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New software to speed up Boise permit process

Bruce Chatterton, director of the Planning & Development Services department in Boise, has long experience with the paperwork generated by the city’s development regulations.

“You’ll see people come in here with refrigerator dollies, with plans that the average person couldn’t carry,” said Chatterton, whose office processes about 14,000 permit applications a year. “We sometimes feel like we’re drowning in paper.”

This summer, the city will start using new software that enables applicants to submit their building plans online.

The $410,000 program, called ProjectDox and created by a Scottsdale, Ariz., company called Avolve, is aimed at speeding up permit approval and reducing paper use in an office that regularly receives heavy rolls of large-scale building plans, sometimes with multiple copies. Plans can be as long as 300 pages, said Chatterton.

Through ProjectDox, developers, builders, architects, designers, and others will be able to submit the plans over the Internet. As the city’s planners review and make comments, users will be able to log on, see those comments, and make revisions online.

Bend, Ore., which has been using ProjectDox for a few years, reports a 30 percent decrease in processing times, said Chatterton. The state Division of Building Safety has been using ProjectDox since 2008.

Most architects, contractors and other professionals who draw up plans do so electronically, so the plans can be entered into ProjectDox easily, said Chatterton. For those who only have their construction plans on paper and have no way of scanning them, staff will continue to be available at City Hall, said Jenifer Gilliland, the manager of Boise’s Building Division.

“We’ll probably always need to have some way to deal with paper,” she said.

Boise will start using ProjectDox sometime this summer, said Chatterton. It is the only Idaho city to use the program, he added.

About 50 jurisdictions around the United States use the software, said Bill Gould, Avolve’s director of marketing.

Permitting is a public process; once an application is filed, it is a public document, and the applications are available online now. Applications themselves can now be filled out online and submitted over the Internet; it was the large rolls of construction plans that usually had to be submitted in person.

The city will start by making applications for new commercial buildings and for commercial tenant improvements available online, and then move into other areas.

“Those are our most complicated processes,” said Gilliland. “We figure if we can get those running efficiently, the rest won’t be as difficult.”

ProjectDox accepts a variety of file types.

“If you can produce it electronically, we can probably accept it and figure out a way to utilize it,” Gilliland said.

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