Development Center open at Lee’s Summit City Hall

rpulley@lsjournal.comFebruary 28, 2014 

Lee’s Summit’s new Development Center at City Hall is underway, with project managers assigned to each application to smooth the process.

Mark Dunning, director, said not all its pieces are in place yet, as staff members are learning new aspects of their jobs and codes administration is still in transition.

The development center staff have begun attending Tax-Increment Financing Commission and meetings for economic development, such as the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority to learn those ends of the city’s workings.

That will help project managers be more effective in helping applicants through the entire approval of a project, not just from the development related process, Dunning said.

“We’ve already received great feed back from (applicants) they say ‘I like what you’re doing here’,” Dunning said.

The staff also is working on a transition from handling codes administration, because of workload in process, he said.

“What you don’t want to happen is to start dropping the ball right and left,” Dunning said.

The same idea is also being applied to builders buying multiple housing permits and will eventually include business licenses.

To create the Development Center the city has shifted personnel and assignments in its codes and planning departments. The goal was to provide applicants with more guidance from city staff with the goal to make the process more user-friendly.

Each new endeavor now is assigned to a project manager who'll be the contact person for the applicant. Before, they could be shuffling calls between departments, trying to get answers to questions.

Dunning joined the city in 1997 as building inspector and steadily advanced in the codes department. He has a bachelor's degree in construction engineering technology and seven years of private sector experience.

Mike Weisneborn, Dawn Bell and Christopher Hughey will be project managers, Angela Wertenberger will be a business service representative and Caroline Wiggins a customer service representative.

The city combined its codes and planning departments in January, Planning Director Bob McKay leading that department. Dunning had been codes administrator.

Craig Grider, a Lee's Summit orthodontist, recently went got approval for building a new dental office downtown, said the plan is a good idea.

One thing lacking in the city’s process was having a single person each applicant could go to for questions.

“The one thing very lacking was that one go-to person,” Grider said. “Having a guide would be really, really nice.”

He said his experience with all of the individual city employees was very good, but the stumbling block was the overall process.

He said he didn't fully understand the Planning Commission's role and hadn't expected critical questions from commissioners, after going through plan reviews with staff where he believed all the kinks were ironed out.

Assistant City Manager Daren Fristoe compares the project managers to a sports team’s “utility players” already skilled in several areas. As the program goes forward, they'll gain more knowledge and be able to provide consistency for applicants, he said.

Fristoe said creating the project manager positions were one of the suggestions of the study done by a consulting firm, Springsted Incorporated, which was hired by the Lee's Summit Chamber of Commerce to study the city's development processes. (The city had contracted with the Chamber to oversee that research.)

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