Government & Politics  December 15, 2022

Denver ‘blitz’ aims to reduce mountain of development plans needing review

This story first appeared on BusinessDen.com, a BizWest news partner.

DENVER — City staff members that process and review development plans have been ignoring emails and letting phone calls go unanswered in recent weeks.

After all, it’s what the boss ordered.

The employees, a small portion of the approximately 300 staffers in Denver Community Planning and Development, have been engaged in what department Deputy Director Jill Jennings Golich dubbed a “blitz” in a Monday meeting. The effort aims to reduce the mountain of plans needing review as a result of the city’s new income-restricted housing mandate.

“This team is currently engaged in what we are calling a blitz,” Golich told the City Council’s Budget and Policy Committee on Monday. “So last week and this week they are really focused — not having meetings, really focused — on trying to get through reviews of these projects to maximize productivity.”

Denver’s “Expanding Housing Affordability” plan, which went into effect July 1, requires developers of large residential projects to incorporate income-restricted units or pay a hefty fee.

Projects for which the city reviewed an initial development plan by June 30, however, can be grandfathered in under the previous regulations. As a result, Community Planning and Development received a surge of new plans in the weeks leading up to that date. 

As of July 1, Golich said, the department had 746 plans to review: 382 early-stage “concept plans” and 364 more-detailed “formal site development plans.” Since then, 116 of the site development plans have been approved, leaving 630 to go.

The rate at which the plans are reviewed matters. That’s because, to be grandfathered in, projects didn’t just have to be submitted by June 30. The project’s formal site development plan also needs to be approved by either the end of August or the end of December next year — and whether it gets approved depends in part on how fast the city works.

The city could ultimately push those August and December deadlines back. Golich told council members that a decision on whether to do that will likely be made in the spring. But to help decide whether it’s necessary, the department is undergoing this first-of-its-kind blitz, which has had two stages.

Community Planning and Development spokeswoman Amanda Weston told BusinessDen Tuesday that staff members who process development plans undertook the first blitz during the week of Nov. 28.

“This team spent 100 percent of their time processing 400 applications for various types of development review in their queue,” Weston said in an email. “With the dedicated time, the support of peers and our leadership, and collaborative team momentum, we were able to clear the entirety of the backlog at intake and get all of these applications assigned out for review.”

The second blitz runs for two weeks, starting Dec. 5 and ending this Friday. It involves 10 staff members who actually review the plans.

“During the blitz, these staff are not answering emails, phone calls or attending meetings,” Weston said. “They are focusing 100 percent of their time to completing reviews.”

An email sent by a BusinessDen reporter to a staff member in blitz mode last week prompted an automatic response noting the effort: “If this is a question not related to the status of your project, we will respond to your inquiry in the order it was received starting on December 19.” (The employee did, however, respond to the email, which pertained to a city design advisory board.)

A department representative noted that the vast majority of its employees, including those who deal with permits or review plans for smaller projects like duplexes, continue to answer calls and emails as usual.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to emphasize the proportion of department employees in blitz mode.

This story first appeared on BusinessDen.com, a BizWest news partner.

DENVER — City staff members that process and review development plans have been ignoring emails and letting phone calls go unanswered in recent weeks.

After all, it’s what the boss ordered.

The employees, a small portion of the approximately 300 staffers in Denver Community Planning and Development, have been engaged in what department Deputy Director Jill Jennings Golich dubbed a “blitz” in a Monday meeting. The effort aims to reduce the mountain of plans needing review as a result of the city’s new income-restricted housing mandate.

“This team is currently engaged in what we…

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