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Development Review Process: An Important Part of Economic Development

December 2013

When asked to talk about doing economic development as a local government official I usually begin by saying that we start by taking care of essential public services, by being the best town for businesses and residents.  Financial incentives and tax breaks will not make up for bad roads, unsafe neighborhoods or poor schools. 

Now, my job is not to fix the streets or patrol or to educate, but I do participate in another essential town service - land use regulation.  I am part of a team of professionals whose focus is to ensure high quality private and public development that is consistent with community plans.   This team also understands that their actions have a significant impact on the retention and expansion of local business and the recruitment of new investment into the community.

The development team in Windsor has a well-deserved reputation for its speedy development review process.  This reputation is based on a conscious effort to encourage quality development while providing good customer service.   It also is facilitated by the following:

  1. Organization Culture.  The Town of Windsor has established and maintains a basic culture of customer service and team approach that extends throughout the organization.  
  2. Physical arrangement of offices and Town Hall.  All town staff involved in development review and approval are located on the same floor of Town Hall in an open office arrangement that promotes communication and collaboration.  This includes Planning, Building/Fire Marshal, Engineering, Public Health, and Economic Development activities.  It provides a one-stop shop for persons seeking permits.
  3. Shared support staff.  The development services department shares support staff which requires cross training and a focus on information sharing and communication. This arrangement is especially useful with scheduling and follow-up and the ability to respond when there is a workload crunch.
  4. Use of technology.  Development services staff utilize technology to communicate with each other and customers and their consultants, to receive applications and plan submissions and to manage information.  This includes email, GIS, cellular devices and permit tracking software.
  5. Coordination of commission schedules. Our land use review boards coordinate their monthly meeting schedules.  The Inland and Wetlands Commission and the Town Planning and Zoning Commission regular meetings are scheduled for the first and third Tuesday’s of each month, respectively. This schedule will accommodate the speedy review timetable of most companies. However, for significant projects that have a more demanding schedule, the Commissions have been willing to call special meetings.
  6. Weekly development review meetings. A key to Windsor’s successful process is the weekly development review meeting with the developer, consultants and town staff.  Representatives of Planning, Building Safety, Fire Marshall, Engineering, Health, Economic Development and the Town Manager’s Office are present to provide feedback as plans are developed in order to identify requirements and necessary approvals, and to help establish a coordinated schedule for project approvals.  Projects consistently benefit from this cooperative interaction and valuable time is saved when potential issues are identified early in the process.  Staff will often make suggestions for more cost-effective ways to comply with regulations.

James Burke, AICP
Economic Development Director
Town of Windsor, Connecticut

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