Catherine Geanuracos
October 31, 2020

York, PA solves permitting challenges with low-cost workflow software from CityGrows

The City of York, PA was in the same situation that many small and mid-sized cities encounter: their data management system for building permits was obsolete, and had never been able to accommodate online applications, payments, or digital workflow. Staff was spending too much time doing data entry, and it was hard to keep track of permit status. When they looked at the "usual suspects" for building permitting software, they realized they couldn't justify either the time it would take to implement them or the expense. And even though they have a relatively small staff, they wanted a software system that they could control themselves. They'd already been in the situation where only technical people and consultants could make system changes, and they knew they wanted something more flexible and user-friendly.

Mike Pritchard, City Planner shared, "Our team evaluated several other building permit software options before we found CityGrows. Three factors - cost, time to implement, and self-sufficiency really made the difference for us."

Other building permit software companies regularly estimate first year costs of more than $100,000 and a minimum of a year in setup time, With CityGrows, York is spending less than $5,000/ year in license fees, and was able to stand up a new permitting system in just a few months. When the City reopened permitting in May as their quarantine measures were easing, they launched their new permit portal and began taking applications online for the first time.

Being able to easily create and edit the permitting portal was really important to the team in York. Mike shared, "We can set up and manage our own permitting workflows. That independence more than makes up for missing a few complex features that weren't necessary for us." And while traditional building permit software can only be used for planning/ zoning, a CityGrows license extends to an entire City, and other departments are already creating new workflows. The ability to quickly add as many new permits and applications has already proven helpful. York set up a local small business COVID-relief grant application on CityGrows in just a couple of days.

And while it took us a few months to create, test, refine, and launch the full permit portal, that's nothing compared to the years-long implementations that other software vendors offered. While there are always challenges in using a new system, York can get help via online chat in real time from the CityGrows team, and give feedback on new features and capabilities they'd find useful. And the value of the cost savings is proving even more important now that all local governments will be facing new budget pressures.

"Having CityGrows means we can continue to respond to new requirements quickly, all while having our team safely work from home," said Philip Given, Acting Director of Economic and Community Development. "Our permit applicants really appreciate being able to submit and track their permit progress online, and our team is working efficiently together whether they're in the office or at home. We're excited to see CityGrows continue to improve its software. I'd recommend it to any government looking for an affordable digital permitting solution."

If you're interested in exploring how York's construction permits are set up, you can learn more, copy, and customize a permit based on what they've created.

Catherine Geanuracos

Catherine is the CEO and a Co-Founder of CityGrows. She's dedicated to supporting local governments and helping them improve outcomes for their residents and staff members. She is a former VP of the City of Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission and co-founder of LA's Code for America Brigade Hack for LA. She's based in Los Angeles.

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