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Review committee holds second meeting


The second meeting of the town of Farragut Development Review Process Evaluation Committee met Monday, May 23, in its efforts to study the town’s development review process, identify any problems and recommend changes to the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Farragut’s development review is a process that’s evolved over 25 years, Aldermen Michael Haynes, committee chair, said. “It’s a good idea for any business, the town of Farragut included, to periodically review that process,” he added.

Changing the law, however, is not one of the group’s directives.

“Our goal is not to make any substantive changes to our ordinances, but it is to look at the process … to make it a more efficient process. Part of what will make this [process] successful is if people have input … to get input from citizens, to get input from customers, to get input from staff,” he said.

The first group to have public input was the town’s development and engineering staff. Town Development Director Ruth Hawk presented the committee with paperwork and calendars used in the development process and fielded questions.

The group was assigned “homework,” from the first meeting and asked to review a stack of color-coded forms used in the development review process.

“This is the poster child for multitasking,” Haynes said referring to the staff’s calendar.

Fred Jones, committee member and Farragut Municipal Planning Commission member, commented: “The town staff has a significant amount of work crunched into a relatively short time period.”

The turn-around time developers have to consider staff comments and suggestions is also an issue some committee members questioned.

“That’s what I find objectionable,” Alderman Joel Garber, committee member, said about “forcing a developer to have a day or two” to look over staff comments and make any changes. “There is an out, but it’s a delay for the customer,” he said referring to the option of delaying their next audience with the planning commission. “There may be some [staff comments] that could make or break the project.”

Committee member Ron Honken, who said he’s always been “blown away by the town’s lean staff,” added, “regardless of work loads, things need to get done.” When he asked if additional staff would be helpful, Hawk first noted “space limitations” as a problem.

“In some ways that makes us inefficient,” she said about finding adequate space to review plans. “… It could take a good day and a half to review a set of site plans. And that’s just one person.”

About a need for additional staff, Hawk noted, “There are most definitely times during the year when we have pinch points and spring is a big time of the year.

“What happens oftentimes in the spring, something gets approved by the planning commission and it’s kind of forgotten until everybody wants a grading permit as soon as the weather turns nice.”

Time constraints in the process for staff, developers and FMPC discussion were considered throughout the meeting as well as a suggestion for FMPC meetings to move from every other Thursday to every three weeks.

Committee member and current FMPC Chairman Robert Hill, who’s been on the FMPC nearly 25 years, offered some history about the process of development review, first commenting on the time the process allows for FMPC to workshop a set of plans.

“I think it serves the town very well. Sometimes it takes a good bit of time, but it’s time well spent,” he said, noting it’s useful for FMPC to be able to question a developer as plans have gotten more complicated over the years.

Allowing citizen input at the public meetings, Hill added, ensures “the town’s activities are totally transparent.”

Throughout her presentation, Hawk shared experiences the staff has had working with developers through the review process. One such example was about an “out-of-town developer” who submitted “near perfect” plans using the Land Use Plan posted on the town of Farragut’s Web site as a guideline.

To that, Jones asked what characteristics led to that particular developer’s success with the process.

“He did his homework,” town engineer Darryl Smith said, adding he also completely filled out the necessary paperwork.

Bob Edlund, committee member and FMPC commissioner, recalled a set of plans submitted without a “legend.” “It makes you wonder what else is wrong with it,” he said.

“It’s not the staff’s responsibility to play quality control,” Smith said, noting the additional time needed to review an incomplete set of plans. “It was very enjoyable to open up a set of site plans and see a full set of site plans.”

Hawk added her department strongly encourages developers to meet with staff, “but we do not dictate that. Basically we are an on-call staff. … We get a lot of walk-in traffic. … As we keep seeing needs, we’ve done modifications.”

“I think this has been a good discussion,” Haynes said at the conclusion of the meeting. “We need more of it. I think we’re off to a good start.”

Members were asked to review and be ready to make comments at the next meeting about a survey that will be sent to developers who have gone through town’s development review process in the last two years.

The next meeting of the town of Farragut Development Review Process Evaluation Committee will begin at 7 p.m., Monday, June 6, at Farragut Town Hall. Discussion about the review development process from town staff will continue. The public is welcome.

Comments or questions about the committee can be directed to Mike Haynes at mike.haynes-@townoffarragut.org.

 

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