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Thread: File organization

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    File organization

    How are your files organized? Are they chronological, by property, etc? Does each property have a file that contains permits, site plan, variance, etc. etc. etc. information? Or do you have separate files for each request?

    Keeping in mind that we are a small community, the building inspectors have their own files and I'm not really sure their rhyme or reason. In my office I have separate files for site plans, variances, special use permits, rezonings, etc. Each type of request is organized chronologically. It was set up this way before I got here. If there is a specific project that required a few different applications, I note it on the inside of all appropriate files to reference the other files.

    Basically, I am the only one who goes into these files, but I want to make sure they are organized as best as possible. How does everyone else organize their files?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Chronologically. Which can mean a dozen files, all over the office, for one site. It's a mess.

  3. #3
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I created a simple system when I worked in Florida; there was no consistent system before. Files were based on the type of land use case:
    • SUB-[year]-[XXX] - subdivisions (includes adminsitrative lot splits and consolidation)
    • VAR-[year]-[XXX] - variances
    • SUP-[year]-[XXX] - special use permits
    • SIT-[year]-[XXX] - site plan review (commercial/industrial development subject to architectural regulations)
    • ZMA-[year]-[XXX] - zoning map amendments (rezoning)
    • CPA-[year]-[XXX] - comprehensive plan amendments
    • ZCA-[year]-[XXX] - zoning code amendments
    • ANX-[year]-[XXX] - annexations

    XXX is a three digit number, ranging from 001 to 999. Never had anything go above 020, though.

    I assigned case numbers to old cases when they were found; somethimes it was just a record in some ancient minutes, sometimes a file hidden away among the mess I inherited. I even assigned case numbers to old submittals and developer proposals that never went beyond the conceptual stage; they were considered dead, stalled after pre-application.

    If there was a request involving multiple actions (a rezoning ad comp plan amendment, for instance), I'd split the files, but include a note referencing the other request.

    Each case file had the following subcategories:
    • Preapplication materials and notes (if applicable)
    • Application
    • Reviewing agency comments and followup revisions
    • Proof of public notification (if applicable)
    • Meeting agendas and minutes
    • Approved plan (if applicable)
    • Preliminary subdivision (if applicable)
    • Final subdivision (if applicable)

    I also color-coded the files with a sticky dot on the tab.
    • Green - approved
    • Red - denied
    • Blue - approved but never built, now dead
    • Brown - dead
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  4. #4
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I have been here for a year and a half, and I am still not sure on all of your filing system. I know we have property files, and the last two years are paper, but past that, they are scanned and put into a data base, and CDs. We search the database by property address, and it tells us what disk we need to put in, and it will bring out what we need. Beyond that, all the ZBA agendas, Planning Commission, Building Permits, decision letters, and just about everything else, I have no idea were they are.

    I would like to see EVERYTHING get put into a single database. That way we could search by multiple records such as ZBA numbers, PC numbers, Building Permit Numbers, property address, or just about anything else. But hell would have to freeze over before we get to do that.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Chronoligically by application type and number with a system similar to what Dan described. Cross referenced in databases by property map & lot number, applicant name and project name where applicable.

    We keep the last three years of applicaton files in our department vault. Older files go into the Town Clerk's file storage area.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  6. #6
         
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    Ours are CRAZY here...as far as my own office I use the "stack" method...each project/board has its own stack, when the project is complete I move it to the CRAZY files...
    The filing system for the department consist of about 25 filing cabinets organized by address..any action taken for any property has its own address file...then there are building permit files, pz files, sub files, BOA files...we have so many duplicate files of so much stuff its ridiculous...I would think with 6 support staff around here we could com eup with a much better system but we have't...I have just stopped filing anything...we have one whole filing cabinet used for "information to be filed" thats where I put all of my stuff and it finds its way to where it belongs...guess I have just gotten used to it in the past 5 years, not sure how but I can always find what I need ???

  7. #7
    We have a master list organized by address at the top, then chronoligically. It covers 11 volumes dating back to the late 1950s. If we want to know what has happened at 123 Any Boulevard, we can go straight to the address, then see that three variances have been denied for SOBs over the past decade, for example.

    The physical files contain much more paper than necessary, but we are wholly unreconstituted pack-rats. Organized chronologically much as the system Dan outlined above.

    We are transitioning to an opti fiche system to try to tame the paper beast before it gets through the front door. We are, however, grossly under-funded to really have a noticeable impact. And there remains the difficulties of scanning large-format *historic* documents.

    Now if we could just get the files returned to the filing cabinets in a timely manner, all would be right with the world.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  8. #8
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    The most useful system I had cross indexed street address and chonological order. One of my first tasks here was to go through all commission minutes (from adoption of the then most recent zoning ordinance) and create a chonological index. After 10 years, I have not yet created the address cross index. The actual files should be chonological, similar to Dan's (well, perhaps not as complex).

  9. #9
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Everything by Tax Map and Lot Number.

    EDIT: Active files are seperated out, but still organized by map and lot.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 16 Mar 2005 at 1:43 PM.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  10. #10
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I have everything in groups... "working on", "finished", and "in limbo"

    There is no particular order to any of it, and it is labeled by subdivision name, but I don't put it into order at all.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  11. #11
    maudit anglais
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    Well, there's the corporate system...and then there's my system. We're pretty much just a commenting department so the main file resides with Planning. I have no clue how the system actually works.

    I've developed a filing system just for our office. It's very simple, which is good seeing as no one is interested in keeping it in order. Most files don't even get a number, and they're discarded after about a year. Files that generate significant work get assigned a file number, but the files themselves reside with whoever worked on the file so storage varies from office to office.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    Since 2001, everything is submitted electronically, and stored that way, too. The applications are assigned a number chronologically as they are received. Each has an 8 digit number YEAR-XXXX. The file includes name, master plan name (if applicable), type (replat, final plat, public hearing, variance, etc), has all the attachments (title report, restrictions, etc) plus all the review comments from other agencies (they're included in the routing). Last year we had over 3400 submittals . My last one was labeled 2004-3370.
    The system lets you sort by type of request, key map location, lambert map location (similar to the Appraisal District maps), planner assigned, and name/number combos. After a meeting, there's a separate grouping for deferred items, as well.

    Prior to 2001, it was paper files, labeled by subdivision name. No other identifiers on the outside/tab of the file. Prior to about 1975, it was all numbers. That far back, tho, I don't know how the numbers were assigned.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Our files are stored similar to Dan's. One thing I am working on is having all documents linked by address into our GIS system, so you can click on a property and bring up every document related to that property. The file system would be the same (only an electronic file instead of a paper file), but after 5 years, the paper documents would get destroyed after it is verified that everything contained in the file has been scanned. This is possible by using Laserfiche to scan the documents and installing an arcview extension that does the linking. Still trying to convince the City Council to budget for the extension, but that is relatively easy to do, since you no longer would have to manually search in the basement for a file from 1972. All of our doucments are now scanned, so it is simply a matter of purchasing and installing the extension.

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