IIJA

The Top 5 Ways that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Benefits Communities

January 11, 2023

Late last fall, Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which infused an astounding $1.2 trillion into our nation’s infrastructure. The package, which includes $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years, gave local and state governments significant opportunities to fund infrastructure improvements over the next several years, and many communities have already taken advantage of this influx of funding.

Transportation, clean energy, clean water, broadband expansion, and more, gave communities across the country an unprecedented opportunity to invest in projects that will have a meaningful impact on the future for residents, businesses, and the environment.

How Have Communities Benefited from this Funding?

Every community is different, and every community’s needs are different, but here are some of the top ways that local leaders, planners, and governments have benefited from IIJA.

Advancing Bigger Projects Sooner & Removing Financial Roadblocks

Whether a large metropolitan city or a small rural town, every community has a list of needed infrastructure projects, but funding and resources are often limited. Communities must prioritize, and sometimes put larger projects on the back burner due to budget constraints.

TheIIJA is helping to change that mindset for many communities, giving leaders a greater opportunity to think big. Whether it’s getting on a project funding priority list, putting forward a feasibility plan, or thinking more comprehensively about the environment, transportation, or other community infrastructure needs, the federal infrastructure law has provided meaningful opportunities to secure funding for projects that may have previously been out of reach.

Viewing Projects Through an Equity Lens & Involving More Voices in Community Planning

Equity is a major component of IIJA, creating a real opportunity for communities to invest in projects that benefit traditionally underserved communities, as well as advance sizable projects that create a better community for all. Including equity in infrastructure project planning not only enhances local communities and benefits residents, but it also gives projects a competitive edge in securing dollars from the federal funding package. 

Many communities are viewing their infrastructure projects through an equity lens and incorporating more voices as they plan for the future.

Addressing Climate Change & Infrastructure Resiliency

Our climate is changing, and “once-in-a-century” storms no longer occur just once in a century. Higher temperatures, drought, more intense precipitation, wildfires, flooding, and changing ecosystems are all issues that impact communities’ infrastructure planning. Building greater resiliency in projects and planning for more extreme weather and climate events is critical and recognized within the IIJA funding.

Green infrastructure, innovative stormwater solutions, water reuse systems, native landscaping, and more can help mitigate risk and better protect populations, native species, and habitats.

Developing Brownfield Sites

Brownfields – previously developed sites that are no longer in use – are underutilized space that present real opportunities for economic, social, and environmental revitalization. However, they are often costly to redevelop. With more than $1.5 billion allocated to brownfields in the infrastructure package, many communities are taking advantage of the opportunity to move forward with brownfield projects, and expand their city’s tax base, grow jobs, build housing, and develop sites in ways that benefit residents and the community at large.

Building a More Sustainable Future

Sustainability is a fundamental component to infrastructure, and IIJA allows communities to invest in forward-looking projects that will have long term, positive environmental and social impacts. From electric vehicle charging stations and energy storage to ecological restoration, greater investment in sustainability is allowing local leaders to make bigger, more thoughtful investments that will help address climate change and resiliency.

Navigating a once-in-a-generation opportunity

Our team of funding experts help communities navigate grant applications, data gathering, project design and engineering, sustainability planning, stakeholder engagement, and more. IIJA is a once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment opportunity, and communities of all sizes can and should tap into the extraordinary opportunity for infrastructure improvement and investment.

Q&A with Bart Fischer | Know When the Time is Right for Staff Augmentation

October 14, 2022
By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator and Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning, WSB

Staff turnover, economic conditions and resources all impact the capacity and workload of city staff. Scalable staff augmentation has become another tool in the toolbox of cities who are hoping to backfill a role, complete a special project or increase available resources. Bart Fischer, Sr. Public Administrator, explores the benefits of staff augmentation with Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning & Economic Development.

BF: Why would a city consider staff augmentation?

KL: The number one reason to consider staff augmentation is to support staff turnover and coverage during a time of transition. If a staff member resigns, it often takes months to fill a vacancy. The great thing about staff augmentation is that cities can keep their projects and workload moving forward with limited interruption during that interim time. It also allows cities to evaluate a position to determine if it requires a full-time employee, or if tasks can be handled on an as needed or part-time basis.

BF: Is there a magic number of hours or roles for staff augmentation?

KL: No, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s scalable. A city may need support for a month, or for a long-term project. In my experience staff augmentation looks different for each community, which is great because WSB has the flexibility to fit the client need. We have situations where the augmentation is project based, like review of a specific planning project, and we have other clients where the augmentation is service based, for example conducting code enforcement for the community. We work with the client to arrive at a solution that works for their needs including providing in-office hours, dedicating two or three days a week or working within a specific time period until the project is completed.   It’s a flexible option for cities that can be scaled up or down at any time. It really depends on the community and their unique needs.

BF: How is the talent shortage impacting staffing resources?

KL: In many local governments, we’ve seen a wave of baby boomers retiring that held upper-level director positions. As they retire, finding leaders to replace them has been challenging as attracting and retaining talent is a struggle across industries.  Communities who are having a hard time finding candidates to fill roles are relying on augmentation to ensure they’re moving their projects and initiatives forward while they work to fill those positions.

BF: What do you think are the biggest benefits of staff augmentation.

KL: I think many communities don’t realize the financial savings that come with staff augmentation. It alleviates the need to hire an FTE and allows staff to have additional bandwidth to focus on higher level tasks and council policies rather than routine tasks. When the economy is strong, people don’t think about the pluses and minuses of hiring someone, but at the same time, no one wants to lay anybody off.  The true benefits lie in the scalability and flexibility of staff augmentation. 

When WSB supports communities, we stress the full resources behind us. I work in planning, but have quick access to expertise in many areas including economic development, code enforcement, public works, city engineering, sustainability, etc. We bring a wealth of expertise to the table to help support a community’s comprehensive needs.

Bart Fischer has over two decades of experience in public administration. Throughout his tenure, he’s worked in five Minnesota communities as the city or assistant city administrator. Bart joined our firm in 2019 as a senior public administrator and focuses on lending his public service expertise to our clients.

bfisher@wsbeng.com | 651.485.1839

Kim Lindquist

Kim is a planning professional with over 30 years of experience overseeing a variety of complex planning projects. Kim worked in high growth communities working with developers and the public on entitlements for residential development and business attraction to the city.

klindquist@wsbeng.com | 612.670.2790

Housing-DT-Ramsey

Housing Trends: Multi-Family Housing & What It Means for Communities

October 14, 2022
By Lori Johnson, Sr Professional Community Planner, WSB

Housing prices are expected to jump nearly 10 percent by the end of 2022. Interest rates are on the rise and inflation is pushing the price of labor and materials up and up. The result, tied with an already exacerbated shortage of starter homes and affordable housing, is a growing demand for multi-family housing. Market rate apartments are a big trend in communities across the country right now as the demand for rentals grows.

What does this trend mean for communities, for developers, and for long-term strategic planning? Here are some things to consider around multi-family housing.

Developer and Consumer Demand

With more people searching for apartments, developers are on the hunt for land zoned and guided appropriately for multi-family uses. There are, of course, a limited number of parcels that have the proper land use and zoning for apartment buildings and townhomes. If developers cannot identify parcels of land currently designated for apartments but see an opportunity, they are encouraging community leaders to rezone or reguide land where possible.

And what makes a parcel of land ideal for market rate apartments? Developers look at several factors including uncomplicated access to major roads, proximity to restaurants, bars, shopping and commercial property, and good visibility.  Moreover, many local businesses like to have apartments nearby, as they provide customers concentrated in a centralized location and may encourage multi-family and mix used development builds in certain areas.

Considering the Pros and Cons of Multi-Family Housing

For communities, comprehensive and strategic planning means developing land in ways that meet both short and long-term goals and benefits residents, small businesses and overall growth. Not every project a developer proposes will be approved or should be approved, but communities are also looking at the market which is driving apartment growth right now.

Whether a community is rural, exurban, suburban, or metropolitan can also impact decision making between single family and multi-family housing. Are you a suburb or city where promoting concentrated apartments that are walkable, accessible, and attracts nearby commercial businesses make sense for land development? Or are you an exurban or rural community where the greater attraction in the long-term will be single-family dwellings? They also must weigh going with current market demand or waiting to see if and when the market may shift.

Rezoning land for apartments can also bring concern and protest from local property owners. Many people worry that apartments bring more cars, more noise, more lights, and can change the character of neighborhoods. City councils can also explore opportunities to mitigate neighborhood concerns, looking at things like berms and landscaping, fencing, traffic studies, building height ordinances, and more.

On the positive side, apartments provide the type of housing that is wanted and needed right now as rising prices make home ownership out of reach for many. Apartments also provide amenities many people want like gyms, pools, no maintenance costs, greater social connections, etc.

All cities have different types of constituents, so the question is how to balance the needs of renters and non-renters.

How WSB Can Help

For communities navigating rezoning, developer engagement, and a growing demand for multi-family housing, WSB can help. We can help city leaders navigate ordinance compliance, planning augmentation and staff review of site applications, and can provide market guidance to elected officials to know what is happening right now. We can also help local governments review and update their comprehensive plans.

The market for multi-family housing is moving quickly, and our expert staff can help guide you through it all and ensure you make the decisions that best meet the needs of your residents and community.

Lori has more than 25 years of experience working in a municipal planning department, having worked her way up through the planning department at the City of Blaine to become their city planner. She has worked in all aspects of city planning activities including project management, site plan and application review, public participation and long range planning.

ljohnson@wsbeng.com | 612.364.3029

Equity Capacity

Equity Capacity Building Using the Infrastructure Bill

By Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager and Eric Zweber, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Communities across the country see big opportunities around the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill. With this funding, there is a real opportunity for communities to invest in projects for low-income and traditionally underserved communities and advance sizable projects that create a better community for all. Including equity capacity building in infrastructure project planning will not only enhance local communities and benefit residents, but it can also give projects a competitive edge in securing dollars as communities compete for funding.   

Here are some ways that communities should be thinking about building equity into their projects.

Understand the Needs of the Community & Those You are Working to Serve

As leaders look at the needs in their communities, it is critical that investments are made in a way that is not only smart and helps add value to communities, but that also shows they are listening to the voices of residents who are impacted by these projects and including them in the decision-making process.

When community leaders work with stakeholders to build consensus, it ensures they are building projects that improve equitable outcomes and make them more competitive for grants and funding to advance the projects. Tribal communities, for example, have been disproportionately impacted by natural resource extraction and land development. Low income and BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities often lack adequate investments in everything from transportation infrastructure to community development. Building relationships and trust with impacted communities is central to this work and can help advance the goals of all stakeholders involved when done in a meaningful fashion.

Bringing an Equity Lens to Different Types of Projects

Equity capacity building can be brought into may kinds of projects and there are three big categories to consider when thinking about advancing equity using the Infrastructure Bill:

  1. Improving access and accessibility to infrastructure for people of all abilities; including public transit, transportation access, and modifying infrastructure to meet current standards and management best practices.
  2. Investing in projects where there is a high percentage of BIPOC or low-income population.
  3. Advancing priorities for indigenous communities that elevate equity, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.

Whatever type of project you are working on, understanding how it advances equity and how to communicate that can help secure funding and move it forward.

Comprehensive Plans & Big Picture Thinking

A community comprehensive plan brings together leaders and stakeholders to look forward at population growth and development opportunities to create a vision for the future. Plans need to be forward-looking, while also flexible enough to meet changing demands as communities grow and change. Equity and sustainability are important elements to consider and weave into community planning.

What’s more, community plans often include big projects and changes that can drive meaningful community progress. However, sometimes resources are limited or other projects take precedence. With the massive investment in infrastructure from the federal government, this is a chance for communities to look at their comprehensive plan and move the big picture projects with long-term benefits forward.

This is a unique opportunity to go after projects that build equity and will positively impact communities and citizens for decades to come.

How WSB Can Help

Whether it’s reviewing and updating community comprehensive plans, using community engagement, designing, writing grant applications, or seeking out partners to support your project, WSB has a team of experts who can help your community navigate and execute on projects that improve your community and build equity capacity.

The infrastructure bill is a once in a generation funding opportunity, and a chance for local leaders to fund big, bold projects that will benefit communities for generations to come.


Bridget serves as the Sustainability Program Manager at WSB, helping propel sustainability projects and opportunities forward for our clients to reduce costs while meeting their community and stakeholder needs. She has led the Sustainability Growth Coalition at Environmental Initiative and served as chair of the St. Louis Park, MN Environment and Sustainability Commission, moving forward progress on climate and energy, while engaging community members and business leaders.

brathsack@wsbeng.com | 920.202.0234

Eric has over 20 years experience with community planning, renewable energy, and sustainability projects. He has worked cooperatively with a number renewable energies developers to develop both solar and wind resources and is a past board member of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industrial Association (MnSEIA). He has a passion for sustainable and resilient practices to address the needs of communities and larger public.

ezweber@wsbeng.com | 612.581.0504

City Planners Helping to Secure Federal Infrastructure Funding

by Lori Johnson, Sr Community Planner, WSB

Last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure funding package is a once-in-a-generation investment into our nation’s infrastructure. Because there is such a large influx of dollars for communities in every corner of our country, this is also a once-in-a-generation opportunity for city planners to make strategic investments in projects that improve communities’ livability, development, sustainability, and more.

City planners may think that this bill has little to do with their daily activities because of the bill’s infrastructure focus. This is not necessarily true and now is the time for planners to think outside the box and help their communities take advantage of this historic funding. Here are some thoughts to consider. 

Explore and update your comprehensive plan.

City Planners are the keepers of a community’s comprehensive plan and are often responsible for the implementation of this document, which usually contains chapters on transportation, water/wastewater, sanitary sewer, and sustainability. Now is the time to take a deep dive into your plan and think about what items are on your wish list. This may include projects that have previously lacked funding or need to be bumped higher in your priority list. With so much funding available, don’t be afraid to think big. 

Now is also the time to think about master plans. If you have been waiting to do a master plan on a specific area of your community due to time or budget constraints, the new bill can help fund some of your implementation measures. 

Collaboration is key. 

Additionally, now is a great time for city planners and engineers to come together and assist each other in the completion of city-wide projects. Interdepartmental cooperation can strengthen relationships and provide amazing learning opportunities, and planners can often assist in helping do research, writing grants, and more. 

Make sure your city ordinances are up to date. 

Federal funding is helping spur infrastructure investments in areas like electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, broadband, and more. If your community’s ordinances are not up to date, you may miss out on key funding opportunities, so now is the time to examine your local laws and work with the city council and planning commission to make changes as needed. City planners may also need to examine their staffing levels and hire to help facilitate and manage some of these investments. 

How WSB can help. 

Whether it’s taking a look at your ordinances, creating a community sustainability plan, applying for grant funding, or planning and designing infrastructure projects – WSB can work hand-in-hand with city planners to take advantage of the federal infrastructure funding. 

City planners are advocates for their community and its residents, and WSB can help ensure your community is competitive when pursuing infrastructure dollars to advance your priorities. 

Lori has more than 25 years of experience working in a municipal planning department, having worked her way up through the planning department at the City of Blaine to become their city planner. She has worked in all aspects of city planning activities including project management, site plan and application review, public participation and long range planning.

ljohnson@wsbeng.com | 612.364.3029

Community

The Benefits of Outsourcing Code Enforcement

By Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning, WSB

It’s that time of year when the snow melts and residents begin to go outside after the winter hibernation. Spring prompts many activities for cities, like street sweeping and fire hydrant flushing, but a less obvious activity is the increase of code enforcement work.

What is Code Enforcement?

Code enforcement is the process communities use to gain compliance with various city code violations within a community. Generally, cities always initiate code enforcement actions on a “complaint basis,” meaning that a neighbor or resident noticed something on a property that does not seem to meet the rules and regulations of the city. Many cities also conduct proactive code enforcement, where staff identifies violations, rather than the public, and acts accordingly. Complaints are typically issues that can be visually verified and include things like outside storage, junked or unlicensed vehicles, and parking on the grass. Throughout the summer, tall grass and noxious weeds are some of the most common complaints. Regardless of which methodology cities undertake, the goal is to maintain the value, character, and aesthetics of individual neighborhoods and the community.

Who Enforces City Code?

Cities may use on-staff personnel, such as a planner or police officer, for some code enforcement activities. However, as their workload has grown, more communities are exploring full-time code enforcement officers for the busy spring and summer months. Because this is a specialized role, and in certain climates workload is uneven, cities often look for seasonal code enforcement positions during the summer. In the current labor market, filling these positions has become more challenging. Outsourcing code enforcement can help cities provide the service without adding to existing staff workload and prevents them from hiring for a position that may be less utilized in the winter months.

Outsourcing Code Enforcement

WSB has had the opportunity to conduct code enforcement activities for various communities. Currently, our team of skilled planners are supporting the City of Farmington, a community that has a proactive approach to code enforcement. By staffing their code enforcement work with a WSB Community Planner, they now have an extension of their staff who understand City Codes, particularly Zoning regulations which are often the more complex enforcement actions. As with most communities, Farmington works to bring a property into compliance with education, explaining property maintenance rules is a key part of any code enforcement program. Our staff work with property owners to assist in bringing sites into compliance and more importantly, understanding what is and isn’t allowed by code.

There are many benefits to outsourcing code enforcement efforts. These efforts are often scalable and allow for flexibility to meet community needs. Outsourcing code enforcement allows city staff more time to focus on other priorities, especially in a time of high development demands. WSB is one of few consulting firms that conduct code enforcement work for our clients, and our scalable model addresses many potential needs and resources.

Kim is a planning professional with over 30 years of experience overseeing a variety of complex planning projects. Kim worked in high growth communities working with developers and the public on entitlements for residential development and business attraction to the city.

klindquist@wsbeng.com | 763.287.8303

Water Sustainability and Community Planning

By Alyson Fauske, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Last summer, Minnesota experienced a drought due to above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. This created a significant challenge for many community leaders and public agencies. To keep up with demand, wells were pumping at or near capacity over much of the summer, and communities were forced to implement water restrictions for the first time in decades. Some cities banned lawn sprinkling all together, though this is not water sustainability.

Heading into 2022, Minnesota is still facing drought conditions in some parts of the state. There are a number of things that communities and public agencies can do to plan for and respond to drought conditions using sustainable water planning.

Water Sustainability
The graphics above from the U.S. Drought Monitor track the progression of drought conditions beginning in June, 2021.

Limit Water Usage

In drought conditions, limiting water usage is critical and often the first step taken. Communities can help limit water use by developing water reuse systems and plans. They can also implement landscaping practices that require less watering including native plants and drought resistant plantings and grasses. Native plants also have the added benefit of supporting local wildlife health and helping to protect pollinator populations.

Tap Into Local Grants & Resources

In 2021, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) put together a Drought Assistance Proposal. This proposal includes a request for $13.3 million in funding to help cities address the effects of last year’s drought. WSB is tracking the funding package as it moves through the legislature and will be prepared to assist clients with grant applications for any approved funding, as well as identify other funding opportunities that are tied to this effort.

Long Term Water Sustainability

A significant portion of the budget for the Drought Assistance Proposal is set aside for proactive water conservation measures that would help combat the effects of potential future droughts.

Municipal engineering and sustainability go hand in hand. Municipal engineers develop plans and projects that maintain infrastructure, considering the whole life cycle of the project while aiming to minimize the amount the taxpayer needs to provide to routinely maintain the infrastructure.

Proactive water conservation measures allow communities to be better prepared for the next potential drought. These measures may consist of finding and repairing leaks, increasing irrigation efficiency, or incentivizing residential and business customers to install water-saving devices.

Climate change and a greater risk of drought impacts community planning, and leaders who implement sustainability measures that are proactive, and not just reactive to an immediate crisis, will fare better in managing drought.

If you want to learn more, contact Alyson Fauske, Senior Project Manager at 612-263-1736 or afauske@wsbeng.com.

With 20 years of engineering experience in the municipal industry, Alyson Fauske has built her career providing municipal engineering services throughout the Twin Cities. Her portfolio of work includes street and utility reconstruction, technical analysis and field observations, direct project planning and management, and comprehensive and capital planning services.

afauske@wsbeng.com | 612.263.1736

How Communities and School Districts Can Collaborate and Plan for Population Growth

By Lori Johnson, Sr Professional Community Planner, WSB

The housing market is booming, and many families are making major investments in a new home, choosing houses and communities based on school district boundaries. But as communities rapidly grow, those school district boundaries can change. How are these decisions made and how are school districts and communities planning and adjusting to growth?

Developing a Master Plan

Cities plan for growth and explore ways to best utilize available land. Cities develop comprehensive plans that focus on areas of growth throughout a community, taking into consideration numerous elements like expected population growth, transportation access and road realignment, the utility capacity of the area, the natural aspects of the land (i.e., is the land wetland, heavily wooded, etc.), and more. Comprehensive plans are an important tool to guide zoning decisions and help communities grow with success.

The Relationship Between Communities and School Districts

When cities make land use decisions on where and how to develop and designate land, it’s important for school districts to be part of that conversation. In my experience as a city planner, I’ve been fortunate to work with many superintendents who proactively reach out to the city to talk about growth.

Working with cities at WSB, part of my job is to advise and encourage our clients to have meaningful discussions with their local school boards and superintendents. Examining school district boundaries, zoning, and projected growth can help build collaboration and confidence in decision making among leaders.

When School Districts Change Boundaries

For community members and families impacted by school districts altering boundaries, it can be confusing about who is making the decisions. School districts evaluate boundaries according to state law, and they look to cities to help explain where growth is likely to occur. At the end of the day, school districts own the process of setting up district boundaries and make decisions on where they build schools to meet the needs of their students and communities.

For school leaders looking to redraw boundaries, it’s critical to host public meetings and gather community input. Even holding one to two neighborhood level meetings before larger school board hearings can help alleviate concerns and better prepare leaders for these big conversations.

Furthermore, unexpected growth can place greater scrutiny on those decisions. When a school is built and is almost immediately at capacity – community members can be frustrated or feel like growth was not properly planned for. With the exponential and unexpected housing boom during the pandemic, sometimes even the best planned growth expectations can fall short of reality.

Clear and straightforward communication with the public and collaboration among community leaders is critical to zoning decisions, redrawing school boundaries, and building strong, resilient cities.

Lori has more than 25 years of experience working in a municipal planning department, having worked her way up through the planning department at the City of Blaine to become their city planner. She has worked in all aspects of city planning activities including project management, site plan and application review, public participation and long range planning.

ljohnson@wsbeng.com | 612.364.3029

Main Street

How Communities Can Effectively Manage Population Growth

By Jay Kennedy, Vice President | Texas Operations, WSB

Experiencing significant growth is exciting for communities, and many places are seeing considerable population growth and expansion across the country. But this growth also leaves many leaders asking, “How can we effectively manage this growth for our community and residents?”

Meeting the needs of new and existing residents, and addressing development, environmental, infrastructure, and other related challenges that come along with growth is critical. Here are some things cities can do to effectively manage growth.

Planning, Planning & More Planning

Communities must plan for the future thoughtfully, understanding risk and tapping into opportunities. Generally, communities have a 30-year land use plan, which drives the development of comprehensive infrastructure plans to accommodate the growth. A complete plan also includes a capital improvement plan including a financing plan. These plans are updated on average every five to 10 years—especially if a community needs to pivot or adjust due to faster than expected population growth.   

For significant improvements, such as water and sewage treatment facilities and significant transportation projects, the approval processes can be time consuming, so it is important to manage risk and find a balance that meets the community’s needs for delivering infrastructure at the right time.   

Managing Permitting & City Work

When a city experiences dramatic population growth, they are not always able to add staff resources to respond to increased permitting requests within the required deadlines. Especially if applications are flooding in at the same time, city staff can be overwhelmed, and applicants can experience delays awaiting approval.

There are some things that cities can do to help streamline this process and make it more efficient.

First, technology can help speed up the process for cities. Programs that help track and schedule reviews ensure tasks are clear, and development proposals and permitting requests are reviewed in a timely manner.  Automation and improved workflows can also minimize the time for reviews.

Additionally, many cities also contract with firms like WSB where we work hand in hand with staff to help review development requests. Bringing in outside experts can help manage peaks and make the permitting process more efficient.

Furthermore, it’s vital that cities clearly lay out the requirements and what criteria they expect from applicants. This helps reduce delays and improves the chances of getting a quality, thorough submittal package.

Finally, during construction, city representation at construction sites helps keep projects are on track and meet city requirements. With proper monitoring on site, it verifies that projects are going according to plan and won’t cause more headaches for city staff down the road.

Understanding the Value of Development

Many cities have a philosophy that development pays for itself. An expanded tax base, critical infrastructure investments, and proactive planning all help bring value to the community, making it an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family.

For communities, it’s important to remember when reviewing development applications that once a project is done, it’s up to that community to manage the roads, parks, utilities, water, and other essential services associated with the project.

Proper planning and investment, along with choosing smart projects, will help cities manage growth effectively.

Jay has over 30 years of experience managing municipal and civil engineering projects. He has also provided land entitlement services for residential and commercial projects. Jay’s specific experience as a City Engineer included leadership and management of comprehensive infrastructure plans, as well as CIP development and implementation.

jkennedy@wsbeng.com |  512.518.1819

Make Your Zoning Ordinance Resident Friendly

By Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning & Economic Development, WSB

Cities have spent the last few years working feverishly to get their comprehensive plans completed and approved. Many communities are now breathing a sigh of relief, recognizing the heavy lifting is complete. Unfortunately, for some the work has just begun as cities and townships enter the implementation phase of the updating process.

Most communities are good at keeping up with zoning issues that often arise, such as short-term rentals or solar farms. Zoning text amendments come up due to necessity as land use and issues dealing with structures change over time. Communities are often confronted with something unforeseen when drafting their ordinance and therefore need to amend to stay current.

Unfortunately, ordinance amendments modifying regulations may occur frequently, but there seems to be less time for critically evaluating the ordinance in its entirety. While it is common for regulations to be added to an ordinance, obsolete or confusing items are rarely removed. As residents are increasingly looking to city websites for information, cities should consider if their ordinances have been reviewed for readability and clarity for the “non-planner” public.

WSB’s Community Planning and Economic Development Group has recently been working with communities to review their ordinances. In addition to reviewing them for regulations and legal consistency, we are evaluating their presentation and readability. We are helping these communities to improve the way that the information is presented to ensure that clients, staff and the public can quickly find the answers they are looking for regarding planning and zoning with minimal frustration.

For example, residents may need to look in multiple locations within an ordinance to find the information necessary for completing a simple accessory structure building permit. Setbacks, size, exterior materials, and location standards are often placed within different sections of the zoning code, making it difficult for residents to locate. This building permit “maze” often leads to frustrated residents and calls to the community staff, many of which can be avoided through more concise and clear ordinances.

Additionally, as new staff come on board, the knowledge regarding the original intent of the ordinance may be lost. Improving clarity of the ordinance benefits both residents and practitioners, resulting in more efficient use of community resources.

Kim is a planning professional with over 30 years of experience overseeing a variety of complex planning projects. Kim worked in high growth communities working with developers and the public on entitlements for residential development and business attraction to the city.

klindquist@wsbeng.com | 763.287.8303