Securing a building permit in Lake of Bays, Ont. is about to go digital. This week, the township’s building and bylaw services announced that in November it will be soft launching a cloud-based permit application system called Cloudpermit.
“Cloudpermit allows each user an individual portal for application submissions and status updates while giving the building and bylaw service staff the flexibility to perform site inspections, upload photographs, and review projects remotely using the mobile tool,” said Lake of Bays building and bylaw director Stephen Watson in a statement.
Over the phone, Watson explained that currently, when the department receives an application, an administrative assistant must manually input all of the application’s information into the township’s database. With Cloudpermit, the applicant will enter the information directly into the database, saving staff time.
“After I do my inspections in the morning, I probably spend an hour doing my reports and emailing them to the individuals,” Watson said. “This way, it’s more instant.”
Staff will upload information and photos from inspections to the database, which the applicant can see in their online portal. The applicant will then be automatically emailed once their application is approved or denied. Applicants will have access to their portal 24/7.
Contractors will also have access to the system. With Cloudpermit, Watson said contractors will no longer have to drive into the township office to drop off plans. They can upload them to the portal where inspectors will be able to see them.
An additional bonus for contractors is that once they’re registered in the system, they can use it in any other Ontario municipality that supports Cloudpermit. “If you’re a builder in Windsor, and you want to do a project in Lake of Bays, then it’s the exact same system,” Watson said.
Over 250 municipalities around the world currently support Cloudpermit, including Huntsville and Gravenhurst.
A push from the province motivated Lake of Bays’ online transition. “[The provincial government] really wants to do this because it’s more efficient,” Watson said. “They really wanted everybody to go paperless. It’s better for the environment and has less of a carbon footprint.”
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) vetted several cloud-based permit softwares and determined that Cloudpermit was the best choice for Ontario municipalities. The association also gave municipalities that signed up in the first year a break on the software’s fee.
The one downside to the new software is that it will raise Lake of Bays’ permit application fees. The current minimum application fee is $135. Watson said he estimates that the fee will be bumped to $175 or $200. “Cloudpermit is a little more costly than our existing system,” he said. “We haven’t increased permit fees in about six years, so that’s going to increase to help offset the cost.”
Lake of Bays plans to fully launch Cloudpermit in early 2023, encouraging all applicants to use the online system. The township is also looking to introduce the software for its planning applications process.
Watson does expect a learning curve with the new software. The department will have resources for applicants who aren’t computer literate. In the early days, he expects the town will install a computer kiosk in the office where staff can help walk applicants through the process.
“But the long goal is that all the initial information will be submitted into the computer system by the applicant,” Watson said.