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New planning technology on the horizon for Turlock
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The City of Turlock Development Services is looking into purchasing electronic plan checking software that would allow applicants to upload building plans automatically which would not only streamline the process, but also eliminate the impact that the expensive plans have on the environment.

“Basically it’s cost saving because they don’t have to develop multiple sets of these thousand-dollar sets of plans. It’s very expensive,” said City Engineer and Director of Development Services Mike Pitcock at the Planning Commission meeting Thursday evening. “Ultimately what we want to do is get software set up so you can not only go through the system electronically, but you can actually see at what stage the plans are in the system.”

This would allow applicants to track where their plans are and clear up confusion during periods where plans are shuffled between the City of Turlock and architects. Most importantly, it would expedite turnaround time. 

“Time is money,” said Pitcock.

Associate Planner Katie Quintero also noted the benefits include electronic markups in that City staff can make notes directly on electronic copies of the plans.

“We definitely think it would be an improvement for customer service,” said Quintero.

The electronics improvements would also be seen in the field as all inspectors would have tablets handy with uploaded plans.

“We’re heading down a path of improving customer service, improving efficiencies, and cutting the cost down for the development community,” said Pitcock, noting that it will be a multi-year process before the software becomes a reality. “We’re heading to the next level here at Turlock.”

Development Services also recently went live with New World Permitting System, software used by several departments in the City that now allows the planning, building, engineering, and fire departments to process permits in the same system.  

“Really what it creates is a centralized system where we can have a good understanding where at any particular property what exactly going on,” explained Quintero. “That’s something we haven’t had previously.”

Neighborhood Services, which tracks complaints at properties, is slated to have access to the software next.

Also on Tuesday the newly appointed commissioners, Steven Hallam and Eric Gonsalves, were sworn in and Soraya Fregosi was re-elected Chair of the Commission with Jeanine Bean elected Vice-Chair.

The new commission received several updates including a report on the progress of the Active Transportation Plan, which includes establishing bike and pedestrian paths in Turlock. Having worked on the plan for nearly a year, City Planner Rose Stillo said she expects to have the complete plan before the Commission in April.

Pitcock also delivered a report on the feasibility study for the South County Corridor, a plan to connect Highway 99 with Interstate 5. The public’s input was gathered at a recent round of community workshops held in conjunction with the cities of Patterson, Newman, Turlock, and the Stanislaus Council of Governments to gage the public’s receptiveness to several potential routes. Criteria is presently being inspected to create a way to critique the routes and in April more public meetings will be held.

The next Planning Commission meeting will take place on March 5 where an in-depth look will be taken at the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance Amendment, an item the City Council pushed back to the Planning Commission for further consideration. According to Deputy Director of Development Services Debra Whitmore the presentation will dive further into the “substance of the changes” to accommodate the new commissioners.