Records Management

Dear Management Doctor:

Have you done much work regarding zoning records management? We started using a sotfware program for generating new applications and storing historic data. However, we have never been really satisfied with the results. Our records are separate from the Development Services Department, however there is some cross sharing.

With our large geographic area, there is a strong desire to become more web-based in order for the public to access zoning information without coming downtown. There are many constraints associated with our current system that would preclude us from allowing public access. Our consulting budget is less than zero, but I thought you might be able to provide some leads for our own research.

Thank you,

Carol R. Johnson, AICP
City of Phoenix, AZ

Dear Carol,

The field of records management is finally on a role and I believe in the next five years we will see the paperless (more or less) planning department. Unfortunately the Doctor has not yet developed his own expertise in this area, so I hope that some of our readers can help us out with work in progress. I do have a few thoughts depending on your specific interest:

  1. Many city clerks are leading the way on electronic files, so I would check in to see what is going on in your city.
  2. A number of communities are well underway with scanning of maps and documents including one of our recent clients, Huntington Beach, California.
  3. I haven't talked to them but I heard that Snohomish County, Washington is getting aggressive on this topic.
  4. Most of the data that now goes through planning departments is already in electronic format. The better automated permit systems will allow you to attach virtually anything to a property record. This may be the easiest way to organize data. Your staff reports, emails, etc. are already in electronic format and you simply need to work out the protocol for filing and attaching.
  5. The next stage is sending electronic files over the Internet. For minor one- or two-page plans, there is no reason why you can't already receive scanned and pdf documents. Large plans can also be handled this way. However, the problem may be city storage and capacity. Additionally, plan examiners are not used to working with electronic copy. They will need large screens and lots of training. Again, all of these plans are already in electronic format.
  6. Public access to some records appears to be a growing concern in some communities, however, most of what we are talking about are already public records. At a minimum, the GIS zoning map and the entire ordinance should be on your website.
  7. Getting more creative - a few communities are experimenting by having site plans or design reviews posted on the website and letting the citizens or other reviewing agencies comment right on the website.

All right Management Doctor readers, help us out.

The Management Doctor

Reader Response

As of July 3, 2007, after using a client-server based application for the past 2 years (and being completely paper-based before that) the City of Glendale, California Planning Department will be using an Internet-based permit management system. It will ultimately link to our electronic document management system so we can attach plans to new applications. It will eventually be used by Building and Safety, Code Enforcement, Fire, Police, and the City Clerk's office, as well as (with different modules) a comprehensive system for interacting with the public. The public will also have access to the application to enable them to look up permits and case history. The application will be linked to the City's Geographic Information System to enable data to be mapped. The whole contract will take roughly 2 years to implement.

The company providing the application is Edgesoft, Inc. Their web site is

Please contact me at 818-548-2140 or by email at for more information.

Jeff Hamilton
Glendale, CA

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