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How Does Urban Planning Continue in a Global Pandemic?  Meet QK’s Virtual Counter.
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By Jessica Bispels, Associate Planner

Few things are unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While people continue to see changes in their workplace, their schools, the way they purchase goods, and even the way they interact with others, it is clear that for Planning departments, the show must go on. But how? Planners oftentimes work collaboratively, and direct, often face-to-face communication with government officials and the public they serve is an integral part of the Planning profession. Beginning early Spring of 2020, this became a little challenging. And answering the call by the cities we serve to continue our work as closely as possible to a “business as usual” environment, while adhering to safety protocols, QK developed the capacity to assist planning departments with a program we like to call … Virtual Counter.

Virtual Counter is a program designed by QK Planners and IT professionals that uses Microsoft® Bookings and Teams technology to enable to the public to schedule appointments with Planning staff from the comfort of their homes and offices. Our Virtual Counter has access to Planning staff schedules and allows the public to choose and lock in private appointments. Appointments are blocked out in one-hour intervals and can take place via phone or video. QK has implemented a Virtual Counter for the City of Selma, California as part of our on-call Planning services and we are finding great success for both the City and its citizens.

At QK, we understand how important it is for Planning departments to continue to be accessible and available to the public. We also recognize how important it is to get creative and make sure every voice is heard and every concern addressed, while safely maintaining physical distance. Virtual Counter  meets those needs, and is also beneficial for people who previously found it difficult to physically come to the Planning department for face-to-face interaction.

And we don’t think Virtual Counter stops at the end of the pandemic. We foresee the success of Virtual Counter continuing even after the pandemic is over. We believe it to be potentially invaluable for cities and counties to offer a hybrid approach to working with Planning departments where members of the community and land developers will be able to schedule in-person, video, or phone meetings that fit their needs and schedules.

Is your city interested in customizing QK’s Virtual Counter for your Planning department? Call Principal Planner Steve Brandt, AICP today at (559) 733-0440, and learn just how easy it is.

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