With a host of construction projects underway — and more to come — the City of Lynnwood recently announced the creation of a new department aimed at improving the efficiency of development in the city.
Lynnwood’s new Department of Development and Business Services (DBS) combined city services previously provided by community development, economic development, the fire marshal’s office, and public works development services. Creation of the new department was three years in the making and in response to complaints from developers about the city’s permitting process.
“We started benchmarking (customer complaints) a number of years ago and the (positive) numbers were not very high,” said DBS Director David Kleitsch. “That prompted a need to look at how we did business.”
For years, Lynnwood has been positioning itself as the next big area for regional growth, and developers have been flocking to the city to stake their claim before the arrival of Sound Transit’s light rail expansion project in 2024.
At its Dec. 14 business meeting, the Lynnwood City Council adopted an ordinance approving the creation of the new department and appointing Kleitsch as its first director. According to Mayor Nicola Smith, Kleitsch was instrumental in creating the city’s new department.
“His leadership has been demonstrated to the public and to council throughout this process,” she said.
When Lynnwood’s designated regional growth center — including the City Center district — began to take shape in 2017, Mayor Smith directed the city to conduct an efficiency study that assessed how staff conducted business. Two years later, the city hired the Sammamish-based consulting firm Strategica to conduct the study.
“We’ve done efficiency studies on every department — the courts, the police, the fire and administrative services,” Kleitsch said. “(The studies) are a matter of basically improving process improvements citywide.”
During the study, Kleitsch said consultants conducted a thorough review of Lynnwood’s processes for permitting, planning review and other related functions to see how efficient they were, identifying areas that need improvement. They also interviewed city staff, some customers and looked at customer satisfaction data. After the review, consultants helped develop a strategic plan and a mission statement for the future department.
“They helped structure how the department would look, who should go where, figured out staffing and (other) needed resources,” Kleitsch said.
While several industries were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, construction of major projects continued in Lynnwood, including the Kinect @ Lynnwood housing development on Alderwood Mall Boulevard and the mixed-use development Avalon Alderwood at Alderwood Mall.
DBS is funded by the collective resources of the former departments and was included in the city’s 2021-22 biennium budget. Strategica also recommended the department hire nine more staff members, most of which would be needed for planning review. Due to the city’s pandemic-related cost-cutting measures, Kleitsch said the city will wait before filling all of the positions. Instead, he said they will hire the staff in phases on an as-needed basis.
“If we don’t need them, we won’t fill them, but the way our workload is going I don’t see that we don’t need them,” he said.
Recently, Mayor Smith projected that major construction would be underway across the city until 2024. To learn more about current and future major projects in Lynnwood, visit the city’s website. To learn more about DBS, visit the department website.
–By Cody Sexton