Task force hears process improvement ideas
To speed approval of Rochester development proposals, replacing time-consuming public hearings with over-the-counter reviews by a city staff member is one way to do it, says Rochester and Olmsted County Planning Director Phil Wheeler.
A Type 1 review, or staff-member review, of a site development plan is typically finished in 30 days or less, Wheeler told members of the Development Permitting Process Committee, an 11-member task force appointed to study and make recommendations to streamline and improve city development-review processes. The committee met Thursday at City Hall.
A Type 3 review, involving a city council public hearing, takes two months or longer, depending on the public response at hearings and whether the Planning and Zoning Commission or city council makes prompt decisions or tables a final vote for one or more meetings, Wheeler said.
Developers involved in a Type 3 review are also required to hold neighborhood meetings in advance of the public hearings. Often, the neighbors' questions are answered at those meetings, and the public hearings are relatively quiet.
"You actually wonder if the hearing is creating value," Wheeler said.
The process to review and approve developments is laid out in the city's Land Development Manual .
A Type 1 review is conducted by staff members. Generally speaking, if the proposed development is in line with the property's zoning requirements, it's just a simple matter of a staff member checking to make sure the application is complete, and sending copies of the proposal to a handful of other agencies, such as the Fire Department or Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, to get their reactions.
It's when developments are a mismatch for their zoning, or are of a certain size or intensity, that the Planning Department review goes public, either with a Type 2 process ending at the Planning and Zoning Commission, or a Type 3 process in which the Planning and Zoning Commission makes a recommendation to the city council, which makes the final vote.
The Planning Department has slotted some types of development into the Type 1 process in recent times, and could shift more of them, Wheeler said.
The department also plans to educate its members about customer service standards, and to install processes to better track applications through the review process, Wheeler said.