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Opinion
Business Observer Friday, Mar. 7, 2014 4 years ago

City approvals frustration

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City planning staff was disappointed to read the article in the Feb. 14 Business Observer.

City planning staff was disappointed to read the article in the Feb. 14 Business Observer where Christian Hershman, proprietor of the State Street Eating House, expressed his frustrations about the length of time it took to obtain city approvals for his business expansion. When Mr. Hershman first inquired about adding a liquor store adjacent to his existing business, he was told by staff that a four to six month approval process was normal for applications involving new liquor stores.

Had Mr. Hershman not changed his mind about what he wanted the project to look like after receiving Development Review Committee comments on his previously submitted plans, he would have been well on his way to receive timely approval for his project. Mr. Hershman also missed two deadlines for submitting materials to the Development Review Committee (DRC). After receiving approval from the DRC and also approval from the City Commission for a liquor store, he then took another 2.5 months to apply for a building permit.

City staff has built a reputation for providing a high level of customer service for our clients. In 2013, 98.6% of building and permit customers rated their service level as excellent, up from 96% in 2011. This high level of service was demonstrated when staff met at least seven times with Mr. Hershman and his associates to guide them through preparing their application materials, usually when Mr. Hershman dropped in without an appointment. This guidance is something that an applicant's planning consultant normally does. 

The timeline laid out for Mr. Hershman was appropriate. By our count, he added an additional 3.5 months to his project due to his delays in meeting submittal deadlines and his redesigning of the project.

We certainly welcome his addition to the commercial businesses along State Street and appreciate the investment that he has made in the community. We also encourage any individual considering a building project to schedule a pre-application conference with staff so that potential issues that may affect their project can be identified and addressed early on.

Norman Gollub
Downtown Economic Development Coordinator, Sarasota

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