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What does a Community Development Director do?

By Ken Black
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A community development director is generally responsible for overseeing the planning and zoning activities of a community, usually a city. The job typically entails deciding how best to zone various areas of the city, making recommendations to a zoning board regarding requests for changes and oversight to make sure businesses and residences are in compliance. If they aren't in compliance, the community development director may be responsible for levying fines or referring the case to law enforcement, who may then handle enforcement issues.

A community development director often spends a great deal of time determining what makes the most sense for a particular space in the city. Without proper zoning laws and administration, the city could become an unorganized collection of residences, businesses, and manufacturers that interfere with each other. Planning different functions for different areas helps to keep the city appealing, and adds to the quality of life residents experience.

Generally, there are several major designations a community development director considers when zoning areas. Designations often take the name of the primary use, such as residential, industrial, or commercial. Of these major designations, the community development director may also offer subdivisions, such as light industrial or heavy industrial, or single-family residential or high-density residential, just to name a few. In some cases, the designations may be changed depending on the needs of the city.

If a property owner wants to use a property for something other than what it is zoned for, a community development director may study the issue. If the use would cause minimal impact to the owners, then the director may recommend a variance, which would only apply to that one particular property for that particular case. A variance may be open ended, without an expiration date, or it may need renewal from time to time.

When the property owner does not have a variance, and is using the property for an unauthorized use, the community development director may be responsible for enforcement issues. Often, the enforcement action is spurred by a complaint from another resident, but could also be discovered by the director or another city employee. Typically, the community development director will send a letter to the owner explaining the violation, and give the owner time to correct the problem. If that does not happen, fines or other enforcement actions are possible.

The director is also usually responsible for acting as a liaison between the zoning board and the city. Often, the director presents the issue to the board and provides a list of possible solutions. One of these may be accepted by the board, or the board may come up with its own solution, or ask the director to provide more information. These meetings may take place one or more times each month, usually.

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