Revised Planning director, board ordinances get first council approval

Seeks to bolster city’s approach to future business opportunities

By Mike Rego
Posted 8/11/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — The City Council is in the midst of its annual light summer schedule, but the body did recently begin the process of restructuring the hierarchy of the Planning Department and of …

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Revised Planning director, board ordinances get first council approval

Seeks to bolster city’s approach to future business opportunities

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The City Council is in the midst of its annual light summer schedule, but the body did recently begin the process of restructuring the hierarchy of the Planning Department and of the makeup of the Planning Board.

At it’s lone meeting in July, the council gave the first of two needed approvals to a pair of revised ordinances, sponsored by Ward 3 member Nate Cahoon, both in Chapter 2 of the City Charter and entitled “Administration.”

The first, amending aspects of Sections 2-116 through 2-126, initially updates wording pertaining to the mayor-council form of government, replacing the term “city manager” as the appointing authority and replacing it with “mayor.”

Most important is the creation of a new title for oversight of the department, which going forward will be known as “Director of Planning and Economic Development.” The latter part of the title is new, the administrator previously assigned the title only of department director.

It also clarifies language of approval, noting while the mayor appoints a designee for the position, it must also receive “confirmation by” a majority of the council.

The second, amending aspects of Sections 2-166 through 2-178, likewise confirms the aforementioned changes needed with the mayor-council form by removing the term “city manager” as the appointing authority and substituting “mayor.”

Once more, of most significance, the size of the Planning Board is increased from five to seven members. The revised board will have an appointee representing each of the city’s four wards and three at-large representatives.

The idea behind the changes, Mr. Cahoon said was to have a qualified person in place who could “make strategic recommendations” on future development. Mr. Cahoon and Council President Bobby Britto both cited the need to vary the types of businesses the city attempts to recruit. The amendments have the backing of Mayor Bob DaSilva and his staff.

“We have these areas that have been under-utilized and mostly due to marketing,” said the mayor’s Director of Policy Marc Furtado, noting commercial real estate parcels on Taunton and Warren Avenues, specifically.

The amended sections also revise aspects of the new Director of Planning and Economic Development position, including the educational requirements to be considered for the post: “The director of planning and economic development shall possess a bachelor’s degree in public or business administration, economics, finance, urban planning, or a related field.”

Amended responsibilities of the position include working directly with the Building Department to cooridinate permitting and with the Finance Department on short and long-term projects as well as compiling a multi-year “financial forecast.”

Though the director position includes oversight of both fields, planning and development will be divided into two distinct divisions.

The mandate for planning reads as follows: “The division of planning shall create, maintain, and implement all neighborhood, redevelopment and special area plans, and oversee environmental planning, historic preservation planning, and transportation planning and transit initiatives.”

The mandate for economic development reads as follows: “ The division of economic development shall be responsible for identifying and promoting development opportunities for business growth and development in the city. The division is also responsible for disbursing and monitoring the expenditure of federal community development funding. The division shall be responsible for identifying opportunities to expand development for arts and culture within the city.”

The amended ordinances are likely to be brought back for second and final approval when the council meets next week, August 20, for its lone scheduled meeting of the month.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.