P&Z could fulfill Danville’s need for preservationist

Published 8:04 am Thursday, June 15, 2017

Danville may have found a way to kill several budget birds with one stone, thanks to a suggestion from the incoming director of Planning and Zoning.

The city budget had included until this Monday up to $80,000 to pay for professional preservationist services, either by contracting with an outside company or hiring a new staff member. The position would have helped the Architectural Heritage Board reach legally defensible decisions on whether work to downtown historic buildings is appropriate; and it would have allowed the city to maintain its status as a “certified local government” — a designation bestowed by the Kentucky Heritage Council that means the city follows best practices for historic preservation.

The $80,000, which officials said was a maximum amount and may not all be needed, came under fire from critics who said it was non-essential and shouldn’t be paid for when the city is planning to raise taxes.

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On Monday, the $80,000 was removed from the version of the budget that passed a first reading. But City Manager Ron Scott said if another goal of city commissioners is achieved — expanding Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning to a five-day work week — it could allow the city to meet its requirements anyway.

“Our new executive director of Planning and Zoning has suggested that perhaps they incorporate that (work) as part of their service and provide it to the city in a five-day work week,” Scott said.

Steve Hunter, former director of Warren County’s planning commission, is slated to take over as director of the local P&Z Commission in July. He is taking over for current Director Paula Bary, who is retiring after more than two decades with the commission.

Danville Mayor Mike Perros said later in Monday’s meeting that has had a phone conversation with Hunter, who told the mayor he “is going to work five days a week” and give each member of the city commission his cell phone.

“His message is loud and clear — if you have something you need to talk to him about, he doesn’t care what day, he doesn’t care what hour,” Perros said. “That’s the kind of pro-business things that I like to see.”

Elected officials in Danville and Boyle County have expressed a desire to see P&Z reinstitute a five-day work week, the same as the agency used to have prior to the 2008 recession. P&Z officials have said they don’t believe construction activity has rebounded to pre-recession levels and the fifth day is not necessary, but if the city and county will provide funding, they’ll do it anyway.

Danville has allocated $12,500 — half of the $25,000 it estimates it would cost to open P&Z on Fridays — in its budget, contingent upon the Boyle County Fiscal Court also providing an additional $12,500. The fiscal court has not included that new amount in its proposed budget.