You probably don’t need us to tell you all the signs of an antiquated permitting process. But let’s do a quick roundup:
- Lots of paper — and illegible carbon copies — changing hands.
- Outdated software — and constant calls to the IT consultant for updates.
- Confused applicants — or worse, frustrated applicants.
- A backlog of inquiries — troves of emails to answer, calls to return, and lines of people to field.
- Your overworked City Hall team — holding it all together by a thread.
That frustration your staff and your constituents are feeling? It’s warranted. After all, digital transformation in the private sector has put a spotlight on our aging government systems, and the pressure is on to improve the constituent experience. City workers, tired of stepping back in time every day with brittle legacy software, want an upgrade, too.
We know the headaches you’re feeling every day. So we didn’t just create any old solution, but a comprehensive virtual permitting counter that modernizes and streamlines your permitting operations. We’ve made it easy for everyone embarking on a new project — whether it’s to open a coffee shop, build a house, host a public event, you name it — to understand zoning requirements, figure out the permits they need and how much they cost, and understand how to apply.
All without talking to a city employee, or setting foot inside City Hall.
Implementing a solution like OpenCounter can radically transform city permitting, as it has in San Diego, Orlando, Paducah, and dozens of other municipalities across the country. But is it right for your city?
What Are the Benefits of a Permit Discovery Solution?
One way to evaluate whether a permit discovery solution like OpenCounter is right for your city is to explore why other cities have adopted it, and see if their motives align with those of your city.
Here are four common reasons cities and counties across the country trust OpenCounter.
They want to maximize staff efficiency.
How much time does your staff spend answering phone calls, responding to email inquiries, or meeting with applicants? Or put another way: How much time does your staff spend explaining the same things over and over? A permit discovery solution can cut down on this costly drain on personnel.
What if instead of calling City Hall, applicants were able to self-service using an online portal that walks them through the application process and answers questions related to their project, even about the costs of applying.
And what if that freed up city staff to focus on other incremental improvements — like improving the quality of information available to permit seekers, or continuing to streamline the application process, or finding new avenues for improving the constituent experience?
They want to boost economic development.
Is permit confusion slowing economic activity in your city? Or worse, deterring it all together?
An opaque permitting process can discourage entrepreneurs from investing in your city, sending them searching for friendlier municipalities. And even if they do choose to do business despite an antiquated permitting process, the pace of getting started could be unnecessarily slow as they piece together the information needed to apply.
Some cities have strategic initiatives that could sink or swim depending on the ease or complexity of their permitting processes. Say political leaders are making moves to raise housing starts, but a complex permitting process holds developers back. Simplifying the process with a digital solution could be one of several approaches to lure developers to your city.
Further, consider that a simpler permitting process could level the playing field between local and corporate players. Whereas bigger companies are well equipped to sort out complex rules and regulations, mom-and-pop businesses could be discouraged and lose out.
They’re under pressure to improve the constituent experience.
People are used to getting what they want from the private sector online — often in a matter of just a few clicks. And when they don’t like their experience, they’ll go elsewhere.
They obviously don’t have the same choice when dealing with city government. But that’s not to say they should suffer a poor experience when they’re trying to launch a business, host an event, or complete a home renovation.
As a major source of citizen-government interaction, permitting is a prime target for high-visibility digital transformation projects — one that can capture real gains in efficiency, constituent satisfaction, and cost.
They want to increase issuance capacity.
A permit discovery platform can increase the overall number of issued permits by reducing key bottlenecks in the process.
If you’re relying on your staff to point applicants in the right direction and answer pre-application questions, you’re naturally pulling resources away from actually issuing permits. On the other hand, an automated permit discovery process and integrated system of record can handle as many applications as there are applicants.
And a much higher volume of applications means much higher city revenues.
What Permit Discovery Solutions Does OpenCounter Offer?
We offer four products that cover every aspect of city permitting, from housing to special events to zoning and more. Let’s get to know them.
Businesses need permits to open new locations and to expand their existing footprints — and they need to know how much those permits will cost. Any number of factors, from zoning to the scope of work planned (Will there be demolition? HVAC work?) will influence the requirements and costs, so the earlier this information is made available, the better.
OpenCounter’s Business Portal distills those hundreds of factors into one centralized, easy-to-use online experience that provides adaptive permit scoping, real-time feel calculations, intuitive zoning maps, and more.
A good chunk of homeowners are strangers to city permits, and if they had their druthers, they’d keep it that way. So help them minimize the pain of home improvements with our Residential Portal, which makes applying for their kitchen renovation, second-floor addition, or new shed that much easier.
With a menu of project types mapped behind the scenes to your city’s use codes, all presented to the applicant using natural language everyone can understand, you can ensure constituents get the answers they need in minutes — not days or weeks.
Special Events Portal
Drive tourism and interest in your city by making it easy to hold special events such as outdoor concerts, marathons, and parades.
With our Special Events Portal, applicants simply select their event type, enter their desired date and time, and draw a route through the city to show staff where they’d hold it.
They can submit their applications, pay online, and download or print their new permit — all without taking a trip to City Hall.
For better or for worse, you can’t open a business just anywhere. But untangling complex zoning codes shouldn’t require an advanced degree in cartography. Our ZoningCheck™ solution lets applicants easily discover where in the city their use is allowed.
With intelligent land use search, interactive zoning maps, comprehensive ArcGIS integration, and the ability to translate the portal into more than 36 languages, ZoningCheck ensures everyone in your community can contribute to its economic development.
OpenCounter: Your Partner in All Things Permitting
OpenCounter has become the virtual permitting counter for municipalities across the country — from San Diego to Miami and from Detroit to Fort Worth. That’s because our suite of portals makes it easy for everyone to understand all of the requirements for their project: from zoning to which permits they need to how much each of them costs and even how to apply.
Plus, our products are backed by a team of public sector experts — people with deep knowledge of all things zoning, permitting, and licensing, who partner with our clients to guarantee the best outcomes for each and every engagement. We know how complex these processes are, the headaches and inefficiencies they cause for your team, and how exactly to ease those burdens.
We don’t just offer a great product — we deliver great service, too.
See for yourself how OpenCounter can modernize your zoning, permitting, and licensing systems, leading to greater staff efficiency and happier citizens. Get in touch and schedule a discovery session with us today.