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Working ✍️ How is your office/ department structured?

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
21,216
Points
61
As growth continues and priorities change at the City that I am working for, I am being tasked to look at the long term makeup and needs of my department. This includes reviewing services that we currently contract out, services that other departments might have taken on in the past, or even services that we might not offer but we should. At the moment we are a very small staff given the amount of growth that is happening and we will need to expand, so I have been given a blank slate to come up with a game plan for the next 3, 5, and 10 years to get the conversation started.

I have looked at several of our neighboring communities and it appears to be all over the place.

So I was wondering, what does your department structure look like? What services do you provide? Do you have a larger department broken into divisions or do you have a very horizontal organization? Is Planning in the same grouping as Building Inspection, Engineering, Code Enforcement, or Economic Development? What is not part of your department or division that you wish was yours?
 

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
1,082
Points
39
We are small. No local building code. Planning is its own department (so permitting, current planning, long range and an increasing load of inter-departmental service). We used to do stormwater but that went to DPW as it got more intense. We do a lot of land management for our municipal land that isn't ballfields and playgrounds (so laces with paths and trails etc.)

Our way of growing has generally been to try and pull contracted services into a paid position. We used to contract a lot of basic land management and have recently brought much of that into a part-time summer position. (the headache factor around trail mowing is so much less when it's an employee vs. the low-bidder landscaping company that quits halfway through the summer b/c they don't want to wreck their machine!)

Like I said, we are really, really small, but growing. I can see other things like our Health Officer coming into planning over the next few years as well as a broader "grants" function (helping other departments apply for and manage grants).
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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Moderator
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15,936
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60
My last job - City of ~27,000 pop, 13.5 square miles and effectively built out, therefore not much need to expand staff as most development was redevelopment, but we did expand the Code Enforcement Inspector from PT to FT as I was leaving because we had alot of old housing/commercial with longtime LMI owners that were progressively becoming a significant property maintenance issue that required more proactive CE focus:
  • A Community Development Dept composed of P&Z, Bldg and ED
    • Total 9 employees (including me as the Comm Dev Dir)
      • 4 in Building
        • Building official, building inspector, FT permit tech, PT permit tech
      • 2.5 in Economic Development
        • Director, Coordinator, 1/2 of FT Admin
      • 3 in Planning and Zoning (also Grants administrator)
        • CommDevDir, 1/2 of FT Admin, FT Code Enforcement Inspector
Current Job - Muni of ~8,500 pop, 1.8 square miles and completely built out, but with high socio-economic demographics pushing a significant amount of SF residential redevelopment (aka teardowns), so there is unlikely to be need for staffing expansion:
  • Community Development Department managing P&Z, Bldg and ED
    • Total 2.5 employees
      • CommDevDir (me), FT permit tech and 1/2 of FT Fire staff for code enforcement
        • We contract out all Bldg code and site engineering plan review and inspections
        • CommDevDir is also Building Commissioner
        • CommDevDir does all Economic Development work
 
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Suburb Repairman

moderator in moderation
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7,495
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38
My big thing - getting engineering under the same umbrella. Or at least get development engineering. It does wonders for your development process and helps create a single point to arbitrate disagreements between planning, engineering and building.

Good rule: no single person should have more than six direct reports. When you get beyond that, they end-up being a people manager rather than a working manager. Plus, you want to create opportunities for advancement, which helps employee retention.

Flat or vertical are not ends unto themselves--the bigger thing is your business culture. That, more than anything, influences the user experience for both customers and fellow employees. I've seen wonderful examples of highly vertical and highly horizontal structures. I've also seen highly dysfunctional versions of both, in pretty much equal amounts.

And good look hiring... cities nationwide seem to be struggling to get good candidates for planning, engineering and building services positions. I'm seeing A LOT of cities in Texas hiring out of state for all of those positions. Finding building inspectors (or at least good/responsible ones) has become exceedingly difficult.

Also, there are consultants that can help evaluate your processes to identify a good structure #ShamelessPlug
 
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JNA

Cyburbian Plus
Messages
26,972
Points
71
Medium Midwest city

MPO - seperate because includes 2 state & multi county
DMD - city dept - economic development, historic preservation, CDBG, split with BC housing code enforcement
Building Commission - combined city & couty - permitting, inspection & split with DMD code enforcement
Engineering - seperate city & county -
Surveyor - elected - county drainage,
Area Plan Commission - combined city & county - planning & zoning
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,790
Points
32
Community Development Department (new name/director this year)
  • Planning with 7 employees
    • Director (myself), three Senior Planners, one Planner I, one Admin Assistant, one Code Enforcement
    • Will be hiring 1.5 planners in the next few months
  • Building
    • CBO, two admin, two plan reviewers, three inspectors but down 5 inspectors
  • Economic Development
    • One Director
 

WSU MUP Student

Cyburbian
Messages
11,539
Points
52
We are a county and don't do any permitting or inspections or stuff like that but we're still a large planning department. The department's formal name is "Economic Development and Community Affairs" and we're broken into a few different divisions, and then the divisions are broken down a little further (I may get some of the names wrong below because we seem to like to rename them monthly):

  • Community Development
    • Trails and Transit
    • Brownfield Redevelopment and Sustainability
    • Small Business Assistance and Main Street Development
    • Community Land Use (this is probably the closest to traditional "planning" that we do as we review changes to zoning when it's on the border of communities and provide technical assistance to cities/villages/townships that need it)
  • Economic Development
    • International Business Attraction
    • Domestic Business Attraction
    • Special projects
  • Financial Services
    • We operate our own lending services and can issue bonds and loans, not just to county businesses but to qualifying businesses anywhere in the state. We also partner with agencies like SCORE and the SBA to offer services and assistance to local businesses through those agencies
  • Workforce Development
    • We are the only single-county Workforce Investment Area in the state and operate 6 unemployment offices (Michigan Works! offices) throughout the county. Besides working with UI applicants, we do a lot of work with employers helping them hire, navigate state and federally funded training programs, etc. We also do a lot of work with local colleges and universities as well as the school districts to provide training opportunities and "build the talent pipeline"
  • Veterans' Services
    • This was newly added to our department. Before coming to our department they were 99.999% of their energy was spent helping veterans obtain various benefits they might be entitled to. Since joining our department earlier this year, they have begun working much more closely with our Workforce Development and we've also beefed up their marketing efforts so that they have some actual outreach so vets and their dependents can learn that these services actually exist.
  • External Affairs and Communications
    • This is our marketing division that provides assistance to all of the above divisions (graphic arts, social and digital media, web design, events, etc.)

We used to have our "Community and Home Improvement" division in our department and they handled all of the CDBG funds and home improvement programs but that department was moved over to the Public Services department last year (that contains divisions like Health, Animal Services, and a few other things).

I think Veterans Services is sort of an odd fit for our department but oh well.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,620
Points
56
Current structure (city form of government of a little over 30,000 people):

Community and Economic Development Director that reports directly to the City Manager

Planning Officer (me), Code Enforcement Officer, Community Development Officer, Economic Development Officer and the General Admin person all report to the Director

I have a Planning Analyst that reports to me, Code has staff and inspectors, Community Development Officer has a separate Admin person.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
15,628
Points
53
Director
Deputy director for planning
Deputy director for building
Deputy director for admin/finance

The planning side basically goes
Zoning admin
Planning hearing officer
Staff
Lead zoning planner
Staff
Long range team leader
Staff
Site planning team leader
Lead planner
Senior planners (1 major 1 minor)
Staff

Somewhere on the building side is a bunch of team leaders that do the project management and one of the staff planners will report to them for specific projects.

I've never counter how many total planners we have, but it's a lot.
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,790
Points
32
Are you guys built out without significant redevelopment pressure?

That size of reduction seems extreme.

But maybe just efficient deadweight cutting? 😉
No. We are growing like crazy. Inspectors are being poached by developers (2x salary in one case) or other jurisdictions. City of 42,000 or so.
700 single family YTD
670 multi-family YTD
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
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15,936
Points
60
No. We are growing like crazy. Inspectors are being poached by developers (2x salary in one case) or other jurisdictions. City of 42,000 or so.
700 single family YTD
670 multi-family YTD
Good luck as the pipeline for new/replacement inspectors was tight even before the current construction trades' paucity.

We can't just create good inspectors over night. It's generally a years long training process.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
15,628
Points
53
So I ran down the employee directory for some numbers.
13 Planner 1s
15 Planner 2s
6 Long rang planners
8 Planner 3s
5 Principle planners

I'm not counting team leaders. So 47 people with some kind of planner title. This doesn't include the army of support staff. I think department wide we have about 350 employees. It's one of the smaller city departments. City wide is something like 14,000. Not bad for a small town.

Edit: just hired another P1.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
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13,620
Points
56
So I ran down the employee directory for some numbers.
13 Planner 1s
15 Planner 2s
6 Long rang planners
8 Planner 3s
5 Principle planners

I'm not counting team leaders. So 47 people with some kind of planner title. This doesn't include the army of support staff. I think department wide we have about 350 employees. It's one of the smaller city departments. City wide is something like 14,000. Not bad for a small town.

Edit: just hired another P1.

I am just amazed at this, wow
 

Lowland

Cyburbian
Messages
158
Points
7
Midwest muni, <50,000 residents.

Community Development includes Planning/Zoning, Code Enforcement, and Building Inspections. There are 9.5 staff positions currently.
  • Director
    • Planner
    • Code Enforcement (3.5)
    • Admin Asst.
  • Asst. Director (also the building official)
    • Building inspectors (2, plumbing/mechanical and electrical)
Director manages the planning, zoning, and code enforcement side of house. The Asst. Director manages the inspectors and the "building department" end of things. However, the Director is still manager of all personnel. Engineering is outsourced to a firm for stormwater review.
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
1,046
Points
26
Small city that happens to be the economic engine of the state

Director
Deputy
Me (head of current planning) / my long range planning counterpart (both of us are planning managers)
4 current planners and one post approval field coordinator under me / 1 senior planner and 1 transportation planner under long range
1 urban designer
2 historic preservation staff
3 admin staff
= 17ish total
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
15,936
Points
60
Small city that happens to be the economic engine of the state

Director
Deputy
Me (head of current planning) / my long range planning counterpart (both of us are planning managers)
4 current planners and one post approval field coordinator under me / 1 senior planner and 1 transportation planner under long range
1 urban designer
2 historic preservation staff
3 admin staff
= 17ish total
I'm sure it works for you guys, but, from the outside, that looks a bit top heavy at the management level.
 

RandomPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
1,895
Points
29
Small city in the southeast (20k population in a County of 90k):

Planning, Zoning, & Code Enforcement Department -- 3 separate divisions that overlapped when necessary

Located near and worked closely with the Economic Development Department (of 3) who ran the CDBG program and oversaw the community centers.
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
1,046
Points
26
I'm sure it works for you guys, but, from the outside, that looks a bit top heavy at the management level.
Question - if you could take the staffing structure that I gave you above and revamp it, what would you change?

I ask because part of the reason for our four-person management team for a department of 17 is that our code is... difficult. It requires a ton of discretionary and interpretive decisionmaking on the part of staff by virtue of its design, thus each of of us constantly making decisions about how to review things and how to apply layers of standards that govern every land use decision. And we make those decisions while serving a citizenry that is more engaged than anywhere I've ever worked, so there's a discomfort with delegating down to line staff for fear of "I want to speak to a manager" by the public or development community. Yeah, not a good dynamic, I know.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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Question - if you could take the staffing structure that I gave you above and revamp it, what would you change?

I ask because part of the reason for our four-person management team for a department of 17 is that our code is... difficult. It requires a ton of discretionary and interpretive decisionmaking on the part of staff by virtue of its design, thus each of of us constantly making decisions about how to review things and how to apply layers of standards that govern every land use decision. And we make those decisions while serving a citizenry that is more engaged than anywhere I've ever worked, so there's a discomfort with delegating down to line staff for fear of "I want to speak to a manager" by the public or development community. Yeah, not a good dynamic, I know.
Perhaps the two of you section managers should be turned into Deputy Dirs and ditch the single Deputy Dir position.

But if the code is so administratively difficult, perhaps the extra management level is needed if the Dir didn't/can't be part of the administrative decision-making due to her/his time constraints/other responsibilities.

Good luck.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
21,216
Points
61
Thank you all for the great responses and discussion.

Right now we are less than 10K and have the following staff:
Plan Dir.
Assistant Dir.
Planner/GIS
Planner 1
Code Enforcement
Planning Technician

We subcontract out building inspections to the county but our planning technician does the zoning review for them and processes the permits and payments. Our code enforcement officer also conducts the setback inspections, but a PW infrastructure inspector does the CO inspections for planning and zoning requirements in addition to sidewalks and curbs (This will be be changing soon). Currently there is a lot that is handled by our PW that I will be looking to bring in house in the next few years. They have contacts with engineers and we are going to shake it up and put out our own contract for a plan review engineer which will replace 99% of the review processes from PW. Last year I put in for an economic development director and a development services engineer position. Neither of which were funded.
 

arcplans

As Featured in "High Times"
Messages
6,791
Points
36
We are about 14K with the following:

Planning Director
Assistant Dir / Senior Planner / GIS (me)
Associate Planner
Assistant Planner / Bld. Tech
Code Compliance officer

No admin, no building tech, contract inspector. I would love to re-structure the department and get an engineer or development review engineer to review plans but there is not enough work for a dedicated person (we work with 1 dedicated pw staff person). We could team up with our neighboring jurisdiction to hire a building official / in-house plans examiner that we share, those would be the only shake-ups. We are a pretty efficient group tbh.
 

Planit

Cyburbian
Messages
14,515
Points
57
Looking at these numbers, we're very lean.

Director
Planner

...and that's it for a city of 13,000.

Building Inspections is done by the County.
 

dw914er

Cyburbian
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1,632
Points
22
I am curious how many have GIS within Planning/Community Development or under their IT department umbrella.
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
1,046
Points
26
I am curious how many have GIS within Planning/Community Development or under their IT department umbrella.
Here, it's under DPW. Before that, it was under IT, until their GIS person was let go and DPW inherited it. It's an orphan. At previous gigs, we always had our own GIS functionality within the department via a GIS planner. IMO having IT or another department own it is much worse - I feel way more detached from the database having it housed with them than I do with planners owning that database. Nothing as frustrating as being told "Go ahead and open a ticket" when you find a break in the data and having to wait vs just walking over and talking to the GIS planner.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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15,936
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60
Looking at these numbers, we're very lean.

Director
Planner

...and that's it for a city of 13,000.

Building Inspections is done by the County.
That's interesting and very pertinent to the theme of this thread.

Are you guys, effectively, built out?

Do you have a lot of administrative review/approval categories (aka much less need for process administration for mandatory public meeting)?

This is good to dig deeper into.

I am curious how many have GIS within Planning/Community Development or under their IT department umbrella.
For the three employers that were large enough to warrant dedicated GIS staff, it was housed in the IT Dept.

All the others and presently, it is me, so I tend to rely on the County and such for the basic layers and just fiddle with it on the literal surface.

I've seldom ever used it analysis and mostly just use it for simple reference maps for development review management.
 

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
1,082
Points
39
Thank you all for the great responses and discussion.

Right now we are less than 10K and have the following staff:
Plan Dir.
Assistant Dir.
Planner/GIS
Planner 1
Code Enforcement
Planning Technician

We subcontract out building inspections to the county but our planning technician does the zoning review for them and processes the permits and payments. Our code enforcement officer also conducts the setback inspections, but a PW infrastructure inspector does the CO inspections for planning and zoning requirements in addition to sidewalks and curbs (This will be be changing soon). Currently there is a lot that is handled by our PW that I will be looking to bring in house in the next few years. They have contacts with engineers and we are going to shake it up and put out our own contract for a plan review engineer which will replace 99% of the review processes from PW. Last year I put in for an economic development director and a development services engineer position. Neither of which were funded.
Our communities sound like they are of similar size and staffing, but I don't have a code enforcement officer and as director am often called upon to do enforcement- which is getting untenable. What's the workload like for your code enforcement officer?
 

Planit

Cyburbian
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14,515
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57
That's interesting and very pertinent to the theme of this thread.

Are you guys, effectively, built out?

Do you have a lot of administrative review/approval categories (aka much less need for process administration for mandatory public meeting)?

This is good to dig deeper into.
No we are not built out - just very lean and haven't had a lot of development interest over the past several years. Times are a-changin' now and projects are coming in.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
21,216
Points
61
Our communities sound like they are of similar size and staffing, but I don't have a code enforcement officer and as director am often called upon to do enforcement- which is getting untenable. What's the workload like for your code enforcement officer?
He could spend 40 hours a week doing nothing but code inspections, and it would only address 30% to 50% of the issues. But a lot of that is because he have a decent number of impoverished area and absentee landlords or building owners. However we have it structured such that he also does the setback and site inspections for single family dwellings since he is already out in the field. He spends around 6 hours a day out of the office and 2 hours in the office doing the paperwork.
 

estromberg

Cyburbian
Messages
350
Points
14
I am curious how many have GIS within Planning/Community Development or under their IT department umbrella.
At my muni, GIS is under IT and both of us in the IT department are originally GIS people by training. We manage GIS and web mapping for ComDev and Public Works. E911 GIS is handled by CAD vendor and the County.

I work for a muni (25k residents) in N IL. The ComDev department consists of a ComDev Director, Bldg Inspector, CD Admin Asst, Transit/Grants/Misc, Code/Nuisance Inspector.
I am the Deputy Director of IT and GIS Specialist.
 
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the_girl

Member
Messages
57
Points
4
I am curious how many have GIS within Planning/Community Development or under their IT department umbrella.
sadly GIS is housed within IT in my department, and, its SO FRUSTRATING because I am a GIS power user and having to ask for something that i know should take 10 minutes and get it in 20 hours i maddening
 

MD Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
3,333
Points
49
sadly GIS is housed within IT in my department, and, its SO FRUSTRATING because I am a GIS power user and having to ask for something that i know should take 10 minutes and get it in 20 hours i maddening

Haha. So true. I have never been a power user but I know what I need and can explain it well. At my last place GIS was in IT and I would send a very detailed bullet point email with exactly what I needed. Nothing overly complicated. I'd ALWAYS get back a map that was satisfied at least two of the bullet points. The others were ignored. As were little things like street names, landmarks, a north arrow etc. It was always accompanied by the same message "See if this works". No mother%$#*er it doesn't! I told you what I needed, and this is only part of it!

Funny thing is that dude was going to law school at night and now he's a member of the bar. :r:
 

the_girl

Member
Messages
57
Points
4
Haha. So true. I have never been a power user but I know what I need and can explain it well. At my last place GIS was in IT and I would send a very detailed bullet point email with exactly what I needed. Nothing overly complicated. I'd ALWAYS get back a map that was satisfied at least two of the bullet points. The others were ignored. As were little things like street names, landmarks, a north arrow etc. It was always accompanied by the same message "See if this works". No mother%$#*er it doesn't! I told you what I needed, and this is only part of it!

Funny thing is that dude was going to law school at night and now he's a member of the bar. :r:
who needs details!?

this has been my EXACT experience and why i hate having to try to explain my map designs to others. A. it's partially an art and b. i asked for a very specific set of items because it's part of a bigger plan.
i just skirt it now by asking them to create the layers and the tables and then doing it myself. IT departments hate me :rofl:
:rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
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15,936
Points
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i just skirt it now by asking them to create the layers and the tables and then doing it myself. IT departments hate me :rofl:
:rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:
Agreed.

Honestly that’s the best arrangement and the one I’ve had for about the last 17 years.
 

the_girl

Member
Messages
57
Points
4
Agreed.

Honestly that’s the best arrangement and the one I’ve had for about the last 17 years.
they don't bother me and i don't bother them....win win? :)
its so sad to me that planners don't/haven't adopted GIS more. It's soooo powerful, and, way more than just create a map. let's do some analysis! oh you want to find a 300k warehouse that is within 1/5 mile of the airport and has a good road network? To GIS! Want to see the potential property value impact of dropping several duplexes in a community? GIS. Want to create a 3D rendering of how your community has transformed over time, and, add video/audio snippets of oral history? G.I.S.
idk if you can tell, i kinda like GIS
 
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