Adapted from Comments to Charlottesville City Council and Planning Commission regarding the NDS Efficiency Study 8/23/18
I sincerely appreciate the City providing the opportunity for public feedback on Neighborhood Development Services (NDS) Review study. The Novak document is very complete and candid in its survey data regarding the department and the related approving authorities:
- The Tree Commission has 75% positive impact
- City Council has a 55% positive impact
- The Planning Commission has 67% negative impact.
- 71% did not believe the application submittal process worked well
- a full 80% found the review process not easy to understand.
The recommendations in the Novak report do not exactly correlate with the identified issues are worthy of consideration but there are three critical components that are outside the scope of this report that must be addressed by Council to fix this broken department – Accountability, Reduction in Review, and Philosophical shift.
The report outlines a number of metrics that should be tracked to better understand, identify and fix areas of inefficiency. While laudable, absent 1 individual who will be held accountable to the targeted goals – this report will do nothing more than sit on a shelf. The Free Enterprise Forum calls for direct, individual, public accountability.
Reduction in review – Looking at the chart in the back of the report, is every level of this review necessary or are some of these items designed more to prevent the last bad thing, rather than encourage the next great thing? The Free Enterprise Forum calls for a reduction in application review items.
Philosophy – Several years ago, we provided the NDS Department (and other local planning departments) with pencils that outlined what we believe their marching orders should be. I brought the few pencils I have remaining to you all tonight.
The “Permit us to Permit you” philosophy does not cut corners on review nor approves everything that comes in the door. It is much more a mortgage broker mentality – this application process is tough, but I will help you, my customer, get through it. “The Permit us to Permit you” philosophy requires leadership and engagement – two areas, according to your efficiency report that are currently lacking in NDS. The Free Enterprise Forum calls for City Council and the Planning Commission to endorse NDS role in helping citizens gain needed government approvals.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight, enjoy the pencils.
Neil Williamson, President
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