Garland, Texas, Accelerates its Vision for an A+ Permitting Experience

September 13, 2023

When Chief Building Official Brita Van-Horne kicked off the City of Garland’s search for a new permitting system, nobody pushed back. The organizational consensus was that they needed a replacement, fast.

The city’s custom-built, on-premise permitting system wasn’t meeting its development needs, couldn’t support the level of customer service envisioned by the organization, and wasn’t used universally by all community development teams. 

Fast-forward a few months and the city’s already kicked off implementation of Clariti’s Community Development Platform, a move Brita says will completely transform the customer and staff experience.

Read on to learn about the city’s current challenges, what they hope to achieve with the permitting software modernization project, and how they avoided extra steps to save time along the way.


1. A permitting system that can’t keep up

Currently, the city’s on-premise system is only used for permitting, and staff have to use spreadsheets and other databases to track different elements of the development process. There’s limited online functionality, and a lot of communication still happens through emails and phone calls. 

Customers also have to call or go into the city’s office to find information and do things like check their permit status or request an inspection. 

“Both customers and staff are spending a significant amount of time having individual conversations to check on the status of different things related to development since there are so many components that have to come together,” Brita explains. “It’s a challenge, and it takes additional time and resources to manage all of those different spreadsheets and systems and communications [to make] sure that all the pieces get completed.” 

But as Brita notes, it’s the numbers that really tell the story of the city’s challenges with their current system. On average, the city’s 15 building department staff answer 52,000 phone calls and see around 8,000-9,000 walk-in customers every year, which as Brita says is a “good indication of what isn’t happening through an online system or portal.”

2. A lean team and rapid pace of redevelopment

On top of their outdated legacy system that lacks essential functionality for customers and staff, as with many other cities in a “growth mode” as Brita calls it, their team simply isn’t big enough for the amount of development work going on. Each year, with just 15 staff in the building department, the city issues between 10,000-11,000 building permits and conducts roughly 32,000 inspections. 

Everyone’s time is stretched thin, the workload’s only growing, and their current system can’t help.

Although the city’s a first-ring suburb of Dallas and relatively built-out, the pace of development hasn’t slowed down, and there’s a lot of complex redevelopment activity going on to increase density and make room for bigger projects. 

In the next few years, the city expects to absorb some of the projected growth in the Dallas/Fort Worth Region, so there’s a big focus on higher-density residential projects, updates to outdated housing developments, and an overall revitalization of much of the city’s land – all of which will add considerable volume to staff’s already full plates.

3. Shot Clock Limitations

The Texas Shot Clock Bill also factored into the city’s decision to purchase a new system because city staff have to process and review certain elements of development applications within a certain timeframe.

Designed to standardize the land development review process throughout the State of Texas, the bill requires cities and counties to review plat applications within 30 calendar days, and any subsequent applications within 15 days. It applies to preliminary plats, preliminary subdivision plans, and subdivision construction plans.

“We needed a system that could help us achieve all of those timelines, and we [can’t] do that with the system we have now,” Brita explains. 


First and foremost, the city wants to improve the customer experience. And of course, like most jurisdictions, process development approvals as fast as possible. 

“We want to provide great services with the limited resources we have, and rely on a system that can help the customer interact with us in the easiest, most efficient way possible,” says Brita. “We want to be able to meet the customer wherever they’re at, at whatever time.”

The city also wants full transparency so customers can easily find information online, and staff can see a bigger picture of everything going on from one screen.

Specifically, the changes Brita and her team look forward to with Clariti include:

  • Empowering customers to manage their permit applications and find information online via the city’s intuitive portal.
  • Reducing the total number of calls and emails city staff receive so they can focus on approval activities.
  • Enabling “super users” with assigned permission to configure necessary changes to the system using clicks to reduce the city’s reliance on IT and third-party support. 
  • Centralizing all development components onto a single platform so staff can better communicate and collaborate with one source of truth.
  • Gaining access to accurate, real-time reports and dashboards so they can make better, data-driven decisions.
  • Tracking communication via the platform so staff can view emails, comments, and flags in one place, and pick up for another staff member if they’re away.

“Everybody is very excited,” Brita explains. “We see the potential to save a lot of staff time and confusion and make things a lot easier for the customer.”

How they fast-tracked the project

Because they were short on staff and busy with redevelopment, Brita wanted to avoid a lengthy procurement and RFP process.

These three factors helped make that happen:

1. Organizational consensus 

Brita admits they were in a bit of a unique situation because there was already organizational consensus that they needed a new permitting system, and that it needed to be cloud-based and low code. She didn’t need to get buy-in or sell people on the idea that changing was the right thing to do.

2. Building a multi-department evaluation team

Brita explains she formed a team of representatives from several departments that watched a lot of tailored demos that brought their department-specific visions to life. She brought together development engineers, planners, administrative staff, plan reviewers, and code compliance managers and staff - all of the people who will use the new system the most.

“I think what was key to making the right decision was not driving from the top down,” says Brita. “You should really get the people doing the work [on a day-to-day basis] to drive the decisions up.”

3. Taking advantage of cooperative purchasing

It’s not an option for everyone, but it saved the city valuable time and money because they didn’t have to go through an RFP or competitive bid process. They were able to piggyback off of a state-level cooperative purchasing agreement that was already in place.

It was a quicker (and more cost-effective) way to go about procuring new permit software because they were able to create contracts based on what was already in those agreements, and then move those forward through the city’s purchasing department and city council for approval of the purchase. It saved a lot of internal staff time.

“It was a way for us to acquire a new system without going through a lengthy procurement process,” says Brita. “Ultimately we wanted to deliver a great experience for our customers as soon as possible, especially as a growing city going through a lot of redevelopment.”

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