Hoping to get development projects through the approval process quicker while taking some of the workload off an under-staffed planning division, the city of Altamonte Springs is turning to Artificial Intelligence for site plan reviews.
The city is the first in the country to contract with Gainesville-based AutoReview.AI, a newly formed company that aims to revolutionize the way code compliance checks are done using state-of-the-art patent-pending technology.
“We are an innovative city,” said City Manager Frank Martz, “and we like to push the envelope and look for new ways to create greater service for our business customers and for our tax-paying residents.”
It normally takes city staff a week or two to review site plans and apply all of the necessary codes, Martz said. After starting a contract with the new tech company on Tuesday, he said that same task can be performed in minutes.
“The intent is to significantly cut down the amount of time it takes a staff person to review a site plan and get closer to final comments more quickly,” Martz said. “That saves taxpayers money, obviously. But it also saves developers money by saving time. Nothing kills deals quicker than time. …This is a tool that is intended to make our staff’s work more efficient and create time-savings so that we can deal with the volume of (development programs) that’s coming into the Altamonte market.”
He stressed that the AI program will not be paid for by taxpayers and will not replace city planning staff. The cost will be included in fees paid by to the city by developers, he said.
Martz said it’s not yet been determined how much that additional fee will be.
“We are working that out,” he said. “It will be a negligible increase.”
The partnership is a part of the Altamonte Global Innovation Lab which was launched by the city earlier this summer. Altamonte Global Innovation Lab (AGiL) is designed showcase emerging technologies and programs that can be shared with cities and counties around the country.
In July 2023, Altamonte Springs and the Florida Department of Transportation launched the first mixed-traffic, multi-year autonomous vehicle shuttle in Florida called CraneRIDES, which connects SunRail to the center of Altamonte Springs while serving the businesses in between.
AutoReview.AI and CraneRIDES are just two examples of innovation solutions that the city is piloting, and are among nearly a dozen more partnerships the City has completed or are ongoing with the State of Florida and that will be featured through AGīL, the city said in a news release.
Altamonte Springs joins Pasco County as the only two government jurisdictions in Florida to employ the AI program.
According to the company’s website, AutoReview.AI is the first ever AI-solution that is automating compliance reviews by transcribing thousands of pages of manual code into a virtual program.
The company, started by CEO Rob Christy and Chief Technology Officer Nawari Nawari, was named one of the University of Florida’s inventions of the year in 2022, and was awarded a roughly $120,000 grant to jumpstart the business.
“AutoReview.AI is thrilled to partner with the City of Altamonte Springs and implement our award-winning AI-powered site plan and landscape plan review system into their operations,” Christy said in a statement. “Together, we are harnessing the power of innovation and technology to revolutionize the construction industry and enhance the efficiency of development processes.”
Many government bodies across the country are significantly under-staffed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 575,000 job openings in state and local government in December 2022, compared to only 195,000 hires. While the private sector has recovered the jobs lost during the pandemic, state and local government had 450,000 fewer employees in January 2023 than in February 2020.
Doug Kelly, who works with the local land development, planning, and engineering firm ETIM, is excited to see Altamonte Springs take a different approach to its site review process.
As the company’s land development planning manager, he’s worked on several projects in the city, including the 261-unit Aston at Uptown apartment community under construction near Altamonte mall.
Kelly said he’d like to see more local planning departments give AI a shot.
“City and County staff are overwhelmed with project review and many jurisdictions cannot find planners to hire,” he said. “Maybe this will become the answer.”