The Maryville Downtown Design Review Board may be looking at some operational changes in the near future after officials proposed numerous amendments to how and why it makes monthly decisions.
The Monday DDRB meeting saw members approve a facade paint job, a mural design and an exterior sculpture in the city’s center. But at least one of those design requests is minor enough that similar future requests may be able to skip the current, formal process.
City planners have proposed a number of changes to the way the DDRB makes its decisions with a focus on fostering a quicker and smoother approval process.
“They originated within planning with the recognition that we’re trying to make things better,” City Planner Jordan Clark said in an interview after Monday’s meeting. “We want to make our processes more efficient and customer-friendly as much as is reasonable.”
Clark said as planning staff and board members alike have worked through the ordinances guiding those processes, over time they’ve recognized “failings” within their power to fix.
These were presented to council members at their Aug. 23 workshop and included ways to speed up the request approval process.
For instance, the Planning Department proposed decisions about minor repairs, replacements and small-scale improvements that already comply with ordinances in the downtown zone and don’t need board approval.
Clark confirmed an approval like the first one made during Monday’s meeting — facade painting for the building at 501 N. Cusick Street, set to become a pizza buffet — could have been approved quickly by staff under proposed process changes.
“Sometimes right now, people may come in with an application and have to wait a month for something simple that is going to get approved,” Clark said.
A total of seven items could avoid DDRB review, notes on the proposed changes show.
But where one proposed change may make approvals faster, another change gives the board more power.
The second alteration is set to give the board the ability to approve “departures from the strict criteria of the ordinance when certain conditions are met and the proposal is equal to or better than the written standard,” notes on the proposal show.
“What this does is allow for the board to use some discretion,” Clark said. “If somebody has an alternative proposal that may not necessarily meet the letter of the ordinance, but still is a good design choice, it gives them the ability to approve that.”
Such a change could allow board members to shrug off the limitations of current standards and approach downtown alterations or additions with a more open perspective.
Finally, planning officials also proposed to do away with signage requirements in the office transition, Heritage development, and Washington Street zones.
Currently, those areas require signs to be made of a specific set of materials including wood, brick, stone and/or etched glass.
The change proposes these requirements have been too limiting for those posting the signs in front of their businesses and that other types of materials can be just as high-quality.
Whether or not each of these changes and a few others like them will go into effect remains to be seen.
Clark said the DDRB will have to meet in a workshop before the proposals are sent to the City Council.
The changes are timely as the city is expecting several upcoming development projects that range from a butterfly pocket park to a village-style installation that will include drastic changes to the downtown Greenway area.