Orange County Conducts Public Forums as Part of Customer-First Development Services Initiative
Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings made his mandate clear at the 2019 Regional Economic Summit when he said, “We want Orange County to be known not only as the premier place to do business, but a home for the entrepreneurial spirit and a hub for innovation. This starts with invigorating a culture of top-notch customer service in our operations.”
Determined that Orange County be recognized at a local, state and national level as a model government that residents and businesses are excited to work with, the Mayor and his Transition Team laid the groundwork for staff to create the Customer-First Development Services Initiative to establish a culture of innovative service delivery for economic development in the County.
As part of this initiative, a coordinating team of permitting managers were tasked with developing a comprehensive Development Services Action Plan. Its goal would identify customer service gaps, opportunities for improvement and key action items that lead to a customer-first culture for developing property in Orange County.
“The function of permitting within the County involves 20 internal agencies, with nearly 400 employees managing this often complex process,” said Alan Marshall, assistant to the director, Orange County Planning, Environmental, and Development Services Department. “In order to keep up with regional growth, we must take a look at our technology systems, code standards, and staff culture to determine if we’re standing in our own way.”
Over the past several months, the County has conducted internal and external stakeholder surveys, obtaining information from hundreds of participants. It has gathered assessments and feedback regarding in-house processes and staffing struggles, and held more than 20 “one-on-one” sessions at the offices of key permitting services customers.
As the final step in the public input process, the County recently held a series of public forums (charrettes) at various locations throughout the County to obtain more customer feedback. These events allowed for staff to assess what had been missed or under assessed in the earlier processes. Four forums were held to support key discussions in areas including environmental resource permitting, development review, vertical permitting, and a combination forum on engineering plans review/site work permitting and site construction/inspections.
At the Feb. 4, 2020 charrette, which took place at Orange County’s Public Works Department, Jon Weiss, director, Orange County Planning, Environmental and Development Services Department, asserted, “We need to be more collaborative and help our customers reach their end goals. We need to get projects through the process so opportunities are realized by all of our stakeholders.”
During the charrettes, staff provided attendees with an understanding of the concepts and goals of the Customer-First Development Services process, as well as various active, passive and anonymous opportunities for feedback and analysis. A comprehensive Action Plan should be finalized in roughly two months. It will take into account all the data and feedback garnered from both the stakeholder surveys and public forums.
“It’s critical we provide forum attendees, as well as all internal and external stakeholders, an accurate accounting of what we heard and learned from them,” said Marshall. “We were given a mandate for customer-service improvement, and we’re all committed to making Orange County’s permitting process an efficient and predictable model for other local governments.”
Photo cutline: Photo from a work session.