SANFORD — The city was designated as a “business friendly” community by Gov. Paul LePage back in 2012 ”“ one of the first municipalities in the state to earn the designation.

The city council earlier this week took steps to make sure Sanford continues to live up to that moniker, authorizing a realignment of planning, codes, engineering and the municipal fire marshal’s offices for specific functions they believe will help make doing business in Sanford less cumbersome, particularly for small businesses.

City Manager Steve Buck said in a council memo that he’d been told that a recently developed, expedited business application process for site plans and construction permits isn’t working for small business owners and start-ups ”“ though it works for larger business applicants who have professional staff to complete the necessary steps. So Buck, Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council Director Jim Nimon and Mayor Tom Cote undertook a review of the current system, and came up with four scenarios.

The one they recommend ”“ and that was acted on by the city council Tuesday ”“ replaces the current planning director position with a director of planning and development. The position includes all duties in the current planning director job description, and more, including the authority to direct staff for the review and implementation of land use applications and permits. Buck estimated the position will cost the city an additional $6,000.

Also considered were having the city manager direct the departments in that capacity, but that was discarded because of the manager’s workload. The three-person review team also considered creating an assistant city manager position to provide oversight over the existing planning, codes, engineering and the fire marshal’s offices, and provide assistance to the city manager. That plan, estimated to cost $100,000, was seen as not economically viable, Buck said.

Councilors voted to approve the realignment plan Tuesday, with no discussion. Cote, the mayor, said it had been discussed extensively in council subcommittees. The six councilors present cast unanimous affirmative votes. Councilor Alan Walsh was absent.

Following the meeting, Cote said the position will be advertised.

“It’s an important step forward to a business-friendly approach,” he said of the realignment.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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