Commission voted 3-2 to dissolve city’s Design Review Board

The City Commission voted 3-2 during their March 3 meeting to dissolve the Design Review Board.

The design standards and guidelines in city code will remain in place and be administered by staff.

The city had suspended the board for a year from November 2018 to December 2019 while the city planning department had a heavy workload and was understaffed.

In December, City Commissioners voted unanimously to reinstate the board with changes to the process proposed by staff. At the time, commissioners directed staff to come back within a year to report on whether those changes have been helpful to the process before the city codifies the new process.
City again considering whether the Design Review Board should remain

In February, Commissioner Rick Tryon asked staff about revisiting the DRB. He joined the commission in January.

Tryon raised the issue of the fee increases that had been proposed as part of the updated development review process, including a new $500 fee for DRB review.
Commission reinstates Design Review Board, with process changes

During the March 3 meeting, regular attendee Jeni Dodd said there’s “no need for the Design Review Board,” and that it’s a roadblock to economic development.

Terry Thompson of the Great Falls Association of Realtors said “it’s time to say goodbye to the Design Review Board and have the staff o the work they are qualified to do.”

Brett Doney of the Great Falls Development Authority said he agreed the city manager’s opinion that staff could handle the functions of the DRB and remove a layer of the development process.
Staff proposes reinstating city design review board with changes; city manager prefers to continue with staff review

“I just think it’s going to be a continued headache,” Doney said.

Mayor Bob Kelly said he received one letter opposing the dissolution of the DRB since it’s a way for the public to know about projects going on in the city.

Kelly said there were other avenues to get that information.

Commissioner Mary Moe said she was opposed to dissolving the DRB since it “provides a good counterbalance” with staff and development projects.

She said the discussion was triggered because of the proposed $500 fee to cover staff time required to support the board.

Moe said she has concerns about charging that cost to developers. She voted against dissolving the DRB.

Commissioner Tracy Houck didn’t speak during the discussion on dissolving the DRB but at the end of the meeting said she didn’t want to dissolve an advisory board lightly and that’s why she voted against it.