Controlling swift growth
Project: Building permit review automation
Jurisdiction: Marana, Ariz.
Agency: Planning Department
Vendors: Tucson, Ariz.-based The Planning Center
Date: December 2006
Marana, Ariz., one of the fastest growing communities in Southern Arizona, expanded from 10 square miles in 1977 to more than 120 square miles today. Since 1997, Marana’s population has grown 40 percent annually and now totals 35,000 residents.
The swift expansion has been taxing for the 14-person planning department, which reviews building permits for compliance with multiple residential architectural design standards. The standards require planning staff to evaluate how building characteristics for a proposed residence compare to approved characteristics on four adjacent lots, the street side and the entire subdivision. Planning staff also must recognize particular lot conditions that require additional review.
The residential design standards create an attractive community, but the complexity of the rules requires additional review time for each building permit. Since 2000, the department has reviewed an average of 17 development plans, 21 subdivision plats and 1,086 residential building permits a year. Before 2000, the city followed less complicated design standards and typically completed building permit reviews in 15 minutes.
To streamline permit reviews, the town purchased Dream Builder Jurisdiction software designed by Tucson, Ariz.-based The Planning Center using ArcEngine 9.2 technology from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI. The software incorporates the town’s existing parcel database in a geographic information system (GIS) and a permit tracking system. Planners use the software to establish the rules and lot characteristics for each subdivision. Then, they enter a permit number, and within seconds the software pulls information from the permit tracking system and parcel database and assesses the rules for the permit.
The automation helps planners evaluate multiple versions of design standards at one time. In addition to spending less time reviewing building permits, planning staff find it easier to evaluate rules and monitor projects consistently. “The town is no longer susceptible to building permits stacking up due to bottlenecks associated with individual project planners being out of the office,” says Assistant Planning Director Lisa Shafer. “The average time to review a building permit for design standard compliance is now under 30 seconds.”