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City to charge extra for getting building, zoning permits in person

Updated: November 11, 2013 12:18PM

Businesses that apply for building and zoning permits in person will pay a premium starting next year, as part of a mayoral plan to “incentivize” online permitting and make Chicago’s small business center “paperless” by 2016.

During a budget roundtable with small business owners, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he also plans to bolster the city’s microlending program by $1 million and reserve 22,000 summer jobs for college-bound students.

The decision to create two tiers of permit fees — a cheaper one for businesses that purchase permits online and a more expensive fee for those who insist on conducting transactions in person — is aimed at “incentivizing” businesses to go electronic.

Emanuel refused to say how much the differential would be, claiming his budget team is still “sharpening their pencils” to determine precise rates. But, he said, “It will be in your financial self-interest to go electronic and not go in person. ... It will just have kind of a premium for face-to-face. We’re going to encourage you from a financial” perspective.

Emanuel noted that 25 percent of business visits to the city’s Small Business Center use an “express lane” kiosk with quickie electronic transactions that have reduced waiting times to less than 15 minutes.

Emanuel’s promise to add $1 million to the city’s microlending program was music to the ears of small business owners handpicked to participate in Tuesday’s roundtable at the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, 320 N. Damen. Mae Whiteside said her loan application was rejected, even though her design and construction management firm had two contracts — one with the city, the other with the Illinois Tollway.

“With contracts in hand, I was turned down by every bank in town. I was told, ‘What do you have? Nothing.’ The microlending program is what kept my doors open,” Whiteside said.


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