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The city's Development Review Division will require that all engineering applications be filed digitally beginning March 1

COURTESY: CITY OF VANCOUVER - With an eye toward a fully digital process by this summer the city of Vancouver Development Review Division will require that all engineering applications be filed electronically beginning March 1.

The city of Vancouver has moved one step closer to requiring that all permits and applications filed with its Development Review Division be submitted electronically.

The city has been working on moving the division to a fully digital platform for the past several years, including encouraging the voluntary submissions of permits and applications.

As of March 1, however, all engineering applications submitted to the division have to be filed electronically using the city's ePlan software system, according to Jason Nortz, the city's development review division manager.

In addition to helping trim the amount of time it takes staff to process applications and permits, going fully digital will help cut down on the amount of paper used during the review process. For customers, it will reduce the need to drive to Vancouver City Hall to drop off paperwork or make payments related to the plan review process.

The city expects the switch to the fully digital approach for submitting engineering applications to be a relatively smooth transition, Nortz said. Several training session were held in February to acquaint users with the digital system.

In addition, most of the parties that submit engineering applications tend to be professional firms that already are using electronic plan systems as part of their daily work. A recent study by the city revealed that 50 percent of engineering applications for projects filed with Vancouver's Development Review Division in 2018 were submitted voluntarily through the city's ePlan system, Nortz said.

The ease of transition also is expected to receive a boost from the fact that the city spent a good part of 2018 upgrading the software for the electronic filing and review system, according to Nortz.

The final step in the city's move to a mandatory all-electronic system will focus on the development division's building permit processes for both commercial and residential projects. That transition, expected to become effective this summer, will likely require more attention and effort because many of the parties submitting paperwork and plans for permits are private residents who may require more education about how the all-digital system works.

The goal, according to Nortz, is to have all processes in the department switched over to the mandatory digital system by this summer.

"We didn't want to do it all at once," he said. "Our approach was to kind of baby-step it in."

Vancouver is using the same vendor and electronic software as other cities in the area, including Portland, Hillsboro and Gresham. The goal, Nortz said, is to create consistency to make it easier for companies and firms that do work throughout the Portland metro area.

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