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City lays off one employee in Planning Department; creates new position of Small Business Facilitator

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The folks who oversee the planning of the city’s growth and development are drawing up a new plan about how to run their department.

Scott McCullough, director of the city’s Planning and Development Services Department, has confirmed his office recently laid off one employee as part of a reorganization plan.

The city eliminated the department’s GIS Analyst position — held by Renee Yocum — as part of a reorganization that has created a new position to help small businesses navigate their way through the city’s planning and development process.

The new position, which has been given the title of Small Business Facilitator, hasn’t yet been filled. McCullough said the position won’t be an actual planner who does reviews of proposed development projects, but rather a person who can be brought into the process at any time to provide extra assistance to small businesses that are trying to get a necessary permit or approval from City Hall.

“The idea is that we’ll have a concentrated focus in the small business arena so we can provide those applicants enhanced customer service,” McCullough said.

The reorganization also has resulted in a decision to move the department’s assistant director — longtime planner Sheila Stogsdill — into a new position called a Planning Administrator.

The Planning Administrator position will be responsible for overseeing all planning applications made to the office and ensuring they are processed in a timely manner. The position will oversee applications made to the Planning Commission, the Historic Resources Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals, McCullough said.

He said the city will start advertising to fill Stogsdill’s current position of assistant planning director within the next few days. McCullough said the assistant director position will become more responsible for reviewing the policies and customer service functions of the department.

The city actually has two assistant director positions to fill in the department, with the other being the assistant director for the development services division. Longtime city employee Margene Swarts — who recently retired — occupied that position, which oversees building inspections, code enforcement and other related matters.

McCullough said he hopes to have all the positions filled by mid-summer.

The moves come shortly after city commissioners asked City Manager David Corliss — as part of his annual review — to look for ways to strengthen and streamline the city’s planning and development services process.

It will be worth watching to see whether other initiatives occur in the department this year. City officials for the better part of a decade have been talking about the need to create a “one-stop shop” for people looking to do development projects. Currently, the city’s planning department and building inspections department are in two different offices. The city for several years has been looking for space and funding to consolidate the two functions.

Comments

Rick Hird 12 months ago

I think Scott McCullough, Sheila Stogsdill and all of the planners I know do a great job that is very difficult. This community has a vast array of opinions on everything imaginable. The city political landscape changes constantly, yet Scott and Sheila somehow manage to adapt and maintain very high standards. It's easy to take shots at the planning department, but I think they do a fabulous job.

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sunny 12 months ago

3 positions $62,000 - $93,000.......thats a lot of dough!

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

But the moles are still in the office!

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year ago

The current system requires a buisness to submit an architect drawing just to see if the plan is feasible. Who wants to spend $5k just to see if the city will allow the project? I hope the new position will be qualified enough to answer these questions with a conceptual drawing without stamps. Once the city green lights the project, the business can then pay for architectural drawings if needed. Also, the fire dept needs to be part of the beginning process. Currently, planning approves plans only to be rejected by the fire dept. The fire dept currently makes requests that are not based on code but their own feelings.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

Stogsdill gets a raise, pension goes up!

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otto 1 year ago

I have heard builders say that getting permits and approvals in Lawrence takes at least 3 times longer than other cities they have worked in.

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year ago

I hope the new position can green light a project without the buisness having to spend thousands on an architect drawing only get rejected weeks later.

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Randall Uhrich 1 year ago

I would think GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Analyst would be crucial to Planning and Development for city businesses. Are they going to replace scientific analysis with hunches and an Ouija board?

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

Space? Got to be joking!

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sunny 1 year ago

How many Assistants are really needed?

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Catalano 1 year ago

For heaven's sakes...where's Wilby on this matter?

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