Missoula County’s Subdivision and Survey Tracker Reduces Review Time by Half

Missoula County has cut land division and survey approval times in half by transforming the review process. Over the last two years, county departments, led by the Clerk and Treasurer’s Office, built and implemented the Missoula County Subdivision and Survey Tracker – an innovative tracking and approval system for development projects. 

When a landowner outside city limits wants to divide property for development, they need approvals from Community and Planning Services, Public Works, the City-County Health Department, Clerk and Treasurer’s Office, County Attorney’s Office and Board of County Commissioners. Reviewing departments ensure proposed divisions are in compliance with state and local regulations.  

In the past, these reviews were linear with physical documents moving from department to department. Now, the tracker allows departments to conduct reviews simultaneously, increasing transparency and allowing for greater collaboration. As a result, smaller projects are approved four to six weeks faster and larger subdivision approvals are obtained 10 weeks sooner. 

“Before we implemented the tracker, projects were often delayed at critical moments,” Project Manager Sam Scott said. “The tracker gives us the opportunity to communicate issues when they are more easily addressed. Our office is the last step for most projects, so we are uniquely positioned to drive innovation. The tracker saves the public and the county time, money and frustration.” 

The streamlined process has been well-received in the development community.  

“Prior to the current process, there would be multiple trips downtown to move the plat and documents from one office to the next,” PCI Principal Land Surveyor Toby Dumont said. “With the current process, all the original documents are held by the Clerk and Treasurer’s Office with a master scanned folder that contains all the supporting documents. This eliminates the loss of individual supporting documents during the office shuffles.”  

The tracker was developed without purchasing specialized software, saving taxpayer dollars and providing increased opportunity for customization.  

“This is a great example of county departments coming together to improve a public service without additional cost to the taxpayer,” Recording Director Shyra Scott said. 

Missoula County implemented the tracker for county projects in August 2019, allowing the office to continue the electronic review process when COVID-19 interrupted government services.  

“We continued to keep projects moving despite these unique circumstances,” Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer Tyler Gernant said. 

Clients have welcomed having required approvals and supporting documents in one location, especially during the pandemic. 

“This move toward a digital review and sign-off process not only limits in-person contact, but is efficiency that was long overdue,” Montana Northwest Company President Ken Jenkins said. “These efforts to keep our projects moving are an important factor that ripples throughout the building and development industries.” 

The Clerk and Treasurer’s Office hopes to expand the tracker to include projects within the City of Missoula. Additionally, county staff are identifying new ways the tracker’s data can be used to better inform decisionmakers and improve how Missoula County engages with the public. 

Missoula County launches website to help homeowners with permits

Steps screencap

With the summer construction season underway, Missoula County has launched a new website to guide homeowners through the process of applying for permits they’ll likely need for new construction and other work on their home.

The website, www.missoulacounty.build, provides a step-by-step overview of the permitting process. It’s aimed at property owners who live in Missoula County but outside City of Missoula limits (city dwellers should check out the city’s permitting website instead). While the site mainly targets homeowners looking to apply for permits, it includes some helpful tips for contractors as well.

Missoula County requires permits for many types of work residents may want done on their property. Permits ensure work is done safely and complies with local, state and international building codes.

In the past, the steps required to secure these permits have not always been clear, making the process seem confusing and cumbersome. Because information on permitting was previously scattered across separate department websites, applicants often didn’t know where to start. www.missoulacounty.build is a one-stop virtual shop that simplifies information from the three departments that issue building-related permits: Public Works Building Division, Community and Planning Services, and the City-County Health Department.

Other key features of the website include:

  • Property Fast Facts, a report generated through the county’s property information system. Property owners simply need to enter their address, and the system will produce a report that includes information such as zoning, current permits, whether the property is in the city or the county, and other facts that are useful when applying for permits.
  • Lists that outline common projects that require, or don’t require, permits.
  • A breakdown of fees associated with each permit and how they’re calculated.
  • A glossary defining key terms used throughout the website that the homeowners may not be familiar with.
  • An FAQ that answers commonly asked questions homeowners have about permits.
  • Important reminders about the process throughout that will help eliminate surprises later.

Important reminder

The goal of the website is to simplify permitting information so homeowners can successfully apply on their own, or feel more informed if they need to call or visit a permitting department. If you have a home improvement project in the works, be sure to check it out. You can offer suggestions on how we can make it better by emailing permitWSP@missoulacounty.us.