Dear Management Doctor:

Good morning. I recently attended one of your management training sessions in Philly and thought you might be a good source of information (or know who would be) for Planning Departments that have attractive websites and fully utilize their capabilities of posting information, applications, e-commerce, etc. Would you be able to forward some links or names of city/county planning websites?

Thank you!!

Christopher M. Fletcher, AICP
Monongalia County, WV

Dear Christopher,

I'm going to give you a few ideas but mostly hope our readers will volunteer some good sites. First of all, what should a good site include?

  • INDEX: An index by function. While it may be useful for each city or county planning department to have its own pages, its specific functions and permits should be accessible across a website that includes all city or county functions. Ideally the site should also have a search function.
  • DESCRIPTION: A brief description of the department including address, phone number, fax and email address. The email address should be coded for instant use.
  • ORGANIZATION CHART: A department organization chart. When we do customer focus groups and show them a department organization chart, the customers always want to know how they can get a copy.
  • NAMES: Names, primary functions, telephone numbers and email addresses of all the staff. We have even seen sites with pictures of the staff - a good feature.
  • GIS: GIS maps.
  • POLICY DOCUMENTS: The comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance and related other plans and ordinances. These all need good tables of contents or indexes.
  • STUDIES: A list of studies that are underway with some background information. Sophisticated sites would also have a way for citizens to participate or provide information, perhaps via a survey form.
  • HANDOUTS & FORMS: Handouts and forms for various permit or other activities. The customer should be able to print out the form and use it. Even better, the customer should be able to fill out the form on the computer and email it back to the department.
  • E-GOVERNMENT: E-government applications. You should be able to order anything the department sells via the website. This means you will need to accept credit card payments. If you have any permits that do not need plans, you should be able to issue these over the web site. Even if a plan is required, you can accept the application via the website with plans to be mailed in or dropped off. Many communities now do this for the simple type of building permits. Eventually, the technology will migrate to electronic plan submittal.
  • APPLICATIONS: A list of current pending applications and status should be available.
  • MEETINGS: Dates for upcoming meetings should be listed.
  • AGENDAS: Agendas for near-term meetings should be shown.
  • MINUTES: Minutes from planning commission or similar meetings.
  • UP-TO-DATE: The data must be current.

I have yet to find a site that meets all of this criteria. Another problem I see is that most planning sites are now imbedded in the city's site. While this is good, you may have to fight to obtain easy access to your site. In answering this Management Doctor, I pulled up a few sites. Generally I found many of them hard to navigate to even find planning. I suggest that you just start pulling up sites from surrounding communities. I also hope that our readers will tell us about the really good sites. Here are a few sites to start you out.

The Management Doctor

Reader Responses

Click here to look at our Washoe County site. Go to departments, community development. We like to think it is very complete and up to date. Keep up the great work.

Adrian Freund
Washoe County, Nevada

The Municipality of Anchorage has added online features, including postings of cases online, and is implementing a list-serve for people who would like notification of cases or actions coming up within Community Council areas. Click here to take a look.

Angela C. Chambers
City of Anchorage, Alaska

Arlington, Texas has a departmental website that I am proud of. I cannot take credit for it, but have talented staff who are constantly working on ways to improve its efficiency and make it more productive to the customer. Click here.

Michelle Hardin
Arlington, Texas

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