At its core, community development is a municipality’s commitment to create a thriving place for people to live, work and visit. Investing in community development means investing in long-term sustainability, meaningful growth, community revitalization and a high quality of life.
However, primary operational elements that make up community development – permits, licenses and code inspections – are often associated with government red tape and slow-moving bureaucratic backlogs. Commonly perceived problems include lack of transparency, vague communications and an overall sense of dissatisfaction with the entire permitting, licensing and code inspection process. If these problems are left unattended, they can pose long-term risks to a municipality, such as individuals bypassing the permit and inspection process completely, risking more serious problems down the road.
Municipalities have the power to correct these long-standing problems. With the right community development tools that are made easily accessible, municipalities are showing they care about improving the lives of its citizens, now and in the future. In doing so, it will prove to the public that their voices and needs are heard, resulting in a more engaged citizenry and greater overall satisfaction.
Problem #1: Lack of transparency and awareness
Certain permit applications and code inspections can take a significant amount of time to complete. However, the general public typically does not see the cumbersome, time-consuming and behind-the-scene work that goes into a community development project. This general belief that the permitting or inspection process is too lengthy or difficult can lead to negative consequences when an individual goes to apply for a permit in the future. If an individual is unaware of where their application or code inspection stands, it is easy for them to think it is not being worked on, feel as if they’ve been forgotten about and quickly become dissatisfied. This can prompt unauthorized build additions or other non-compliant action in the future.
Solution #1: Build transparent process with automatic notifications
The way to fix this problem is through enhanced communication. Municipalities can increase transparency and awareness through leveraging automated communication tools, such as automatically generated emails and status reports, that keep contractors, owners, developers and appropriate individuals apprised of the progress of a job at any point in time. They would no longer have to make a series of phone calls to find new information. In this way, everyone has a common understanding of what is going on with their case, including timelines, progress and more.
Problem #2: Overwhelmed resources
With scare resources and increasing responsibility, municipalities have to manage their limited resources to the best of their ability in order to meet citizen expectations. For example, municipalities may have surges in the volume of license applications at different points during the year, resulting in a serious backlog. Backlogs in issuing permits or licenses lead to more than just greater dissatisfaction among residents, businesses and personnel; they needlessly delay critical cases tied to redevelopment or revitalization efforts.
Solution #2: Better allocation of time and resources
By offering the ability for customers to self-serve through online tools, municipalities benefit from better allocation of staff resources and customers benefit from streamlined, efficient service. Residents and business have the option to answer a few questions and pay for licenses online rather than mail in forms and applications or stand in line at city hall or other government office. These tools further benefit the customer by consolidating fees from multiple licenses into a shopping cart for one payment transaction. For city personnel responsible for processing permits and licenses, the reduction of backlogged requests or inquiries can lead to time spent on other important responsibilities. But most importantly, personnel who are entrusted with customer service are no longer burdened with data entry and cumbersome paper processes, allowing them to focus on providing better customer service to customers who may need more personalized help.
Cities and towns across the country are rapidly evolving to face COVID-19 related changes that will impact growth and business development. By streamlining community development functions, proper protocols will be followed, instilling greater confidence in the permitting, licensing and inspection process. Municipalities who take advantage of modernizing their community development strategy with enhanced communication tools and a focus on smarter utilization of resources are better equipped to keep up with these rapid changes and growth, while being able to best serve their public.