Fischer Rejects Developer Proposal; Orders Audit of Planning Dept.

Fischer ordered a complete audit for Planning and Design

When the Mayor took office, he put attorney Bill Bardenwerper, the city’s leading attorney for developers and homebuilders,  on his transition team. Of course, Bardenwerper was a big financial supporter of the Mayor’s election campaign.

So Bardenwerper wrote a report suggesting wholesale changes in the way the controversial Department of Codes and Regulations works, including the creation of a new Department of Building Development. The report, he admitted, did not include input from anyone who wasn’t a contributor to the Mayor’s campaign. To the astonishment of those familiar with the wink-and-a-nod way of doing business down there, Bardenwerper’s report said it clearly:

“Admittedly, builders/developer and other land use and design professionals who do not regularly participate in the industry’s organized discussion forums were not specifically consulted. And discussion of this specific proposal did not necessarily involve a wide range of people who did not actively contribute to the election of our new Mayor. . .”

In other words, Bardenwerper didn’t want to hear from neighborhood or preservation activists, and wanted to set up the new reality in a way that favored developers who gave money to Fischer’s campaign.

Steve Porter, the city’s leading attorney representing many of those groups, including preservationists upset over the Mayor’s deal on Whiskey Row downtown, called Bardenwerper’s proposal ludicrous.

It ticked off a bunch of those people.

So to his credit, Mayor Fischer announced today that he’s giving the entire Planning and Design Services department a top-to-bottom review, the same treatment he’d decided on for the troubled Animal Services and Public Works departments. He appointed eight citizens to participate in the audit, including Bardenwerper and Porter, a staunch advocate for neighborhoods and responsible growth.

Realistically, the committee is still stacked in favor of developers. Only Porter and Tom Fitzgerald, of the Kentucky Resources Council, represent anything other than what you could call the developers’ interest.

“At least it says we need to step back and take another look at this,” Porter said. “It looks like a good committee and I’m glad they want people who don’t spend all their time with developers.”

And give credit to Fischer for standing up to Bardenwerper’s posse of developers, opting to reject his report and focus on a different way to run the show.

Here’s today’s release from the Mayor’s Office:

LOUISVILLE (Feb. 23, 2011) – Mayor Fischer announced today that Planning and Design Services will be the third Metro Government department to undergo a top-to-bottom review. An eight-member committee, made up of both public and private citizens, has been appointed to assist in the performance audit.

At the start of his administration, Fischer pledged to ensure that every city department is operating at top efficiency. Reviews of Metro Public Works and Metro Animal Services are currently underway.

The committee will examine Planning and Design’s current policies and procedures and explore ways to make the department more customer friendly for both developers and neighborhoods.

“I want our Planning and Design department to be the best in the country,” Fischer said. “By focusing on customer service and improving our problem-solving skills, we can encourage responsible development, business and job growth in all areas of Louisville.”

The eight-person Planning and Design Audit Committee includes:

  • Bill Bardenwerper, Attorney
  • Tommy Clark, Office of the Mayor
  • Tom Fitzgerald, Kentucky Resource Council
  • Gabe Fritz, The Housing Partnership
  • Chuck Kavanaugh, Home Builders Association
  • Gale Lively, Louisville Apartment Association
  • Jim Mims, Director, Inspections, Metro Codes and Regulations
  • Steve Porter, Attorney