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?
Christopher M. Fletcher, AICP
Monongalia County, WV
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
- 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.
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
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