Mesa Planning Director Nana Appiah wants officials involved in evaluating large commercial and residential projects to speed up the review process.
Appiah has expressed concern with how long Planning and Zoning and particularly Design Review Board meetings last. He has called the three-to-four-hour DRB meeting length “unsustainable” and has begun examining possible ways to streamline them.
Appiah said an improved process is essential given Mesa’s degree of growth and the volume of newly proposed projects under consideration. His office received 886 applications in 2019 and 823 in 2020. The first six months of 2021 saw 569 planning applications.
Appiah notes the Mesa City Council approved revised design guidelines in 2020 with the goals of streamlining the review process and adding predictability and consistency for review standards.
New Design Review Board Chair Sean Banda, who had previously served as a senior planner in Buckeye, said there is no pressure to automatically approve proposals, and expressed his hope that insight and experience guides the process.
Appiah expressed a similar mindset, noting citizen and resident concerns are always listened to and considered in the overall review process. He noted both developers and opponents are given opportunities to present and address concerns, and that there is no “rubber stamp” review process.
Regarding consistency and predictability in reviews, Appiah has criticized DRB members as recently as this August for applying too much personal preference versus adherence to predictable standards. He stressed his staff conducts multiple reviews before submittals are put on the agenda. As a result, he said, proposed projects are “really close” to meeting the standards by the time the Board sees them.
Banda disagreed with Appiah’s statements in the August meeting, saying the process has been streamlined as much as it could be and that the Board’s obligation is to provide clear direction and guidance to staff through its comments. (Source)