User-friendly planning and development regulations

Facilitating frictionless economic development certainly got my attention.  Consider this statement:

Imagine you are trying to figure out how to apply for a permit for your new (or existing) business, and you land upon a maze of forms and requirements. You’re trying to do the right thing, but the bureaucracy isn’t making it easy. You go from feeling like a good citizen to feeling like a frustrated victim. And now it’s not just a permit you need, but a zoning clearance as well. Really? Why? Is this really necessary? Yargh!!

Does this sound familiar in Northfield?  It does to me as a former member of the Planning Commission and as a Council member.  Santa Cruz with Code for America, has attempted a common-sense development process with Open Counter (in beta release).  What do you think?

Of course, this is only the public face of the issue.  In Northfield, we still need to continue to revise the Land Development Code (which would be behind the clever, common-sense interface) for clear, predictable, flexible regulations which mandate compliance on aspects of development over which the city needs some control* but is otherwise adaptable.

*needs some control: I used to think we should regulate everything to “get the development we wanted.”  I now think no gov’t entity knows what it wants or how to get it (especially using the blunt, blunt zoning tool) and should leave that to the private sector.  But, some development decisions matter a great deal to the city and those are the ones which cost us money over the long term – infrastructure, street layout, parking, traffic issues, environmental issues.