Posts Tagged ‘Development Services’
The Inside Tucson Business has been running a great series of stories picked from the last 20 years of the Tucson area’s business stories. The sad thing is the lack of true change. Development Services, headed by longtime bureaucrat, Ernie Duarte, is still a roadblock to many a small business owner in Tucson. Go to talk to CeeDee’s Jamaican Kitchen(just opened a few months ago) on Speedway and Swan about the hell they dragged him through. It took him about 18-20 months to open a restaurant that was previously a restaurant!
You take this department’s pathetic track record and combine with things like extortion payouts to Skrappy’s and $5,000 Temporary Revocable Easement application fees for signs and you really did earn the Arizona Small Business Survey’s(2008, link) ranking as Arizona’s unfriendliest municipality to operate a business in.
” City working to streamline development review process. In response to the development community, the city of Tucson is revamping its Development Services Department.
June 28, 1999
“This move brings the city’s review process to the next level,” said City Manager Luis Guitierrez. “It’ll bring substantial efficiency, customer service and predictability to plan reviews.”
The Development Review Center was first conceived in the mid-1980s as a way to bring together all reviewers from the various departments involved, (such as solid waste, water, fire, planning and engineering) into a single facility. Before that, anyone applying for a building permit would have to go from building to building and to the various departments to have a plan reviewed.
Now: The City’s development services department has long been scrutinized by the business community. This move was helpful to speed things along, but it remains an issue with the development community.”
Memo to City Council: Fix the basics out there to help the small biz owner and then stay out the way. Screwing the true base of your economy(they employ most of the citizens) while thowing money to the glory-hogging wimps over at TREO is helping to steer your city into the toilet.
I know having martinis with Snell, Welsh and now Guymon is a little more glamorous, but roll up your sleeves and actually make it happen for small business. You’ll be glad you did.
“The entire process was so unprofessional and such a joke, I’ll never do another project in this town again. If it wasn’t for our 200 people we would have pulled out and moved to a friendlier community.”
Unfortunately these stories are starting too become a series on this blog. I had a 4 hour conversation with a local business owner on a trip back and forth to Phoenix. This business owner is in the highly sought after manufacturing business. He has been in Tucson since he bought the company in the late 70′s. His company employs 200 people and sales are over $20 million per year. This is exactly the type of business and industry our community desperately needs.
When I asked him how it was to interact with government, I got the typical answer I hear over and over. Apparently he bought some open land in an industrially zoned portion of Tucson. He went down to the city to build his new factory and office complex. There was no neighborhood opposition (shocking, I know) and his architect designed the project to current building and zoning codes.
After 6 months of stalls, delays and outright incompetency he took his architect down to Development Services and met with the director. In the meeting the tone was unfriendly and downright hostile. Apparently some genius from Dev. Service staff did a drive by of the property and found a building had already been built -without permits. The director commented that the manufacturing facility may be required to be taken down due to potential code violations and lack of permits. His plans were being held up and nickel and dimed for breaking the rules. Here’s the best part of the story; the staffer that drove by his project went to the wrong address! The manufacturer still had a dirt lot on his property and hadn’t moved a rock.
With no apologies, no explanationthe development plans magically started to move through the process. Rather than address the issue head on 6 months earlier a decision from the top down was made to make this man’s life hell on earth. He saw first hand the wrath of a bureaucrat scorned.
Unfortunately, these stories happen all to often. There are undoubtedly procedural issues with the Development Services department. There are steps that can be made easier. I personally have sat on 6 or 7 different panels to try to make the process more customer focused and streamlined. The piece that we continue to dance around is the role of an upset plan reviewer, the field inspector that’s having a bad day, the unofficial word that goes out department wide to make that developers life living hell because they stepped out of line. It’s retaliation at its finest.
If Tucson ever wants to become business friendly it must start with Development Services. This department is the gate keeper and usually the only place a business truly interacts with the city. Without a permit nothing gets done.
The attitude must shift from ‘what can we find wrong with you plans’ to ‘how quick can we get you up and running and generating sales tax revenues.’
By Carl Schroeder, PAC Chair, Kadon Land Company
Personally, I never enjoy hearing the words “I told you so. ” When I hear that, it means I was wrong. So I won’t tell you, “I told you so,” even though I just did.
The home building industry drives the economy on a local level. However, home building is hurting. We won’t meet our projected new home permits for 2007 that was anticipated to be about half the permits pulled in 2005, our peak year.
If you factor in a resale market with over 10,000 houses for sale, (with over 3,000 of those units unoccupied), throw in an unknown number of foreclosures, you have a problem that trickles down to just about every business, government entity and resident in our community.
We need to earn money before dollars can be spent and trickle down in the local economy.
Pima County , the City of Tucson, and the towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita tax new home buyers in their respective communities through Impact Fees.
Seen by elected officials as an easy source of funding, they waste no time during a good market. Local legislation added tens of thousands of dollars onto the sale price of a new home while creating the impression they were tough on home builders and land developers.
All along, it is the new home buyer who ultimately pays those fees.
The new home buyer doesn’t even get a piece of paper in exchange for paying Impact Fees. Although we don’t see results (i.e. new infrastructure built) for five, 10, or even 20 years out, the toll on the economy is now.
Why can’t Pima County and every municipality within its borders recognize when it’s time to offer concessions to the industry that pays a huge portion of their bills and funds their operations?
They have successfully crafted an image that those associated with the home building industry are “the problem” in our community. I contend that they have lost sight of our overall and beneficial contributions to the community, economy and local charities. They may still, to this day, be having a difficult time understanding the connection.
Now that their cash flow has been cut, will they cut off their own noses to spite their public “face?” Or, will they offer some temporary, reasonable concessions before reaching crisis layoffs?
Let’s see how they tighten their own belts as building permits and related fees continue to fall.
Did I forget to mention they still want to talk about affordable housing?
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