community and economic development

Development activity and economic changes can turn your planning and zoning department into a financial drain that diverts funds from critical community programs. Construction booms and busts, combined with an increasing number of retiring building department professionals, can leave you at a loss for how to keep your community on the rise without increasing your budget in the face of an uncertain future.

Let’s explore four of the most common roadblocks municipalities face (and ways to address them).

1. Community Pushback

Because municipalities fund many development projects through their general fund, taxpayers drive many community development initiatives via their taxes and sales/income tax (depending on the state) — and as a result, often want to have a say in what their money helps fund.

Community pushback can take many forms, including concerns about:

  • Traffic congestion
  • Overall crime and safety 
  • Stormwater 
  • Impacts to property values

Without a community’s support, development projects can face major delays, including a large influx of complaints. Much of addressing this pushback is understanding the NIMBY mindset.

What does NIMBY stand for?

Not in my backyard, or NIMBY, is a state of mind that often forms when community members resist development near their homes.

A NIMBY mindset often becomes a roadblock for projects that focus on minority and low-income populations, including:

  • Low-income housing
  • Social service facilities 
  • Rentals

These additions to the community are believed to lead to lower property values and make neighborhoods less desirable for both current and future residents. It’s important to note, however, that individuals with a NIMBY mindset might be supportive of the project as a whole if the development occurs outside of their own neighborhood. 

Changing the narrative around certain types of projects, and the overall positive impact they will have on a community, is just the starting point to overcoming these hurdles.

Include your community at every step

To properly address community concerns, it’s important to build time for long-range planning into your budget. This allows your community to be involved in the process, cushions the timeline to give you time to address concerns, and supports the vested interest that your community has in the project’s outcome. At SAFEbuilt, our planning and zoning team work closely with the jurisdictions to offer a comprehensive community outreach throughout a project.

2. Market Changes

It’s impossible to predict what the market will do tomorrow (or the day after). And an unpredictable market can be prompted by a wide range of factors, including:

  • Economic downturn
  • Stakeholder opposition
  • Catastrophic events (e.g., floods, wildfires)

Expect market changes (and be proactive)

While these items may be out of your control, there are still actions that you can take to respond to the unexpected, including:

  • Scaling your staff to meet changes in demand (and turn fixed costs into variable costs)
  • Creating an emergency preparedness plan to deploy when needed
  • Improving transparency and engaging community members during times of change 

3. Restrictive Permitting Process

An overly restrictive permitting process can stop a project dead in its tracks. When developers and community members can’t get their permits approved in a timely manner, it quickly becomes a source of friction between your department and the people you serve.

Streamline plan review with customizable technology

Streamlining your jurisdiction’s plan review process takes stress off your building department team and improves community satisfaction. And our CommunityCore software is one example of how municipalities can simplify their permitting process. 

This software allows your building department to review, approve, and monitor a permit through its lifecycle, meaning fewer bottlenecks and improved transparency into every project.

4. Budgetary Restrictions

Budgetary restrictions often prevent hiring additional staff to respond to increases in development activity. And without the staff to complete plan reviews and inspections, projects can quickly start to run behind schedule.

Scale your workload

A third-party partner allows you to scale your workforce based on your project load. Because SAFEbuilt can offer a certified workforce on an as-needed basis, municipalities don’t have to spend budget on recruiting efforts and employee salaries. Instead, you can bring in the workers you need, when you need them, to better adapt to each project’s budget and timeline.

Additionally, implementing technology that cuts administrative work and improves process efficiency can help municipalities recover lost ground amid pending budget cuts.

Overcoming Community and Economic Roadblocks

Simplifying the ease of doing business is one of the quickest ways to overcome roadblocks in the future. At SAFEbuilt, we offer development solutions for every step of the process, from planning and zoning to engineering, building department services, and public works. 

Looking to arrange a meeting with one of our planning directors and discuss how SAFEbuilt can help your city’s planning and zoning needs? Together, we can overcome specific community or economic development roadblocks you are facing.

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