Planning process improves, but problems still exist

A three-year study of Grand Junction’s planning process has found that developers’ perceptions improved over time but that concerns identified early on — including the length of time the process takes, difficulty with expanding businesses and landscaping requirements — still linger today.

The Planning Oversight Committee, convened in January 2006 by the city and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, interviewed 130 property owners, architects and engineers who had recently submitted projects.

Respondents’ overall experience improved between 2006 and this year. Fifty-six percent said their experience was positive in interviews conducted in the second half of 2008, compared to 26 percent interviewed in the first half of 2006. Sixteen percent reported having a negative experience, compared to 22 percent in 2006, although nobody interviewed in the second half of 2007 reported a negative experience.

That means negative perceptions have dropped overall during the three-year period but
actually increased in the last year.

Georgann Jouflas, who conducted the interviews and authored the study’s report, also noted in the report that perceptions of planning staff have brightened. Three years ago, those interviewed said staff was antagonistic and unwilling to work with applicants. More recent interviews indicated applicants felt planners were knowledgeable and helpful, according to the report.

Yet problem areas persist.

Developers offered negative comments about outside review agencies, saying they believed those agencies delayed projects and exerted control over the planning process without any recourse available to the applicants.

Those interviewed also continued to express concerns about the amount and cost of landscaping required for commercial and industrial projects and expressed frustration at the difficulty of expanding their businesses.

“Current parking, landscaping and setback requirements make it impossible for businesses in certain areas to expand square footage and comply with current code,” the report said.

“This conflict could result in barriers to growth for existing business, making it economically infeasible for business to remodel in certain areas, resulting in run-down areas of town.”

Developers mentioned the North Avenue corridor, the downtown area and older sections of First, Seventh and 12th streets as examples.

City officials say they are developing several plans to help smooth the planning process, including implementing new planning software that will allow customers to submit and track plans on the Internet, and focusing more attention on xeriscaping.


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