Leland Planning Department Selected as CREW Award Finalist

The Town of Leland Department of Planning and Inspections has been nominated for a Cape Fear CREW Award of Excellence for its creation of an online permitting and inspections system in response to COVID-19.

Earlier this month, Cape Fear CREW announced that the Leland Planning and Inspections Department was a finalist for the 2021 Evolve Award for the new system, coincidentally also named Evolve. The annual CREW awards, which focus on the rapidly growing commercial real estate sector, recognize excellence and leadership in commercial real estate in the Cape Fear Region.

New this year, the Evolve category recognizes a person, team or organization that has shown innovation in successfully adapting business strategies and practices during COVID-19.

In response to the pandemic, Leland closed Town Hall in early 2020 as a protective measure for both the public and Town employees. However, continued commercial and residential growth in Leland necessitated accommodations be made for permitting and inspections to continue without requiring in-person interaction. Previously, the Planning and Inspections Department relied primarily on hard-copy building and development applications and permits, and received an average of 100 inspection requests daily by telephone.

“Leland’s rapid growth requires us to continuously strive to improve our processes and services for our customers, residents and staff,” said Ben Andrea, Planning and Inspections Director. “The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the need for us to implement a more user-friendly and efficient permitting and inspections system.”

The development of Evolve began in June 2020 and – following more than 100 meetings and 1,000 hours of Planning and Inspections Department staff time devoted to the project – the online system launched in November 2020.

The result, said Andrea, has been successful and well-received.

“With this program, we have significantly reduced permit turnaround time, improved customer service and created better engagement for our employees,” Andrea noted. “To build a home or new business in Leland, it used to take up to three separate applications that were reviewed sequentially: zoning; system development fees; and building permit. With Evolve, customers now submit only one application online, upload their documents and click submit within a few minutes of starting the application process.”

Additionally, all related fees are invoiced and can be paid at one time, rather than in separate payments involving separate applications. Evolve has also shortened the wait time on residential building permits from up to two weeks to as soon as the day after an application is submitted. And contractors can now make inspections requests online rather than by phone and receive the results through Evolve immediately after an inspection is performed.

Cape Fear CREW will host its third annual awards program on Thursday, April 29, at the Wilmington Convention Center. More information and a full list of award finalists is available at capefearcrew.org/about/awards.

About Cape Fear CREW and CREW Network

The Cape Fear chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), with more than 60 members from a wide array of commercial real estate interests, has as its mission to advance the success of women in commercial real estate. CREW Network is the affiliated national association which represents over 11,000 women in commercial real estate in chapters across more than 70 major markets in the United States and Canada. For more information on the Cape Fear chapter, including membership and sponsorship information, visit the Cape Fear CREW website and follow them on Facebook @CapeFearCrew.