Downtown Plainfield Alliance has launched a new permitting information site for Plainfielders looking to understand Plainfield’s zoning ordinance and permitting procedures. The site, PlainfieldPermits.com, features step-by-step instructions in an easy-to-use format that focuses on user-friendly guides for all home improvements that require a zoning review. The site also offers free support through email for any homeowner confused on the steps they would need to take to secure a permit.

“We wanted to create a fresh experience that would make people think differently about the ease in getting permits for a project in order to reduce illegal work being done in the community,” said Ronald Johnson, Downtown Plainfield Alliance board member. “If a homeowner wants to install a fence or pool, residents have offered consistent feedback that the zoning ordinance’s rules can be hard to understand or even find online.”

The site has step-by-step guides on how to get a permit for additions, conversions to other uses, decks, driveways, parking lots, fences, garages, generators, HVAC, home occupations, land/soil disturbances, patios and walkways, porches and steps, sheds, solar panels and swimming pools. For businesses, it has information on how to open a business, installing signs and clothing bin donation boxes.

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“We also found that many people do not know what requires a zoning permit, so we made a list of common projects that would need zoning review and focused the site around those items,” Johnson said.

In addition to permits, the site also outlined the process for receiving a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) for homes that are located in a historic district. This section of the site includes applications to the HPC, design guidelines that the HPC and homeowners should follow, tips on how to make a successful application to the HPC and an interactive historic district map that shows all historic properties and districts in the city, including the history of each district.

The idea for the site originally started from Johnson’s time with the city as Assistant Zoning Officer in the Planning Division. “The confusion on permits, the amount of incomplete applications and illegal work by homeowners and contractors led me to think of ways I can push information out to the public showing the right way to do things. We need people-friendly, modern solutions to old problems, and we think this is the first step.”

Downtown Plainfield Alliance anticipates a second phase of the project that will make the site into a one-stop, “full service” permitting solution that can accept and send applications and secure payments on behalf of the city. Since 2014, the city only accepts certified checks and money orders for applications, oftentimes forcing unsuspecting homeowners and contractors to run to local stores and the post office during the submission of their documents. This change would also allow the acceptance of credit and debit card transactions for permits, a first for the city.

“The change in 2014 from accepting cash and personal checks has really frustrated customers that are trying to do the right thing by applying for a permit. The value in the site really improves exponentially when someone can submit their permit request online while sitting at home in their bathrobe. It completely removes the experience of having face-to-face interaction at city hall, but completely depends on the willingness of City Hall to allow such a convenient function to transpire,” Johnson says.

Plainfieldpermits.com is live and online now for all homeowners looking to get a jump on their spring repairs and improvements.

Downtown Plainfield Alliance (DPA) is a nonpolitical, nonprofit grassroots group that supports the improvement of Downtown Plainfield through beautification, volunteerism, economic development, marketing, community development, and activism. This column dives into the in's-and-out's of Downtown Plainfield’s revitalization. Learn more about Downtown Plainfield Alliance at www.downtownplainfield.com.