By Geoff I. Bradley, AICP, President and Principal at M-Group
M-Group is committed to bringing innovative planning services to all its clients, and believes that continuous innovation results in increased efficiency and improved results. Innovation can range from incremental to structural, with many varied ways and methods of achievement.
M-Group would like to offer some ideas that could be further explored with interested cities, to stimulate thought on innovation and the possible benefits to the City and community. We have first-hand experience successfully implementing many of these strategies.
To reach out to the community:
- Conduct an Open House for the community to meet new planning staff in an informal setting
- Hold a Homeowners’ Night at City Hall, which can be held during later hours for convenient access
- Send a Mobile Planning Unit to visit different neighborhoods and serve more residents
- Speak at high school city planning seminars
- Set up a planning kiosk at Home Depot and Lowe’s with Planning Department brochures, permit information and guidelines related to house alterations
- Pro-bono planning work for local non-profits to build a positive relationship with the community.
To increase the efficiency of the Planning Department:
- Allow the public and applicants to email planners instead of having to visit or call the counter. This is more efficient than retrieving voicemails and allows for easy communication. The City could publicize an “e-Planner,” to encourage people to use this service.
- Publish more information on the City website to reduce the number of phone and email inquiries.
- Regular Development Review Committee meetings for all departments to talk to one another and coordinate processes and specific projects.
- Monthly counter statistics to monitor the level of development activity and anticipate needs for the next month or quarter.
To reach out to the development and business communities:
- City website training for Realtors, offering them valuable knowledge that will improve their services.
- Invite business owners to a session to voice their concerns, and set up a Business Assistance Task Force to address those concerns. M-Group has done this in the City of Petaluma where the Planning, Public Works, Fire and Water Utility Departments are brought together to provide quick feedback to business owners looking to expand or relocate within the City.
- Planners to speak at the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce meetings.