Development Services aids in city progress

Development Services Director Gary Jeppson takes a call in his office Tuesday. Jeppson often presents applicants’ rezoning and site plan approval requests to City Council. ANDRAYA WHITNEY/Miner

Development Services Director Gary Jeppson takes a call in his office Tuesday. Jeppson often presents applicants’ rezoning and site plan approval requests to City Council. ANDRAYA WHITNEY/Miner

Some residents may never come into contact with the city Development Services Department, but all are affected by the work its staff does each day.

Development Services houses both a building safety division and a planning and zoning division.

Gary Jeppson, director of development services, said the building aspect of the department directly impacts the most people, as that division issues building permits for new construction as well as additions to existing structures.

The planning division handles site development, rezoning requests and conditional-use permits, and it administers land-use regulations and zoning ordinances, including requests for changes to land use and zoning maps.

It also staffs the Board of Adjustment, Clean City Commission, Economic and Tourism Development Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Jeppson has been involved in more than 800 hours worth of work on the proposed Unified Development Ordinance, the goal of which is to provide a single resource to guide individuals and developers through the planning and construction processes.

As a stand alone policy, the UDO may be scrapped from consideration due to concerns by builders and officials about its complexity.

However, it is generally agreed that the document could serve as a set of guidelines to aid future work on the separate subdivision and zoning ordinances.

Jeppson said his staff members are "advocates of good, sound planning, assisting the public in the long term and benefiting both present and future residents."

Code updates

Jim McErlean, senior plans examiner, said the department hopes to further simplify the construction process by adopting the 2006 International Building Code, which will be brought to City Council for acceptance soon. That code, developed by the International Code Council, would keep Kingman in step with cities across the nation, as well as with the county's planning and zoning department.

McErlean said the department held community workshops to explain the changes to the code and how to comply with it, and, assuming Council approval, the code should go into effect in May 2008. Compliance with the new regulations would keep area residents and developers "on the same page" as insurance companies, helping to keep premiums down, he said.

Commercial work is "staying very busy," McErlean said, although housing construction is down in the city and across the nation. He said about eight to 10 strip malls are in some phase of progress, and an apartment building and four-story hotel are on the way as well.

Code compliance

City Building Official David Hattrick said the department rarely notes intentional noncompliance with building codes. Most infractions occur due to misinterpretations of regulations or failure to update practices as the code evolves. Hattrick said the department spends six to seven months educating the local community about the changes each time a new code is adopted.

The building department is also charged with inspecting gas, electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems in the course of new construction and remodel projects. Hattrick said his department offered about 40 courtesy or public-service inspections out of 100 completed this year; the other 60 were fee-based inspections.

Hattrick said the goal of his department is to ensure compliance with the minimum building code requirements in order to protect the safety of those inhabiting or using the structures. "We're more than willing and extremely pleased when people call us before they start their projects so we can discuss it," he said. "We're very interested in forward progress, not resistance or being a hindrance."

CDBG program

Another way the Development Services Department seeks progress in the city is through the use of Community Development Block Grants, overseen by Bill Shilling, grants administrator for the city.

The Arizona Department of Housing receives about $13 million in CDBG funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and it works with the Western Arizona Council of Governments to administer a portion of those funds locally. Cities must apply for funds for specific projects, which can range from renovation of wastewater facilities to construction of youth and senior centers.

Shilling said that, rather than applying every year for smaller amounts of money, the city applies every other year for larger amounts to allow bigger projects. In even years, the city and Mohave County apply for funds, and Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City apply in odd years.

Future projects

The city will soon begin soliciting project proposals throughout the community to determine which would be most beneficial for the city and eligible for application in May. Shilling said the city could receive about $700,000 in CDBG funds next year, although a final number has not yet been determined by the state. The money a community receives is dependent upon the projects listed in the application, as well as the total funds available to the agency in a given year.

In the past, such grants have been used to renovate the Boys and Girls Club building and the newly completed Central Commercial building, both located downtown. Shilling said he is especially proud of the latter project. "Growing up in Kingman, I remember when it was Central Commercial, and to see it come back to really close to what it was is really rewarding," he said. Both projects plus some remodeling at the senior center were on the city's 2004 CDBG application, and funds received that year totaled $708,243.

Housing rehab

In addition to specific projects, the city often applies for funding for housing rehabilitation, which allows low-income homeowners to receive health and safety repairs for no charge, assuming they meet all qualifications for such aid. Shilling said that part of his job is often "taxing and emotional," but he enjoys having the chance to make a difference in people's lives, and he said people are appreciative of the department's efforts. About 14 homes in the city have been or are in the process of being rehabilitated so far this year.

The Development Services Department is located at 201 N. Fourth St. Residents may call the planning and zoning division at 753-8130 or the building safety division at 753-8123.