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EDITORIAL: Permits via the Web will slash red tape

Navigating the sea of bureaucratic molasses that is Long Island's fragmented land-use approval process can't get much slower. Now there's a ray of hope that it might get a tad easier, at least in Suffolk: a Web-based permit portal. It will allow applicants to file electronically, starting with a single, simple form, then follow the application's process online.

Since 2004, Nancy Rauch Douzinas, publisher of the Long Island Index, has pushed for an online approval system, based on one in Silicon Valley. In the near-despair last year over the impending departure of OSI Pharmaceuticals for Westchester County, she made another public plea for it. This time, with help from a crisis, it got attention.

The Suffolk County Planning Commission picked up that idea and worked on it. County Executive Steve Levy threw his weight behind it. And a business consortium, convened by Levy after the OSI scare, helped reach out to towns.

Now that the county and the towns agree on the need for a faster, smarter permitting process, all that remains is to construct the actual system. Once it's fully in place, in a year or so, any applicant - from a homeowner adding a porch to a major developer - can start on the same simple online form. The system will guide applicants to any further forms, and town and county processes will work in tandem.

Sounds simple, but for Slow Island, it's almost a revolution. And if it works, Nassau should join it. hN