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Make decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective

A. DISCUSSION

What is the current situation?

Many times the vision and direction for the city are set by the mayor and elected officials. Often that vision and direction impact the physical development of the city through policies, processes, and communication. However, when that vision is set solely by the elected officials without buy-in from the overall community, then that vision shifts with every municipal election. Every new group of elected officials attempts to set its own course, which creates tremendous issues from a development standpoint.

In addition to establishing a consistent long-term vision for the community, the city leadership should establish a clear process for development including a process for gaining approval, required permits, and development standards and codes. Regardless of how many rules or codes are in place, having a clear process and outline for developers will create a consistent and predictable environment for developers.

Another issue related to creating a predictable and fair environment for the entire community is the enforcement of existing city policies and rules. Many leaders believe that waiving policies for certain developers or projects creates a “pro-economic development” environment. However, waiving policies for some developers but not for others creates a highly unpredictable and unfair environment for the community. Treating everyone equally will create a much more successful environment for developers and residents.

Also, when rules and policies are not enforced consistently, the residents suffer because they are not able to predict how the areas around them will develop. This discourages private investment because there is no predictability as to whether or not their investment will be protected over the long-term. For example, if a resident chooses to improve his or her property based on the fact that the surrounding land use is compatible with their improvements, then exceptions are made for the adjacent property to develop in a different manner. This devalues the original investment.

B. STRATEGIES

Establish a consistent vision for the community.

Builders and developers depend on a clear and consistent process as they navigate cities’ approval procedures. If the processes change with every election, then developers cannot accurately predict costs, time frames, and standards for their projects. In order to encourage growth and development, then a clear process should be developed for development approval, permitting, and procedures. Once developed, it should be enforced consistently regardless of city administration.

Follow your own rules.

Treat everyone equally regardless of the project. The city’s policies and procedures were put into place in order to create a fair and predictable environment for all citizens. Do not provide exceptions for certain developers just because of their project. Enforce all rules and guidelines that have been put into place so that local developers, local residents, and outside developers all follow the same rules.

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