Monday, March 03, 2008

Mayor Becker Makes Good on Campaign Promise: Retools City Planning Division

SALT LAKE CITY – Making good on a campaign promise, Mayor Becker announced today the retooling of the Planning Division within the City’s Community and Economic Development Department.

Mayor Becker explained, “Today we are laying the foundation for the alignment of critical planning functions that will help in our efforts to build a Great American City.”

Today the Mayor announced the creation of a new organizational structure for the Planning Division. To guide the reorganization of the division during this transition, Mayor Becker has appointed a leadership team that includes, Mary De La Mare-Schaefer, Interim Community and Economic Development Director, Esther Hunter, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, Orion Goff, Building Services and Licensing Director and Lyn Creswell, Chief Administrative Officer. This reorganization includes the departure of current Planning Director George Shaw and the announcement that a nationwide search will take place to find a new City Planning Director. The search is expected to take several months.

Some of the key elements of the new reorganization include:

· The Planner of the Day program has been eliminated. It will be replaced by the One-Stop-Shop Buzz Center which will provide a more efficient and convenient level of service for City residents by allowing them to address all of their planning and zoning needs in one place. The hours will be increased from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

· The zoning administration function has shifted to the newly established leadership team.

· An Ordinance Review and Resolution work group has been added.

· The Planning Division’s organizational chart has been flattened and two layers of management have been eliminated to expedite and streamline decision making.

· A Long-Range Planning and Complex Projects work group has been added.

Mayor Becker believes the retooling will ensure better customer service for City residents and help the division return to a focus on long-range planning and appropriate ordinance revisions.

“In an effort to restore public trust in the City’s planning process, these changes will provide consistent and predictable administrative interpretations by City planners,” the Mayor said. “I hope this will relieve much of the frustration many City residents have expressed to me over the past year. This reorganization is a critical first step toward aligning the planning work with the priorities I set out in my 180-Day Plan and the Blueprints for our city.”

As part of his 180-Day Plan, the Mayor promised to address a comprehensive review of staff, land-use ordinances, and overall planning policies within the Community and Economic Development Department.

Reflecting on the new changes, Mayor Becker remarked, “Before being elected mayor, I was acutely aware of the need for a complete and thorough review of the Planning Division’s functions, scope and effectiveness. While our recent review confirmed the fact we have hard working, committed employees, we also found there are fundamental process problems with how the City deals with planning, zoning and permits.”

“I am confident the many residents of Salt Lake City who interface with the Planning Division will appreciate the changes we are making and notice even more improvements going forward,” concluded Becker.

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