Chesterfield County launches online development plan submission system

The Chesterfield Administration Building. (BizSense file photo)

Chesterfield County has introduced an online system to allow the submission and review of development plans via email, a move that comes as a response to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

County officials were interested in a new submission process for online development plans prior to the pandemic, and the concept took on new urgency as officials sought a way to keep construction and its employees in the county moving along. Construction is among those industries the state government considers essential, allowing it to continue on sites around the region.

“We needed parts of this now,” Planning Manager Greg Allen said. “We worked very quickly to get all departments on board.”

The email system launched last week and seems to be operating smoothly, Allen said, adding that it allows county employees and developers to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The county’s community development department worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation, a regular partner in development because the agency maintains the county’s roads, to pull the program together. Costs associated with the impromptu first phase of the program rollout have been negligible, and mostly a matter of shuffling existing resources and equipment, such as large monitors to view the plans more easily, to allow staff to review plans at home, Allen said.

The email system is a first step toward the new enterprise land management system the county is eyeing. The county hopes to see the full system, which will include an online portal for plan submission review as well as inspection scheduling and other services, launched later this year or early next year, Allen said. The county has appropriated $3.8 million to build out the system.

With the new system, table reviews no longer require in-person meetings for minor issues. Scheduling a table review is now faster, getting completed in five days with the online system as opposed to up to two weeks in the manual system.

The county also has eliminated submission-day limitations. Previously, manual submission required new plans be sent in by Tuesday to allow county employees to do an initial review the same week. Now, plans can be submitted any day, and plans will be teed up for review the morning of the following business day.

The new program cuts down on printing costs. The county still requires hard-copy plans to be submitted to the planning department, but the online system reduces the required number of those to five, or two sets for resubmitted plans. Under the manual system, the county required 13 sets of plans. A guide to how the new online system works can be found here.

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