MORRIS COUNTY — Assemblyman Brian Bergen expressed concerns about the costs to be borne by businesses and residents with a new municipal electronic permit process introduced in legislation (A1145) heard at an Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee hearing in Trenton on Monday.
“I do have some very large concerns. One of the biggest ones is going to be cost. Those costs will ultimately be borne by somebody,” said Bergen (R-Morris) before casting a no vote. “In this case it will not be the municipality so we can get around the unfunded mandate portion, but it will ultimately be either the business or the individual applicant. So somebody will bear the cost of this and we are essentially giving a state agency the ability to determine with a blank check how much that will be and that really scares me.”
The bill would eliminate paper-based building and code review processes and require municipalities to implement a new electronic construction permitting system. It would allow for the collection of fees for three years to defray the costs of implementing the new system.
“Many municipalities already use software systems that handle and track permit fees and inspections. They’ve bought and paid for these things. They’ve made investments. They’ve spent years converting their paper records to digital records within the system that they currently have,” added Bergen.
Bergen urged the bill’s sponsor to consider amending the legislation to allow for more flexibility so that municipalities could choose their own software.
“Municipalities are not cookie cutter. There’s differences by municipality to municipality in how they do things and how they submit things,” said Bergen. “So it’s very difficult to develop a statewide system that can cater to all their individual needs.”
The bill was released from the committee.