By Joel Hall
In anticipation of a possible wave of new business opportunity upon the completion of the Riverdale Promenade, the Riverdale City Council voted this week to create the position of a city planning and zoning director.
According to city officials, the new director will work full time to create an economic development plan and help recruit new businesses to the city.
According to Riverdale City Manager Iris Jessie, the City Council voted 3-1 on Monday -- with Councilman Wayne Hall opposed -- to approve the new position. She said the city will advertise the position later this week and that the starting annual salary will be $55,000.
Jessie said the new planning and zoning director will assume some duties from Doug Manning, assistant city manager and director of the community development and general services department. She said the planning and zoning director will work specifically to analyze the city's current businesses, review market studies, and aggressively go after businesses that fit into the city's development goals.
"We are swamped in terms of our ability to gear up for the businesses we believe will come at the completion of the town center [Riverdale Promenade]," Jessie said. "Prior to this position, we had a planner, but I need a director-level position to really hone in on all of the plans we have to do. We need to update our comprehensive plan, our redevelopment plan, and we also want to create an economic development plan. We really need to take a deliberate look at how we are developing our tax base."
According to Jessie, the new planning and zoning director will work closely with the city's Planning and Zoning Board, which reviews development plans and zoning petitions. She said the director will also work closely with the Riverdale Downtown Development Authority to assist in recruiting businesses that will do well in the city, and to assist existing business owners in expanding their businesses.
"We are a very compact city, so how will our size complement the kind of economic development we want to see?" said Jessie. "I need somebody who is responsible just for the planning piece."
Other projects Jessie said she would like the planning and zoning director to work on include creating an online Geographical Information System (GIS) displaying the city's land lots and their assigned usage. She said the director will also be able to help the city take better advantage of business opportunities stemming from the city's proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
"We haven't really used that [proximity to the airport] to our advantage because we haven't had a dedicated effort to that," Jessie said. "We are close enough [to the airport], but we don't have the air traffic that other cities might have. We believe there are more opportunities for import and export. We're hoping that people can use our town center ... fly in and have a meeting. I don't think we've even scratched the surface of the kind of opportunities the airport will allow us to have."
Manning said he supports the new position and believes it will help spur more business development.
"I think it will be an enhancement to the other things that we need to do," Manning said. "I think the road is wide open. A more detailed look [for the city] can be offered now."
"We want to make it easier for people to do business in Riverdale," Jessie said. "It's [the new planning and zoning director] going to help us have a better planned city as opposed to just letting things happen. It will allow us to develop blueprints for many, many years to come."