for Zoning Administration
Do you have any suggestions of possible sources on "metrics" for
zoning administration? Our new mayor is a businessman. He is pushing
implementing various business concepts. Having us re-examine our activities
is probably a good, if painful, endeavor. However, the obvious measurements,
like number of cases or permits this year versus last year, do not
seem appropriate for an agency which basically reacts to submitted
petitions and applications.
Glen R. Boise, A. I. C. P.
City of Kokomo, Howard County, IN
Your mayor is right on and is following a national trend, often called
performance measurement. There is considerable confusion and trial
and error as these concepts are being implemented around the country.
Think of metrics as a continuum, starting with inputs (number of cases,
staff, budgets), to outputs (number of cases processed, cases per
staff, cost per case), to outcomes. Outcomes can also be viewed in
a continuum from Initial to Intermediate to Long-term. The Long-term
outcome isódid the zoning code and the way we processed the case and
the final conditions really make any difference and build a better
community? Outcomes are tough to do and planners seem afraid to get
very deep into this subject.
There are a number of areas where I suggest you concentrate.
You do need to know how many cases of which type
come in each month, along with the staff and budget each case requires.
How else can you set the appropriate staffing level, hold staff
accountable and set your fees?
Next, your customers want to know how long it takes
to process a case. Avoid using averages for these calculations.
A better approach is "we will process 95% of the cases within ____
While you want to calculate the overall time it
takes to process, you also want to calculate the time you take versus
the time the applicant takes. When you receive an application, how
long do you take before responding to the applicant? When the applicant
makes changes and brings in changes, how long do you take the second
time? Each time the application cycles, I suggest you cut the time
in half. For example, if you take 30 days the first time, take 15
the second and 7 the third.
You should also monitor how many cycles applications
are taking. Repeat cycles may mean that staff is not doing a good
review the first time or giving the applicant adequate instructions
on what they need to do. I like the theory that the planners "should
only get one slice of the baloney." What I mean is, do a comprehensive
review the first time and don't keep coming up with new requirements.
It drives the customers nuts.
Next, you want to know how your batting average
is with the Planning Commission and elected officials. Are you on
the same page? Are you working hard enough to "get the votes" for
When the project gets built, how well were the conditions
placed on the project implemented?
Finally, examine the project and neighborhood a
year or two later. What was the impact of the project? Are you building
a better community?
There are many subtopics to the above points. Several resources that
may be of interest include:
Municipal Benchmarks by David Ammons, Sage
We are currently Beta testing a new product called
Z Diagnostics which will benchmark planning departments against
a variety of national criteria. It should be available on our website
before the end of the year.
The Management Doctor's consulting firm, Zucker
Systems, specializes in these issues and has now worked with some
150 cities and counties in 23 states. They can be reached at 800-870-6306.
I also discussed this topic in some previous questions
to the Management Doctor. Look under the topics, Levels of Service
and Performance Measures.
I hope this gets you started. Best regards to you and the Mayor.