During these slower construction times that many of us are experiencing as a direct effect of the economic climate, there are still opportunities out there for developers or businesses who want to grow, expand or start up in your area. Don’t overlook those redevelopment opportunities. Many property managers/owners are willing to give or offer a better deal on rent, lease or purchase price on empty retail space. Empty warehouse space can be given a new use, such as indoor recreation facilities.
This could be a good time for zoning and comprehensive plan re-evaluation to make sure it is well suited for allowing creative and reasonable re-use and redevelopment of empty space. Empty space will not provide any tax revenue. So if your ordinance is not business friendly, it may be time to consider some minor changes.
Business tax revenue keeps residential taxes lower, something we all like.
In the current professional literature of the various fields that we as “public administrators” find ourselves, there are always discussions and articles regarding networking or sustainability and green building. On the surface they seem like two different topics but they are not mutually exclusive.
How can we put our networking skills to good use to create a more sustainable community and policies for the future? One, example is schools and sustainable planning. Recently an article in the Journal of the American Planning Association quoted some statistics for the number of children that are driven to school by their parents. According to the article “In 1969, 41% of all trips to school in the United States were made by walking or biking. By 2001, this had declined to 13%. Over the same time period, the proportion of children being driven or driving themselves to school rose from less than 20% to 55%” (McDonald and Aalborg, JAPA Vol. 75 No. 3 Summer 2009 p.331) This coupled with the fact that many schools are no longer located within walking distance for many of its students. This adds to the local traffic congestion, number of cars on the road during peak commuting hours and emissions contributing to local pollution. As planners, school officials and public safety officials, perhaps we need to get together and start thinking about putting new schools back in neighborhoods, and provide safe walking and biking lanes to enable and encourage other modes of transportation to and from school.
Additionally, allow the schools to have a duel purpose, such as using the gymnasium for Boys and Girls Club and other youth oriented organizations for their after school programs, which will save resources and put these activities in the neighborhoods, rather than building a separate building perhaps even in a different part of town for such activities. Joint library facilities for the school as well as the surrounding community by combining the public library with the school library for that neighborhood is another way to combine resources and space, that is in practice in some areas.
By using our networking skills with our planning skills, we can create communities where people can travel shorter distances to accomplish daily tasks, and provide access to students to use an alternative form of transportation to get to and from school each day.
This may be more suited to urban and even suburban areas, but every little bit we can do to work together as a community to make our communities more sustainable, will benefit us all.
In the current economic climate, the rate of home sales still lower than they have been in years and construction slowing in both residential and commercial construction, localities are trying to find ways to encourage developers to their city or county in areas that have experienced a slow down in their development. Let’s be honest, growth equals a tax base and dollars to cities, towns and counties.
One approach has been to introduce a Development Facilitator or Business Liaison to bridge the gap between planning and economic development and to help guide developers through all phases of construction. This person in some cases works out of the plan review office for commercial construction and residential subdivisions and works with the developer and applicants prior to their formal site plan submission all the way to grand opening. This person also helps the developer and applicant to understand and move through the approval process smoothly and providing assistance to overcome any hurdles along the way.
Another locality is suspending some of their fees at this time to help entice developers and make it easier financially for builders to continue to build in their locality.
A third option is instituting a “fast track” or priority review process for projects that meet the criteria; which may include a preliminary meeting and review.
It takes time, but the new processes seems to be working as more developers and applicants become aware of these new services available to them.
These and many other options are an investment by the locality in their own future and will be well worth the investment over time.
Milisa Story, MPA