By Neil Malone
After years of starts and stops, officials in the City of Springfield have taken a major step forward with changes to the rules that govern development in the Capital City. The changes are the result of a collaborative process that involved the Office of the Mayor, the Springfield City Council, the City of Springfield Department of Public Works, the Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission, and numerous private sector entities including: The Capital Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR), the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and representatives of numerous local construction, engineering, and architecture firms.
Meeting under the auspices of the Quantum Growth Partnership (or Q5), the group conducted a painstaking review of the entire development process with the goal of maintaining transparency, while streamlining the process to reduce the time and cost involved, as well as to ensure an equitable process free from arbitrary political decision making.
The major change to these rules should provide for a more logical and cost effective development process by moving city council approval from the end of the process to the beginning. Under the old rules, the council would approve a development’s location and sketch map, and then (in many cases after months had passed and many thousands of dollars had been spent), the council would again vote to approve final plat. The new rules will still involve council oversight in the initial (location and sketch) phase, but now the technical portion will be handled by professional staff, and the staff will sign off on the final plat. This change establishes a level playing field and should reduce the city’s exposure to litigation which can occur when the council attempts to deny a final plat when a developer has met the city’s technical requirements. It is a “win” for the development community, it is a “win” for the city, and it is a “win” for economic development efforts in the city.
In addition, safeguards have been included to ensure timeliness in the approval process. In total, the changes should shorten the time required for the approval process, in some cases by approximately 30 days. It may not seem like a great deal of time, but it can be the difference between a profitable, technically sound proposal going forward; and a developer deciding not to bring a project from concept to reality, from thoughts to action.
CAAR is proud member of the Quantum Growth Partnership, and is grateful to members and colleagues who made this large step forward possible. Partial financial support for the Q5 Initiative comes from CCAR as well as from a grant from the Illinois Association of REALTORS® RVOICE Program.
Neil Malone is the Illinois Association of REALTORS® local Government Affairs Director (GAD) representing the Capital Area , Central Illinois, Champaign Co., Danville, Decatur, Jacksonville and Logan County Associations of REALTORS®.