New permit guidance tool simplifies the development process

Published on April 01, 2021

an example of the program

Fort Worth’s impressive growth rate over the last decade means a lot more opportunities for housing and business development — and with it comes a higher volume of permit applications and need for support.

Beginning April 2, Fort Worth’s Development Services Department will begin using an OpenCounter interface called CFW Permit Assist to transform the permitting process. The partnership takes Fort Worth one step closer to realizing its mission to streamline service delivery and promote economic development in all communities.

CFW Permit Assist is a platform that simplifies the permit discovery process and provides applicants with the information they need when they need it.

A monumental task

The volume of questions the city was fielding around permit discovery had reached an all-time high. In 2019, the Development Services team received nearly 200,000 inquiries, including 39,317 walk-ins, 54,800 emails and 101,386 phone calls.

Additionally, with ownership of permits spread across multiple departments, there was an immense challenge when it came to internal communication and calculating fees. To help applicants tabulate their fees and help staff achieve operational efficiency, any new solution would need to be integrated into existing technology infrastructure.

“Our community and development stakeholders have been asking for innovative ways to access and compile useful information that would help them make informed decisions as they contemplate development projects,” said D.J. Harrell, head of the Development Services Department. “This program responds by providing users with reliable and site-specific predevelopment feedback on project requirements and associated permitting costs, 24 hours a day. This tool will greatly enhance the customer experience by reducing reliance on face-to-face interaction and other time-intensive methods of service delivery.”

CFW Permit Assist allows Development Services staff to align customer needs with the city’s strategic plan and goals to provide a higher-level customer service experience.

Core components of the solution:

  • Ensuring the zoning portal in CFW Permit Assist is always up to date by normalizing the city’s intricate web of zoning requirements.
  • Delivering real-time cost estimates to applicants.
  • Providing a solid knowledge base around “what is required for a project.”

The solution includes a zoning portal, residential portal and commercial portal.

“Fort Worth has needed an online permit discovery solution for years,” said Michelle Reynolds, a city senior planner and development project facilitator. “After some initial plans to build our own platform, it was clear that we needed help translating our complex permitting infrastructure and workflows into language that applicants can quickly understand. We’re excited to launch CFW Permit Assist’s solution, which will make it easier for residents and developers to scope their projects.”

CFW Permit Assist provides a number of wins for both staff and customers:

  • Applicants receive answers to complex zoning questions.
  • After answering a few questions, applicants can see a list of the permits associated with their specific project.
  • Applicants get comprehensive fee estimates online.
  • Customers receive a summary of the requirements needed to complete their project.

“As always, Development Services will continue to work with our community partners to identify and implement creative tools to enhance the customer experience and capability for self-service,” Harrell said.

 

 

Photo: The CFW Permit Assist solution includes a zoning portal, residential portal and commercial portal.

 

 

Get articles like this in your inbox. Subscribe to City News.