Mayoral candidate Scott Stone calls for overhauling development process

The process to develop land in Charlotte – which critics say is too slow and complex – could become an issue in this year’s mayoral election.

Scott Stone, one of the Republican candidates for mayor, sent Mecklenburg and Charlotte managers a letter Tuesday asking them to move forward with reforms to the city and county permitting system.

“Unfortunately, Charlotte – Mecklenburg has obtained the reputation of being one of the more difficult municipalities in the country for permitting,” wrote Stone.

The city and county commissioned a report earlier this year that detailed problems in the development process. The Gartner Report found overlaps between the city and county, inconsistent standards, old technology and a sometimes slow process.

Stone, president of a civil engineering firm, said changes are needed.

“Progress is being made, but that progress is moving at a very slow pace. It is not clear that all staff and elected officials realize the severity of these issues. During the past several months I have heard from too many colleagues, and I have witnessed first-hand on multiple occasions, that the system is still broken and repair does not appear to be in sight,” he wrote.

Scott’s recommendations include:

▪ Combining city and county computer systems: “Currently there is no one online portal or central office where permitting clients can go with clear directions on process,” Stone wrote. He also suggests handling all reviewing and submitting processes through one computer system, the city’s Accela platform, which is easier to navigate than the county’s parallel POSSE system.

▪ Assigning “shepherds” to guide large projects through the planning and permitting process: “Assignment of thistype of senior staffer could be based on square footage or likely value of the building permit – perhaps any project greater than $5M in construction cost – would be a way to decide project importance and the need for a shepherd,” wrote Stone.

▪ Putting all plan review staff in one organization: City and county staffs that review plans currently do so separately. Stone wants to see them combined into one development office. “While the county and city staffs can see what has been submitted, they are not in the same process. We must house all review staff in one organization with one chain-of-command.”

▪ Assign one senior staff member to oversee development: Stone wants to see a unified manager at the assistant city or county manager level who has overall responsibility for the total development process.

Stone isn’t the first politician to call for an overhaul of the development process, which is split between the county and the city. Current Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter has also said he supports streamlining the system. But Stone’s early call-out of the issue suggests it could play into this year’s race. Remember, developers are a powerful local constituency.

Stone is set to face Republican Edwin Peacock III, who was the Republican candidate in 2013, in the primary election this September.

Portillo: 704-358-5041;

Twitter: @ESPortillo

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