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Building Permit After a Devastating Barn Fire Issued in Record Time Thanks to Cloudpermit

The Municipality of Grey Highlands, Ontario

April 6, 2020

The Municipality of Grey Highlands quickly rallied after a recent fire leveled a barn on a family farm. The farm, owned by a local Mennonite family, now has a new barn thanks to the partnership of their community and municipal staff, with the help of Cloudpermit, e-permitting software.

In Grey Highlands, a municipality southwest of Georgian Bay, has a population of 10,000 and a land mass 40% larger than the City of Toronto. Serving the 883 km2 area provides unique challenges. It is often a long trip for residents to municipal offices to submit permit applications. The introduction of Cloudpermit has significantly reduced the number of required trips across the mostly rural community.

It was a Saturday when the large barn caught fire. The fire department put the fire out as soon as possible, but the barn was destroyed. The Mennonite community came together immediately to remove all the debris from the foundation.

The farmers submitted the online permit, complete with drawings, over the weekend, so the Grey Highlands building department could review it as soon as they were open on Monday. On Tuesday morning, the inspecting engineer attached his report online to the same application. Grey Highlands issued the permit through the system that afternoon. The family began building the new barn on Wednesday morning—just four days after the devastating fire.

The unprecedented speed and ease of the permit application would not have been possible months earlier when the process was offline. The farmers would have had to make the trip into town several times to submit their application, bring the engineering report and pick up their permit. Since the Mennonite farmers who lost their barn do not drive vehicles for religious reasons, these trips would have been especially onerous for them.

There may have also been multiple phone calls to ask questions and request status updates. With Cloudpermit, notes on the system allow applicants to track the progress of their application throughout the process.

“E-permitting has put all of our documents in one place,” explained Debbie Anderson, Chief Building Official for the Municipality of Grey Highlands. “The tracking is phenomenal. There are no more lost documents and all the files are current.”

Debbie shared that it has been exciting to introduce the e-permitting system across municipal departments. “When Cloudpermit was implementing it, there was no downtime. They were very helpful and professional,” she said. “We’ve now added our finance, planning, public utilities and fire departments to the system. It’s a time-saver for all parties involved.”