As I previously wrote, I have been finding ways to employ ChatGPT in my daily workflow as the Chief Innovation Officer in the City of Lebanon. One project I am working on right now is to help our Planning and Development Department update its permitting process to create a better human experience for the public and our staff. When OpenAI made ChatGPT accessible to the average person, I put their permit fee calculator on my list as a first project.
This is version 1.0 of the calculator. I don't know what this experience would be like for someone who didn't have any programming experience. I have enough programming skills to understand what the script does to enhance or debug it but not enough to build it from scratch. That's where ChatGPT came into play.
Here is a sneak peek that hasn't been published on our City's website yet.
New Permit Fee Calculator
The Old Process
To better understand what the calculator is doing, here is the listing of fees that needs to be calculated based on whether the project cost is over $5000 or under and whether it is a commercial or residential project. For projects valued at $5000 or less, the following chart explains the permit fee due. There are calculated as a flat fee.
|Cost of Construction
|Permit Fee for Residential (detached) one and two-family construction and renovation.
|Permit Fee for Multi-family residential (including attached units), commercial, and industrial construction and renovation.
|$0 - $500
|$501 - $1,000
|$1,001 - $3,000
|$3,001 - $5,000
|$5,001 or more
|use the permit fee calculator below
|use permit fee calculator below
For projects valued at $5,001 or more, the fees are calculated as percentages of the construction cost with a flat filing fee and a flat DPW/Fire Fee, which are different based on whether the project is residential or commercial. The final permit fee is rounded to the nearest dollar. To make this easier for applicants, we embedded a Google Sheet on the permit fee page. Not ideal, but it worked.
I encountered some challenges along the way with the code. Still, it was easy to ask ChatGPT to review the script for errors or add additional features, such as allowing the input field to accept symbols such as a dollar sign or decimal point. I also had to play around with it to get the displayed formatting to present in a readable format. Lastly, I had some trouble making sure it would work for iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices.
Beyond Version 1.0
I'm not sure how far I will go to make improvements to this permit calculator since we plan to migrate to new permitting software that does a nice job of calculating fees as part of the application process. However, visitors may want to use the tool independently to determine costs without having to apply for a permit first. In that case, I would like to make the interface a bit prettier and more mobile-friendly.
If you are interested, you can visit our city's Building Permit Fee page to see it morph over time. If you work in local government and would like a copy of the script I used to create this calculator, feel free to reach out to me. I am always happy to share solutions when I can.