The department transitioned planning applications onto a digital platform in late March as the coronavirus outbreak shut down in-person city operations and forced staff to conduct business remotely.
But as local businesses have felt the financial effects of the coronavirus, planning applications have progressed steadily, a sign Planning Director Emily Barron said she felt was positive.
“I think it provides a level of reassurance that we’ll come out of it. That’s just my two cents,” she said. “I think technology has really provided us a great ability to work remotely—from engineers and architects that can do all those [submissions] and work on computers in different vicinities that we previously had or thought we had.”
Since transitioning to digital submissions, Barron said the city has received eight new planning applications and 21 updated applications for existing projects and those underway. The online process, Barron said, has helped create a sense of normalcy during this pandemic and allow prospective developers the opportunity to continually pursue these proposed projects in a timely manner.
City planning and development meetings have also switched to a digital setting, Barron said. The use of screen-sharing video conferencing software has allowed greater accessibility to see concept plans the developers are proposing, she said, while also sharing resources from the city’s perspective.
The city had been pursuing a digital platform for its planning applications even prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Barrron said. Following shelter-in-place announcements and the closing of government facilities, Barron said she has been appreciative of the collaborative efforts of all parties involved to make the transition as seamless and effective as possible.
“That capability has been great, and we're seeing, at least in development, a similar pace as it was prior to the current circumstances.”