“Permit Us to Permit You” – Sharpening Pencils

Adapted from “Other Matters from the Public” comments made to the Albemarle County Planning Commission 2/24/2015

By Neil Williamson, President

It really is the little things that make the difference.pencils2

Today, I have a present for Planning Commissioners and members of  Albemarle’s Community Development department but first, I have a story.

Late last year in a meeting with a couple members of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and a number of Albemarle County business leaders, I shared my pencil story.

Back in the 1990s (not unlike Albemarle in an earlier age), the Greene County Planning Department consisted of two people and had a relaxed but efficient operation.  Applications were generally filled out right in the planning office often with the Planning Director alongside the applicant to walk he or she through the paperwork.  Many applicants were arriving with an idea of what they wanted to do but did not know how.  In addition, they often came in without a writing utensil as they did not know they had to fill out a form.

Recognizing the need, and after losing a number of office pens, someone came up with the idea to give applicants a planning department pencil to fill out the required paperwork.  In a moment of brilliance, they came up with the tagline for the pencil:

“Permit us to permit you”.

Those five word summed up the administration’s position on planning, zoning, development, and redevelopment.  It was as simple as that.

This “permit us” philosophy does not suggest staff takes an “approve everything” approach, instead it positions staff as a trusted guide working with applicants to find legal ways to achieve their goals.

This trusted guide method encourages staff to take ownership of an application.  Too often, at all levels of government, the mantra is “no one ever got fired for saying no”.

After the Albemarle meeting, one of the business leaders offered to fund the printing of such pencils.  Based on that generous gift, I am here today presenting a “Permit Us to Permit You” Pencil to each member of the Albemarle County Planning Commission as well to Mr. Cilimberg, Mr. Kaptner and Ms. Taylor.  I have three bags here for Mark Graham to share with his entire team.pencil

In addition to being emblazoned with the “Permit Us” philosophy, each and every pencil is also equipped with a very useful implement on the non sharpened end.  The eraser will work equally for applicants and staff to correct those areas in need of revision.

For over a dozen years, the Free Enterprise Forum has been proud to work with you and staff on positive policy direction.  We look forward to another year of pleasant persistence pushing the envelope to help make our community strong and welcoming for all.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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