These are interesting times, aren’t they? A handful of years ago we were struggling with a declining economy. We were engulfed with huge inventories, declining values, years of sluggish home sales, and miserly financial institutions. Everywhere we looked we saw bankruptcies and foreclosures.  In hindsight, it was downright bleak. Let’s not go back there.  

Development is Booming

Now, it is the reverse. Unemployment is low, the market is on the rise, and development is booming in all sectors. In the past couple years, I’ve often heard something like… “we haven’t had a plat to review since 2007,” or “when was the last storm water plan we reviewed”.

Most of our communities haven’t had much development in a long while, and certainly not at this pace. In fact, its been long enough where staff turnover or retirement has left a hole in the all-important institutional knowledge file. Some of us are old enough to forget what we learned back then…and yeah, I realize that was only 10 years ago. Organizationally, we’ve lost a step. How do we get back into the swing of reviewing all those developments that are piling up? How do we overcome those administrative hurdles?

Obviously, it is important to review plats, CSMs and construction plans, in comparison to your community’s zoning and land division ordinances. It’s also critical to get feedback from staff, elected officials, and the public. In addition, the development review process must ensure that your community grows responsibly, safely, and sustainably.  

Achieving a Utopian Community

Is your community best positioned for growth? To start, ask yourself:

  • Were you saddled with a bankrupt development that didn’t or wouldn’t put the surface course on?

  • Do you have “temporary” cul-de-sacs that have been “temporary” since the 80’s?

  • Does your community struggle with undersized infrastructure, drainage or flooding problems, sewer backups, or a crumbling infrastructure that is “privately owned and maintained” only to see a room full of angry residents demanding that the community step in to “fix it”?

  • Have you heard feedback about how difficult or time consuming it is to develop in your community?

My educated and experienced guess is that all of you have answered yes to at least one of these questions. I haven’t met a community yet that has EVERYTHING under control. 

We should desperately try not to repeat this kind of history. Instead let us strive to achieve that Utopian community… Xanadu. Decent, organized, and consistent development review can help realize our perfect dream community without detriment to our citizens and the development community.

Organizational Tips

Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. (R/M) has helped communities create and organize their processes by developing checklists, flowcharts, and other procedures to funnel developments through the bureaucratic and political landscape.

One of the best and most successful things a community can do is to develop a submittal timeline. This helps the development team understand the process and deadlines necessary to achieve Plan Commission approval more quickly and efficiently. In addition, having a “clearing house” or “gate keeper” distribute plans and information between staff and the development team is critical to organized review and communication.

About the Author

Christopher M. Genellie

Christopher M. Genellie, P.E., CPESC
Senior Project Manager

Chris is an expert in site development and storm water management. His start in site development and storm water management began in 1996 when he began performing reviews of private development plans for local municipal subdivisions and commercial developments. An understanding of the State and local design and code requirements is an absolute must. This understanding and knowledge of the ever changing regulations has benefited Chris when preparing site development plans and storm water management plans for Ruekert & Mielke, Inc.’s municipal and private clients.

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