The Common Council will discuss and vote on the Mayor's proposal to re-organize the Department of Planning, Conservation, and Development, Tuesday at 7PM in Council Chambers, the Council's next meeting.
The PCD office has been understaffed for most of the last two years, and currently is without an environmental specialist, deputy director, and zoning enforcement officer. This is raising concern about wetlands and zoning inspections and enforcement, grants management, and other acute land use activities in our city (Commissioners Fear Crisis In Understaffed Planning Office).
The shortage of staffing and planning expertise has also made it difficult to engage in long-term planning, to improve economic development and sustainability in general, and the vibrancy of the riverfront and gateways to the city in particular.
The proposal includes the addition of a new position, a City Planner (job description), who would assume the role of the Deputy Director. This position would bring training, and professional experience in planning to the city for the first time since Michiel Wackers left two years ago. This is particularly important as the city prepares the state-mandated update to our Plan of Conservation and Development. This document, which is re-written every 10 years, provides the foundation for all of the city's regulations, particularly in the area of land use.
In addition, the proposal changes the former Deputy Director job into a Community development Specialist (job description), who would be responsible for writing and administering grants, including the Housing and Urban Development grants from Washington.
Some progress is also being made with respect to the other two vacant positions. The Zoning Enforcement Officer job was advertised about a month ago, and final interviews are being held this week.
The vacant Environmental Specialist position will be reviewed by the Common Council. Any proposal to change its job description would be considered first by the General Counsel Commission, which meets next on September 13th.
Note: the author is Chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission. His is not a neutral voice--he strongly supports the proposed changes to both of the job descriptions.