In the introduction to my series, “Ideas For A Greater Great Falls”, under the category of Creating an environment for more jobs, higher wages and a vibrant, growing community, the second bullet point is the following:
- Create a Development Process and Advisory Review Board along the lines of the Billings model.
The Billings Development Process and Advisory Review Board, DPARB, has been in place for about a decade now and continues to work quite well by most accounts for the growing city of Billings. I think we could and should adopt and adapt a similar board to address issues surrounding the development process here in Great Falls.
- To act as an advisory board to the City Administrator in regards to the entire development process, its related policies, and procedures.
- To review and evaluate the administration of the development process.
- To review and evaluate policies that affect the development process.
- To serve as an appeals board for development issues that are not addressed by existing procedures, rules, or regulations.”
Ideally such a board for Great Falls would work either as an official City Advisory Board or as an advisory panel to the City Manager. I prefer the former. Now would be a good time to consider this idea because the Design Review Board has been suspended temporarily, permanently would be better in my opinion.
The Great Falls Design Review Board has been, in the opinion of many, a hindrance to development because of the extra time and expense project developers are forced to incur due to DRB requirements .
A DPARB would be a different kind of board. Instead of being another regulatory hoop to jump through it would serve as a panel to help developers and it would act as a citizens mitigation board, advocate for developers large and small, and an appeal mechanism for unaddressed issues between city staff and project developers.
Here is a summary of the Billings DPARB purpose:
“Will hear all appeal issues not covered by other mandated City, County, State or Federal regulations, codes, ordinances or laws. If you feel there is a problem with the timeliness consistency or cooperation with City staff, please complete and submit the Appeal or Review Request form on the reverse side.”
View the Billings DPARB PDF here.
It would be very important that members of a Great Falls DPARB be make up of regular citizens and folks from the local construction/development, business, and real estate industries who must deal daily with city development policies and regulations and the consequences of flaws and miscommunication in our local development process.
We would need to give a lot of thought to how we would appoint members, but I would prefer to see at least half of the members appointed by means other than nominations done solely by City Commissioners. Maybe Neighborhood Councils or business and development could nominate people.
Here are the objectives outlined for the Billings DPARB:
“To accomplish its purpose DPARB has two objectives:
- To provide a forum for review and discussion of the policies, rules, regulations and procedures associated with the City’s development process and
- to provide an appeal process that addresses the timeliness, consistency or cooperation with City staff as it relates to the City’s development policies rules regulations and procedures.”
In conclusion, a Great Falls DPARB would go a long way in making sure that we complete the transformation from “You can’t do that here” to “How can we help you succeed” when it comes to Great Falls’ local development regulations and process. We should be willing, and even eager, to look at what other state and regional communities are doing to gain success and not be too proud to adopt those ideas.
Let me know your ideas.