Development Services Director Jeff Shrum recently spent nearly an hour and a half giving the Venice City Council a report on his office’s three divisions: Planning and Zoning, Building and Code Enforcement.
The short version? They’re busy. Really, really busy.
Partly, he said, it’s from being shorthanded. The deputy building official position is open, as are two inspector positions. Since the Council’s budget workshops, Shrum also added a plans examiner and divisional permit coordinator to his proposed staffing.
Partly, it’s an increase in workload from growth and the rebounding economy.
From October 2017 through July 31, the city had issued about 300 more building permits than in the same period the previous year, but that actually understates the impact on the department.
The number of commercial permits issued jumped from three to 24 and the value of the projects exploded, going from about $2.5 million to nearly $70 million.
Multi-family permits only increased from 12 to 15 but those 15 permits represent 295 units, Shrum said, with projects requiring multiple additional permits.
Plan reviews increased by 65 percent, he said, and zoning inspections by 25 percent.
Finally, Shrum said, his staff also has a number of ongoing or special tasks on top of all the other work going on.
A complete rewrite of the city’s land development regulations is underway, following the adoption of the new comprehensive plan.
Tracking software identified 33 properties that weren’t in compliance with the city’s short-term rental ordinance. All the violations have been abated, he said, but there has to be follow-up on whether they — and a number of other businesses — have paid the city’s business tax.
And there’s still the matter of more than 1,300 properties within the city limits that have a county zoning designation.
Shrum’s office had embarked on a program of getting them rezoned but put it aside as something to be dealt with in the rewrite of the development regulations. Only 14 had been processed at that time.
Requests from property owners continue to come in, however, as they seek to develop or redevelop their land.
Shrum’s also anticipating needing to deal with owners who may have an issue with being rezoned, especially in Sawgrass.
The subdivision functions like a planned unit development but just labeling it as one under the city code might create nonconformities or not fully protect owners’ rights.
“We have to recognize what they have on the ground,” he said.