Hudson County, NJ
Spatial Data Logic (SDL)
Hudson County is the most densely populated and fastest growing county in New Jersey. It lies west of Manhattan and was named for Henry Hudson, the sea captain who explored the area in 1609. The county is home to municipal GovPilot customers, Jersey City, North Bergen, Union City, and Hoboken.
Nine of the ten tallest buildings in New Jersey are located in Hudson County, and the county’s planning department is among the busiest in the state, often having to process complex planning applications. Since 2005, As the county has become increasingly developed, planning officials found themselves in need of a more capable, efficient solution for processing applications than the inefficient software they had been using.
With a population of more than 650,000 and frequent dense mixed-use commercial and residential development and redevelopment, Hudson County receives numerous complex planning requests per month. For several years the county relied on software from a well-known national government software provider which Hudson County staff found to be inefficient as it was geared toward municipal land use and could not handle the complexities of the planning applications that Hudson County often receives. Because the system was not sophisticated, records and applications often had to be shared among staff as paper documents, and one employee of the ten-person staff was fully dedicated to manual data entry responsibilities which took up 5-8 hours per week.
Critically the officials found that the software did not meet the complex needs of their county planning board, and more troubling, it was desktop based which meant that outside consultants, inspectors and commissioners could not access data and plans. Employees had to be at their desk in the office in order to log in which became a problem when work suddenly shifted to remote settings at the outbreak of COVID-19.
Hudson County’s Planning Department implemented GovPilot in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the northeast. Staff immediately saw the benefits of GovPilot’s cloud-based planning module including a significant decrease in phone and email traffic. According to Francesca Giarratana, Division Chief of Planning, GovPilot helped the department, “seamlessly carry on business throughout COVID enabling the submission of applications online, and for all staff to work remotely. It was really critical to business continuity.”
Since implementing GovPilot, the planning department has seen a big improvement in capabilities and metrics, and the manual data entry responsibilities assigned to one employee have been eliminated, freeing up 5 - 8 hours for that staffer each week.
In a typical year, Hudson County receives more than 90 planning applications, many of which are complex major mixed-use in-fill development in an already dense county. Prior to GovPilot, the full application process from submission, to hearing, to memorialization often took 2 - 3 months. After implementing GovPilot, the planning department has been able to regularly save two weeks on the processing of each application by uploading documents for review by planning board consultants instead of mailing physical plans.
Now with GovPilot, all employees can log in to GovPilot - remotely if need be - and easily access digital files and records. This includes six staff out of the nine person office who are directly involved with the planning board, the County Engineer, who is in a separate division, Board consultants, and the Commissioners. Ten staff can edit data and there are ten planning board commissioners who can view applications.
Speaking of GovPilot, Giarratana said, ”With GovPilot there is a seamless way to send messages to colleagues, and it even solved some internal communications issues we had with our engineering staff. We are now able to view road opening permits that must be reviewed by the division of engineering which has been very helpful.”