At last week's Council session on the CG/CH zoning changes, I addressed Council asking once again for a zoning/permits/development ombudsman, something I have regularly advised for several years. Last week, in a comment to JWT's article, "What We Have Here", I said, "As JWT told you, I gave Mr. Lewis my card, asked him for some details, and promised that I was just as glad to give the city "attaboys" in public as to criticize. Have not heard yet, but if I do, and this is for real, I'll be the first to acknowledge it here."
I've been out of town this week and this is my first chance to follow up on that promise. I am here to give the city a big "attaboy", and eat a healthy portion of crow. If one looks to the comment following mine to last week's article, it is entered as anonymous, for ease of access I suppose, as it is signed at the bottom. I cannot recall when last I was more politely, thoroughly, and deservedly chewed out. For that matter, the embarrassment aside, I don't recall being so glad to admit, "Got me!"
The author of that comment, Amanda Fawver, is the city's Development Coordinator, a position created last April which comes so close to the "one person, one phone number" job description I have been requesting as not to be worth quibbling over details. The position she holds, complemented by the new Development Review Committee, will make the path from "bright idea" to final approval substantially smoother for business investors. As she points out, it has already helped 30-some projects.
Development Coordinator Fawver was so diplomatic, she even deleted from her public comment an especially embarrassing-to-me section of the e-mail she sent. I not only saw, and should have recalled, the April 21, 2007 Standard-Times article announcing this position, I commented favorably on the gosanangelo site. Not only do some folk downtown read my stuff, they sometimes remember it better than I do! Seriously, that was a deft touch which should serve well in a "first-contact" position.
This new approach is truly substantive. Unnecessary zoning/permits hoops to jump through are not only inconvenient for a prospective business, they cost real money in time and effort. To a business, the money saved on that end is just as real as the money on the cash-payment economic incentive end. From this forgetful author, a great big "attaboy" all 'round to staff and Ms. Fawver in particular. Talk about your economic multipliers, whatever the pay scale for this position, it is money well spent.