by Chris Moore

Engineering a Vision – Tomorrows Tools for Today’s City Planners

Jun 25, 20074 mins
Enterprise Applications

How one of Canada’s fastest growing municipalities is automating the development approval process to better enable city planners, city council and the development community. A few years ago, then Director of Planning and Land Development services at the City of Brampton, John Corbett (currently commissioner Planning, Design and Development) communicated a vision. His vision was to move from a paper based development approval process to an automated process, but not just any automated process, he wanted an automated process that was GIS enabled, and web accessible for external agencies who are intimately in the development approval process. The system also had to be map based and include functionality for report generation to ensure full utility for planning staff. Well today Mr. Corbett’s vision has taken a large step forward to being fulfilled. On April 7, 2007 the City of Brampton launched PlanTrak, a new development tracking and approval management system. This system has been developed by MTI, Munirom Technologies The PlanTrak system utilizes the latest information systems technologies and business rules/management systems to automate the entire approval process. Key to the systems implementation was the integration with the City of Brampton’s internationally recognized award winning GIS system. The city has been very focussed on developing and maintaining its geographic information, it is one of the city’s core data sets. The city developed its first GIS Strategic plan in 2000, which guided the implementation of systems and resources until 2005. The city has subsequently developed the next phase of the GIS strategy to take information systems at the city to the next level over the next 5 years. The City of Brampton regularly hosts delegations from cities and regions in Ontario, from across Canada and around the world. Recently an enquiry has come from Australia, officials from the City of Victoria want to understand what we have done to provide our GIS and Planning information on the web. See – With a robust GIS system in place the city staff from Planning and Information Technology, in partnership with the vendor set their sites on the goal of a world-class information system. We have hit the mark and have reached the goal. The system has a “real-time” interface to the GIS system allowing city planners to not only look up relevant GIS information, most importantly, you can navigate

the PlanTrak system by using the land, the geography. For the most part city planners work with identifiable land. Defined land, land with attributes and values, land with zoning, with limits and restrictions. Have you ever seen a planners’ desk? Their desks are like living atlases, maps, reports drawing, and hardly any room for a phone. Planners need access to information, they need the information NOW, and they can’t wait for someone to run a report or chart it on a map. Planners in municipalities are under extreme pressure, especially planners who are in municipalities under growth pressure, the weight on their shoulders is exponential. They need tools, they need systems, they need information. The information needs to be easy to find, easy to access and easy to share with the people in the process. The PlanTrak system at the city of Brampton is all of that and more. The system is a work in progress, implementation of the initial stages of the planning and development process occurred this spring and the additional parts of the process will be deployed over the summer and fall. At that time, other city staff (outside of planning) and outside agencies will be using the system to complete their piece of the process. There is also a plan to provide secure access to the system, over the Internet to developers who are looking to find out where their application is in the process. Staff will also be providing “public information” access of a general nature to the public so they can be better informed about what is happening in their city, or in their neighbourhood. The City of Brampton believes it has struck GOLD! We may have even found the silver bullet of information systems in the planning and land development world. As one of Canada’s fastest growing cities Brampton continues to develop and implement systems to assist staff in their ability to serve the public, effectively and efficiently. Delivering on the vision of one of Canada’s leading municipal Planning groups.