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First introduced during pandemic, system will increase customer access to services, development officials say

COURTESY PHOTO - Happy Valley Mayor Tom Ellis, The Springs Living Founder/CEO Fee Stubblefield, R&H Construction CEO John Ward and Gramor Development President Barry Cain break ground in April on a new senior community.Clackamas County customers will continue to use an online format to apply for and receive permits for building, plumbing, site development and utilities,

Department of Transportation and Development officials are introducing new software called Development Direct later in August.

The county originally switched to an online application system out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cheryl Bell, the county's assistant development director, told county commissioners Aug. 3, the county has gotten so much positive feedback from customers and employees that they are permanently implementing an updated version of the software.

"Prior to the pandemic, of course, we were all paper based, and that required our customers to integrate the process — they drove here, they brought paper," Bell said. "With COVID, we were able to go online within a period of three weeks. This provided great resiliency for our customers so they could keep building and for our staff to keep them safe."

Through this online system, the department has been able to achieve "astronomical" levels of productivity, Bell said. In fiscal year 2021 alone, Bell said, the department has processed more than 20,000 permits resulting in 6.7 million square feet of constructed space, at a value of approximately $384 million to the county.

Bell said although the county's makeshift online system has been effective during the pandemic, it is time to move on to something more permanent.

"It's worked great, but using email and PDF viewers as our primary service is not sustainable for the long term," Bell told Pamplin Media Group. "From staff's point of view, it's very labor intensive."

Bell said the new system will provide customers with several new features, including the ability to check the status of their project and apply for permits any time they want. She added that it will allow customers to access (the department's) services no matter where they are located, but full service will still be available in-person for those who prefer that method or cannot access the online software.

"I'm really hoping that this is a step forward in what we provided last year," Bell said. "I know staff are seeing it as a step forward."

The department will be hosting a free educational webinar from 9-11 a.m. on Oct. 24, when experts will train the public to use the new system. Bell said the department is also working on an "extensive user guide" to walk customers through the new application process.

To learn more about Development Direct, click here.


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