One of the [town’s] recommendations was to get the historical data of the property to each account on file,” Minori said. “We’re permanently going from paper to online, so it’s a huge transition, and I ask the public to be patient.”
Minori and her team will continue to review and transfer each actively filed paper application to an online account, which she expects will take “quite a while.” The application software is currently only in English, but Minori is looking into the possibility of having the website translated into other languages to accommodate all residents’ needs.