By Matthew Roy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
The Phoenix City Council approved the Planning and Development Department’s request to add 19 new staff positions, a move they say is needed to accommodate increasing demand for the agency’s services.
“Developers and projects will go to where they know there is a development team that is willing to assist and is excited to work with them,” said Phoenix Community and Economic Development Director Christine Mackay. “Our development pipeline has become so incredibly robust, we are excited that we need more staff to keep these great projects moving into the Phoenix market.”
The staffing request cites examples of the challenges in meeting that demand in the face of increasing development activity over the past year, including:
- In-person visits to the department have increased 25 percent, resulting in counter wait times sometimes greater than one hour.
- Site pre-application submittals, an indicator of future activity, are up 30 percent.
- Total permit valuations are up 33 percent, an indication of increasingly complex projects.
- Residential permit submittals have increased without matching support staff increases.
- Residential inspections have gone up 20 percent.
The backlog has made it difficult for department staff to accommodate customers and meet target plan review and inspection time frames, according to the request.
During the Great Recession, historically low levels of development and construction activity prompted the city to consolidate the Planning and Development Services departments with the Historic Preservation functions and eliminate two thirds of its positions by the end of 2009. Since that time, development has steadily increased, while demand over the past six months has ballooned.
The request points out that turnaround times are crucial and that an effective combination of contractors and staff must be in place to foster development activity.
“Our Planning Department is our secret weapon when we are working to attract new development into Phoenix,” Mackay said.
The department expects the additional 19 positions will be able to meet up to 80 percent of new demand, while continued use of contractors will make up the rest. With more manpower and a better balance of staff and contractors, the department will be in a better position to deal with continued growth in Phoenix in the coming year.
“I think the depth of the projects that are selecting and developing in Phoenix not only show that the market is much stronger than it has been in past years, but it also shows that Phoenix is attracting some incredible projects who will now call Phoenix home with a significant number of new jobs to market and a strong capital investment into the market,” Mackay added.