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MailTribune.com
  • Medford appointee will work on aiding developers

  • Major developers who get tripped up by the bureaucracy at Medford City Hall will find a new friend in high places.
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  • Major developers who get tripped up by the bureaucracy at Medford City Hall will find a new friend in high places.
    Chris Reising, who was the city's building director, has been promoted to deputy city manager effective July 1, a title he'll share with Bill Hoke.
    Reising's main job will be to coordinate three departments — public works, building and planning — to make the process less cumbersome for developers.
    He will see a 5-percent bump in salary from $117,906 annually to $123,802 plus benefits. Hoke, who has worked with the city since 2000, receives $138,880 annually.
    Hoke has worked to bring large developments into Medford, but Reising's job will be to make sure those developers see their projects through to completion.
    "I hesitate to say developer friendly," Reising said. "But economic development is good for the community. This city does want to attract living-wage jobs."
    Sometimes large projects get bogged down by one or two bureaucratic hurdles, and it will be Reising's job to troubleshoot and find a solution.
    "Somebody can just contact me and say, 'Hey, Chris, I can't get my permit. What's going on?' " said Reising, who has worked at the city for 29 years and became building director in 1996.
    He'll also proactively seek out developers who have made inquiries about a project but haven't followed through.
    The new position is an outgrowth of a 2004 study that found numerous flaws in the development services process at the city.
    Top on the list of recommendations was the creation of an ombudsman to help developers maneuver through the requirements of city departments.
    "I do know developers who worked here but thought it was too much of a gauntlet and went to other areas," said Randy Jones, general manager of Mahar Homes.
    The Home Builders Association of Jackson County, the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County and Jones voiced support for the ombudsman position.
    "This is a very positive move that got sidelined when the depression hit," he said.
    Jones said the city picked the best candidate possible for the job, citing Reising's thoroughness and even temper.
    "He has the institutional memory and the ability to work between departments," he said.
    In a letter Reising sent to city staff recently, he said the existing hierarchy of the departments will remain intact, and his role will not simply add another level of bureaucracy.
    In the letter, Reising states, "I would like to foster an environment where we are neither 'regulators' nor 'servants' of, but rather partners with, developers, contractors, architects and engineers."
    One of the key efforts Reising plans to implement is to meet with developers before they submit permit applications.
    "We want early contacts and early meetings so people are not surprised," he said.
    He said his goal will be to attempt to resolve disputes before they head to the city manager or City Council.
    As part of his new role, Reising expects to make recommendations on ways to streamline the architectural review process while improving the design of some newer buildings.
    "We can do better," he said.
    Reising said architectural review is one area of planning that is often criticized by developers.
    He said the city needs to foster a reputation as a place that welcomes new development because Medford is in competition with other areas of the state and the country.
    "Turn these projects around faster, because time is money, and they (the developers) may make their decision based on that," he said.
    George Arimes, a Maryland consultant who analyzed the city's permit process in 2004, faulted the existing system and cited delays in the permit process, lack of clear methods for customers to resolve conflicts and lack of communication between departments.
    The city did follow through on some of Arimes' recommendations, including the creation of a one-stop counter that allows developers to access Public Works, Planning and Building. An applicant previously would have had to go to separate offices or city buildings.
    Councilor Bob Strosser said the idea of having someone work with developers has been discussed over the years but was put on hold during the economic downturn.
    "He's going to function as a sort of ombudsman to work with the various departments," Strosser said.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.
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