Nine of 11 Guanacaste municipalities allow construction permitting applicants to complete the process online via the Association of Engineers and Architects’ (CFIA) platform Construction Projects Administrator, or APC.
This tool allows contractors to process everything from subsidized housing to condominium complexes, housing developments, land movement, blueprint reviews and advertising billboards.
Only the cantons of La Cruz and Santa Cruz do not offer this technology, according to the CFIA website, due to a lack of computers and training of municipal department employees.
However, both municipalities hope to implement APC in 2017.
Other coastal municipalities including Liberia, Nicoya, Hojancha and Nandayure allow architects and engineers to process permits on the APC’s website, although their own websites aren’t directly linked to it.
The Carrillo Municipality’s website does allow users to directly link to the digital application. The municipality’s website is the only one among coastal cantons that allows property owners to digitally process land-use requests.
Jassón Barrantes, a systems analyst for Carrillo Municipality’s IT department, said that in 2015, 296 online requests for land use were processed, all of which were handled by the APC platform.
“The majority of these requests are made by foreigners who live on the coast or those who live in San José but have beach properties,” Barrantes said.
According to Barrantes, digital signature capability will be added next year to allow users to submit certain documents requiring a signature, such as a real estate sworn declarations.
APC Gaining in Popularity
CFIA Operations Director Javier Chacón said currently municipalities are not obligated to process construction permits online, but there are incentives and the technology is increasingly popular.
“Starting four years ago, online processing with APC has been mandatory for central government institutions (ministries, for example) by executive decree. It is not mandatory for municipalities,” Chacón said.
Josué Ruiz, an engineer who heads the Nicoya Municipality’s Public Works and Construction Control Department, said that since last July, the municipality began to process all construction permits via the tool on CFIA’s website.
Architects and engineers enter APC and complete their digital processes.
In 2015, 150 construction documents were digitally processed in Nicoya. So far this year, that number has increased to 238.
According to Ruiz, this has helped the department speed up processing and reduce costs, such as for paper.
“The greatest benefits are a reduction in the time it takes for users to carry out the process, transparency, and we’ve used 96 percent less paper in the department,” Ruiz said.