Monday, April 22, 2024

How Southlake’s OPX Team Developed an Innovative Solution to Improve Notifications and Reporting for Active Zoning Cases

Recently, The City of Southlake stepped up its game by automating the notification and reporting process for active zoning cases, saving the City time and money and ultimately bringing the whole process in-house.

Zoning allows a local government to regulate which areas under their jurisdiction may be used for particular purposes. A City is required to notify owners of any zoning changes within 300 feet of the area, typically with a mailed letter. When zoning changes are opposed, the City’s Planning and Development Services (PDS) Team will contact GIS staff to conduct a case calculation.

Deep Rajani, a Senior Application Developer for the City of Southlake, built an in-house solution to improve the zoning case notification process. By leveraging his expertise in technology, Rajani was able to save the City significant resources while enhancing the overall efficiency of their operations. He was supported by Patrick Whitham, the GIS Analyst, Reagan Rothenberger, the Planning Manager, and Dennis Killough, the Director of Planning and Development Services, for outlining the process and defining specific requirements.

Before Deep’s employment at the City, the City contracted with a third-party vendor to create a web solution that PDS could use to generate postcards. Unfortunately, there were shortcomings in the solution. PDS could not automatically generate postcards for external destinations or schooling districts. Instead, they had to do a manual mail merge and print out stickers to paste onto a mailing book which took time.

Whenever a zoning case had opposition, PDS would contact the City’s GIS staff to do case calculations, determining if the opposing property owners’ properties and rights-of-way intersecting a 200-foot buffer of the case property amounted to 20% or more of the area of the 200-foot buffer. A calculation for zoning case oppositions typically took two to three days with three personnel and required a costly software package.

To streamline these processes, Rajani automated both, merging them into one interactive solution. Now the process is simplified with a flexible in-house solution using an application that requires just a planner and around two hours of mostly hands-off execution.

“Due to this new solution being in-house, all further iterations will be cost-free,” said the Director of Planning and Development Services, Dennis Killough. “This service speeds up the notification process by cutting the number of people required from three to one and the amount of time needed from two or more days to one to three hours, which helps us focus on higher level projects.”

“We strive to consistently improve our processes for accuracy and efficiency by delivering the best results to our customers internally and externally, said Rajani, “I was excited to be part of a project that embraced the great potential of technology. Through rigorous iteration and a willingness to learn, any process can be bettered.”