New Chairman Wants To Streamline Site Plan Approvals

Mike Laurin, far left, discusses changes he wants to make to the way the city Planning Commission operates.

The new chairman of the Jamestown Planning Commission wants to spend more time planning.

Mike Laurin, who has served on the Planning Commission since 2020 but was elevated to chairman of the group this year, said he the commission has typically spent most of its time approving site plans for new development. While that won’t change, Laurin wants to change the way those site plans are handled so that Planning Commission members can spend more time focusing on new solutions to many of the old problems facing Jamestown.

“Going forward I would really like to be more proactive with the Planning Commission,” Laurin said during the most recent commission meeting. “I would like to push a little bit more to see if we can think outside the box on what we’re missing, what we can do to add to neighborhood revitalization, to add stability, to add more business. Anything that we can think of. We can reach out to people to get guest speakers in here who are experts in their area and say what can Jamestown do to really benefit from this program. If it was easy it would have been done. It’s a challenging thing to do, but we’re in a situation here where we can do it. … It’s a good opportunity for us.”

Laurin’s comments came after the commission approved a site plan for a new Northwest Bank branch in Brooklyn Square. That site plan had been delayed a month after several questions from commission members needed to be addressed. Once most of those questions had been addressed, commission members approved the site plan last week. It’s a situation Laurin said he wants to avoid if possible with a more streamlined approach that has many of the questions that would typically be asked can be answered before a site plan comes up for approval at a public meeting.

The site plan process will begin with a preliminary meeting with a developer and city staff, including Ellen Shadle, city principal planner. A site plan review application will be completed and submitted to the city. Once the application is approved by city staff it will be sent to the Planning Commission.

Site plan materials would be required to be completed 14 days before any potential vote by the Planning Commissions, which will give commission members time to email questions to Shadle so they can be answered by the applicant or by the appropriate staff or agency. Applicants can then ask for a delay if they need more time to get their materials in order. Ideally, Laurin said, the new process would mean a project only has to come before the Planning Commission once – which makes the process easier on developers and freeing up commission members to spend more time on items that aren’t site plan approvals.

“I really want to try to avoid applicants coming to the commission where they intend to have something approved and it’s not approved at the staff level,” Laurin said. “Then we end up kicking it back to them and then having to come back and finish it. If they want to have a work session that’s something I think we should encourage them to do, but I don’t want it going back and forth with the expectations of it being approved and then having it not be able to be approved and having to go to another session.”


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