Officials anticipate big changes with new P&Z director

Local officials are anticipating substantial changes to how Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning operates with the arrival of its new director, Steve Hunter, on Aug. 1.

“I think Mr. Hunter is going to give us all a reason to look at things differently and there will be some heartburn along with that, but that’s good,” Danville Mayor Mike Perros said at a recent meeting of the Economic Development Partnership. “He comes from an area of proven performance. And I look forward to his energy and his perspective.”

EDP President and CEO Jody Lassiter described Hunter as a “breath of fresh air.” Perros called that description “an understatement.”

Perros said he believes Hunter “could be a valuable resource at just about every one of our (EDP) meetings.”

Lassiter agreed.

“He wants to attend and as you well know, P&Z has always been an advisory partner, but they haven’t always utilized the opportunity to come and joint us at meetings,” Lassiter said. “I think Stephen is going change that. (In a) conversation I had with him, I saw more progress than in years.”

At this week’s Boyle County Fiscal Court meeting, Magistrate Jack Hendricks was also optimistic about Hunter’s arrival.

“I feel like we’re going to have a positive change coming in,” Hendricks said. “I talked to our new director … for about 45 minutes and I think it’s going to be a ray of sunshine. And that’s going to help a lot.”

Hendricks said he thinks a current delay by the P&Z Board of Adjustments in approving a variance for a restaurant and oil-change business to be constructed near high-pressure, underground gas lines is an example of how current P&Z decisions can be harmful to business.

“I think we still need to review the (zoning) ordinance and the bylaws that we’ve got concerning Planning and Zoning and the Board of Adjustments,” Hendricks said. “… I still think we need to review those things and see what we can do to prevent the reputation we have gained in the last few years of being unfriendly to business.”

A recent business survey conducted by the EDP shows P&Z regulations may be of concern to local businesses. About 39 percent of the 84 businesses surveys said local Planning and Zoning either needs to improve in how it impacts their business or is a disadvantage to their business.

Hunter’s arrival brings with it plans to expand hours at the Planning and Zoning office as well. Hunter is expected to start working on Fridays, allowing the office to be open five days a week, beginning in October. And the expansion of P&Z services could grow beyond that, as well.

“If the new director sees the need to add staff on that Friday, we as a commission can certainly approve that,” P&Z Board Chairman Jerry Leber said earlier this month.

Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney has said Hunter has already been to Danville several times as he begins to learn the ropes.

When Hunter officially becomes director on Tuesday, he will be paid a salary equivalent to $26 per hour.

Hunter worked for the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County (Bowling Green) from the late 1990s until 2015, serving as director of that body beginning in 2007. Prior to that, he worked for the Barren River Area Development District for nine years.

In 2015, Warren said he had to step down from his full-time position with the planning commission because of needs of his family members in Lexington, Ohio and Tennessee that required his attention, he told The Advocate-Messenger in May.

He has been working part-time in the finance office of the Warren County Board of Education for about a year and a half, making regular trips to help his family members. And he’s been looking for opportunities to move where he would be closer to them, he said.

“I saw this job come open and I was like, ‘wow,’” he said. “First of all, Danville is a pretty cool town, and then it’s close to Lexington and I can get to Ohio a little quicker … it was like a perfect storm.”

Hunter said his family issues have now been “resolved, so full-time is back on my plate.”