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Calgary launches paperless pilot program for some permits

Russell Hixson
Calgary launches paperless pilot program for some permits

The City of Calgary has launched a pilot program aimed at making its commercial development permit process faster, cheaper and more convenient.

Until November, the city is testing an electronic circulation process, inviting commercial development permit applicants (commercial, multi-residential or industrial buildings), to voluntarily upload an electronic copy of their plans to a secure online site.

The plans are some of the largest files the city receives.

An electronic copy of the planning document is then circulated electronically to various referees for review.

The city is using tools developed by a Canada-based company called FluidReview.

"We just want to make it easier for the customers," said Michael Van Ham, co-ordinator of applications and inquiries for the city of Calgary.

He said the paperless process has many advantages for customers, including anytime access from anywhere with an internet connection, reduced printing costs and less wasted paper.

Without a paperless system, plans have to be printed and mailed to more than a dozen referees for review, which can take more than a week, Van Ham said.

By going digital, they can simply review the documents online, digitally zooming in and out on details with ease.

Van Ham said in the case of the Bow, Calgary’s tallest building, hundreds of thousands of dollars could have been saved by eliminating the need for massive plan documents.

The city plans to gather feedback from participants to determine overall interest, shared value and potential improvements to the electronic circulation tool.

This input will be used to determine next steps for an electronic circulation process.

Van Ham said he hasn’t heard of many other cities trying similar pilot programs and Calgary has received several calls from interested municipalities.

He hopes that in the future the city might be a model for paperless services.

The paperless development process is just one of dozens the city offers as part of its eServices initiative.

However, the circulation process is the first time an eService has taken place outside of the city’s firewall, making it a big step, Van Ham said.

Renewing various licenses, obtaining property information, requesting city services and viewing city documents are all now offered online.

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