Developers Gain Access to City Staff in Informal Setting

Jeff Levine

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,305)

The City has just announced the implementation of a new policy intended to give prospective developers more access to city staff in an informal and confidential setting, if desired.  To accomplish that, the Portland’s Planning and Urban Development Department is inviting developers, at any stage of the process, to sit down with relevant staff any Wednesday between 12:00 noon and 1:00 pm to get feedback as needed.  Developers need to make an appointment with Desiree Kelly  (207) 874.8720 in advance of the meeting.

For many years, complaints about the slowness of the permitting process had led to comments that Portland is “anti-business.”  The slowness of the process was frustrating for those  who have developments on their drawing boards  – just waiting for the city to move on it.  A few years ago a report was commissioned by the city and one of the conclusions in it was that Portland performed slower than its counterparts.

Last year, Mayor Michael Brennan and City Manager Mark Rees identified the need for an exhaustive management review of the operations of the city’s Inspections Division to help identify opportunities for improvement and ways to streamline the permitting process.  To that end, last spring Rees contracted with Jared Clark, Government Consulting Group, along with Director of Planning and Urban Development Jeff Levine has been carefully reviewing the process for local businesses, developers and residents to enhance the delivery of these key services at all levels and degrees of complexity.

“There may be opportunities on a case-by-case basis for a representative from a neighborhood at the meeting, but generally the meetings are designed to allow a developer to have a frank discussion with city staff,” said Jeff Levine this afternoon.  Hugh Nazor, treasurer of the India Street Neighborhood Association, notified neighborhood liasons to the city of this possibility in an e-mail with more details.”There have been many expressions of the desire to have neighborhoods inclulded in development activity from their beginning.  This is the opportunity we have been seeking.  I would encourage any neighborhood organization that is interested to appoint a representative and to inform the Planning and Development of that person’s contact information.

“Improvements to the planning review process are an evolving and ongoing process,” stated Levine.  “Some changes may help a great deal and others may not have as pronounced an impact.  The goal is continual improvements to the process to reduce the time it takes to get permits, while at the same time delivering a high quality service, ensuring that the public health, safety and welfare are not compromised.”

For more background information, please visit Post # 1,261, dated l/6/13 herein.