TODAY

– May 6, 2015

Business Friendly Task Force plans faster permit process

Community leader Pete Weber.Community leader Pete Weber.
The Business Friendly Fresno Task Force announced recommendations Wednesday to speed the city’s planning and permit process through better organization, an improved computer software program and greater attention given to each project.

For starters, all projects, big and small will begin with a visit to a main counter that is well marked with signage.

However, projects will be broken down to three levels, with Level 1 used for standard single-family home plans and small changes, Level 2 for change of occupancy and Level 3 for projects requiring multiple entitlements.

The new organizational plans take effect Jan. 1. The task force also plans to approach the Fresno City Council about upgrading the city’s computer software program for the planning department.

Wednesday’s meeting attracted about 50 people including Jeff Roberts, vice president of Granville Homes in Fresno. The task force plans to place a priority on infill projects and Granville Homes has been a top infill builder.

However, Granville would like more leeway in building projects outside of downtown infill areas.

But as a member of Creating Prosperity in Fresno, Granville is all for streamlining the planning and permitting process.

The task force plans to make the process of infill development easier and faster.

Pete Weber, who chairs the task force with Jennifer Clark, director of development and resource management for Fresno, said that although efforts to improve the planning and permit process have not succeeded in the past, the new effort is stronger because it features both internal and external task force members.

“We have ownership over this plan,” Weber said. “We have a plan that has staff ownership.”

Weber said he sees both willingness and enthusiasm for improving the permit process and making Fresno a business friendly city.

Weber described the current development code as a mess. “It’s 60 years old,” he said. “We need to update the development code and align it with the general plan.”

He said the city would not become the most business friendly city in the state by Jan. 2.

But Weber expects significant improvement. The city still needs to upgrade its technology, he said.

That process is expected to take more than a year.

Weber pointed out that in addition, staff would need training, cross training and leadership training to properly operate the new system. He pointed out that major layoffs during the great recession gutted many departments and led to the loss of skilled employees.

The city plans to do some rehiring as the economy improves.

He said the system would require decision-making protocols and a decision cannot be overridden by another person in another department. “People at the counter will have to make the right decision,” Weber said.

“The point of contact will be the front counter,” Clark emphasized after taking the podium. “But we will need better signage,” she said.

Also, the counter will stay open during the lunch hour from noon to 1 p.m.

Clark said that for some of the more complex project plans would go to a development review committee. A response will come from the committee within 14 days, she said.

“Communication is key to this system,” Clark added.

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Written on 05/05/2015, 10:52 am by George Lurie
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Written on 05/05/2015, 10:46 am by Leah
President Current Culture H20 What we do: Current Culture H2O manufactures innovative irrigation systems and plant nutrients for growers across North America and abroad. Education:Attended Fresno State as a geology major, but departed school as a senior to pursue business opportunities. Age: 43 Family: Married to Cheryl Wilson (Company CFO), father to Satchel age 9 and Hazel age 3. Tell us about your career path to your current position.Having been raised in an agricultural community, I became aware at a very early age the importance of hard work. This upbringing primed me for life as an entrepreneur.In early 2004 I began development of a hydroponics method that would eventually gain two utility patents. This hydroponics method spurred the inception of Current Culture H2O in 2005-2006.After years of various business ventures, in 2010 we opted to focus our attention on the proliferation of Current Culture H2O. From this point we’ve set about steadily growing CCH2O into an internationally recognized leader in hydroponic technologies. What are the benefits of hydroponic growing?The term hydroponics covers a wide variety of differing methods, each offering its own unique advantages. Generically, hydroponics offers the ability to control specific parameters in the plants root zone such as EC, pH, ORP and water temperature. As a result, growers are able to optimize cultivation conditions in a way not possible in conventional soil applications.But, as with many sophisticated approaches, the devil is in the details of operation. This said, hydroponics lends itself well to automation and precise dosing to reach its full potential. This is where nature and technology synergize to offer growers a very high return on investment when properly operated. Who are your clients?Our customers range from residential hobby growers, to large scale, state of the art Canadian medical marijuana cultivation facilities. Our products and methods appeal to growers and cultivation managers interested in optimizing results and exerting a higher level of control over the crops they’re growing. Have you seen much interest from commercial crop growers?Though we’ve yet to find our systems and methods being used commercially in food production, we anticipate an increased interest as natural resource availability continues to decrease. These dwindling resources, coupled with the deterioration of arable soil, will continue to pressure growers to look to more efficient methods of crop cultivation. Is Fresno a good place for a manufacturer like yourself to do business?It’s well known that California is not the most business friendly state in the union. Having said this, we’ve found advantages to the Central Valley which include ample access to skilled labor, central location to shipping lanes and reduced overhead relative to property values. These are all key factors when considering the viability of a region for business. The Fresno area harbors many of the ag’s most innovative and impactful businesses. Companies such as Netafim, Grundfos and Lakos are all industry leaders in water technology. I consider our company fortunate to be following in the footsteps of these internationally recognized pioneers. Where do you see your company in five years?I believe our company has created a disruptive irrigation technology that will continue to proliferate as the years progress. We’ve no intention to stop creating and offering innovative irrigation products in the years and decades to come. We take great pride in offering products designed and built in California while stimulating our economy by providing jobs in our community. I’m certain that in five years we’ll be continuing to make an impact in the irrigation sector, just on a larger scale.   What was the best advice you ever received?Top 31)    Be passionate, confident and focused in your pursuits.2)    Be your own worst critic.3)    The first step to correcting a mistake is recognizing when you’ve made one. What are your roots in the Central Valley?I was raised and attended all my schooling, formal and otherwise here in the Fresno area. Having grown up in the most rural expanses of Fresno County, I’m very fond of the qualities that make our region unique. What do you like to do in your spare time?Above all else, I enjoy spending time with my wife and 2 quickly growing children. Considering the fragility of life and importance in our next generation, I can’t imagine a better investment in my limited time away from work.

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