Thursday, October 19, 2000
Steamboat Springs After struggling through most of the new millennium with a short staff and a heavy workload, the planning department will finally have a full staff starting Jan. 1, 2001. Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg hired a Seattle planner to fill the city's assistant director position, a spot that had been vacant for more than a year.
"It's been a very big struggle and I think the department is finally feeling like we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with our new hires," Schulenberg said.
The planner, Timothy McHarg, will begin work about Jan. 1. He has been employed at a private planning consulting firm in Seattle called Madrona Planning, which works primarily with city and county governments. Though he enjoyed his role in the consulting firm, McHarg said he wanted to get back to city planning, where he will be able to see the longer-term implications of his work.
"Essentially, being a consultant, it's somewhat difficult to work on projects from the initial development stages," McHarg said. "This job will give me a longer-term perspective and let me see some of the efforts of our labors. It's an opportunity to get back to something I did for awhile and wanted to get back to."
McHarg has also worked in the public housing authority in Walla Walla, Wash., where, among other accomplishments, he developed proposals for affordable housing projects. He said is excited to work on affordable housing issues here in Steamboat Springs.
His job, however, will consist primarily of managing the day-to-day operations of the department, including processing development permits and conducting project reviews.
Because of McHarg's experience with local government, Schulenberg is confident he will be able to hit the ground running.
"He has a good deal of management experience and really showed his abilities in the assessment process," Schulenberg said.
In his Seattle job, McHarg supervised two associate planners and managed the Seattle branch office of the company. That experience made him stand out to the review committee, Schulenberg said. One of the other finalists for the position was Acting Assistant Planning Director Scott Woodford. Schulenberg said Woodford is highly qualified and did well in the review process but simply did not have enough managerial experience for the assistant director position.
President of Madrona Planning Richard Sepler spoke highly of McHarg's efforts at the company.
"He has a strong, guiding principle of serving the public interest, tempered with an understanding of implications on the private sector," Sepler said. He said he thinks McHarg will adjust well to a job in city government because much of his work in the past has been with the public sector. About 95 percent of the projects Madrona works on are for the public sector. McHarg tackled a number of major city projects as a senior planner with Madrona, even helping develop part of the city of Seattle's comprehensive plan, according to his resume.
The last assistant director, Brian Grubb, departed in August 1999. For more than a year now, the planning department has gone without an assistant planning director, attempting with a short staff to deal with such major projects as the Community Development Code and piles of development applications. When the workload and the prospect of trying to hire people for three positions became too much, city officials decided to place a moratorium on major development permits.
The moratorium on major development permit applications, beginning on Aug. 7, was established through an emergency City Council ordinance as an attempt to deal with the personnel shortage. It affected developers seeking permits to build new commercial buildings, residential subdivisions, condominium and townhome projects and industrial buildings, among others.
The planning tech has already begun working and the planner 1, Tom Leeson of Clarion & Associates, will start Nov. 6. Leeson is currently working on the Community Development Code for Clarion and Associates and his departure may delay the code's completion, Schulenberg said.
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