Fort Wayne Mayor Graham Richard and Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters today announced proposed plans to merge Allen County and Fort Wayne land use management and development permitting services.
Upon approval, the consolidation would bring together the best from the County and the best from the City to form a new performance-driven, service friendly department whose mission is to promote and support high-quality, sustainable development throughout the community.
As envisioned, the new department would provide combined development application review services and would serve as the primary staff to the Allen County and Fort Wayne Plan Commissions and Boards of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
“A generous grant from the Foellinger Foundation enabled us to take an in-depth look at the workings of both the Fort Wayne and Allen County land use management divisions,” said Commissioner Nelson Peters. “The study's conclusion to merge the two departments into
one seems to be the best way to both improve our delivery of services and create greater efficiencies. Our administrative staffs have put together a preliminary interlocal agreement and we are ready to take a look at that and begin hammering out the details to make this integration a reality.”
“Together we are stronger,” said Mayor Richard. “Together we will be better able to retain and gain jobs and foster a great quality of life for generations to come. Together we send a message to our customers, to this community and to the world that Allen County and Fort Wayne are partners in development, ready for business, focused on the future and prepared to grow.”
The proposed new entity will be established by means of an interlocal agreement that would require the approval of the Mayor, Allen County Commissioners, Allen County Council and the Fort Wayne City Council. County and City Plan Commissions and BZAs also would be signatories to the document.
Focusing on customer service and more effective government, the recommended plan calls for the integrated department to increase efficiencies through:
- Implementation of best procedure, process and management practices;
- Cross training of staff;
- Opportunities to tap into a broader resource base for community projects and plans; and
- Alignment of development processes.
When implemented, this proposal would unify the existing Allen County Department of Planning Services Land Use Planning division and the Fort Wayne Land Use Management and Zoning section of the Community Development Division. Both the County and City will retain separate Plan Commissions and BZAs.
Administrative and fiscal oversight for the department would be supplied by a jointly appointed board. As outlined, the board's composition would include one appointment each from the Mayor, County Commissioners, County Council, City Council, both Plan Commissions and both BZAs. In turn, the eight-member board will select and appoint the new department's director.
Following the projected merger, the new department's staff will be co-located on the sixth floor of the City-County Building. While each existing staff will be responsible for some direct support to its individual Plan Commission and BZA, in keeping with the new one-stop approach to development, all departmental employees will be available to serve all the needs of the public.
As detailed, the new department will be funded and managed by both the County and City. The department's staff will be employees of the County. The unification will require equalization of pay, benefits and job descriptions, as well as integration of technology. The announcement begins the formal process of change. A timeline to implement the merger is now being finalized. The new department is anticipated to be in place by March 1, 2008.
As the proposal to merge the County and City land use functions begins moving forward, separate County and City zoning codes will remain in place. However, the process to develop a joint County and City zoning code is in its formative stages.