City of Portage Community Spotlight: Planning and Community Development Department

City of Portage Community Spotlight: Planning and Community Development Department

Each Sunday we will feature a project going on within the city, happenings within a department or someone who works hard to provide services to the community. Today we talk to members of the city's Planning and Community Development Department and their role in keeping the city operating.

It's not an exaggeration to say members of the city's Planning and Community Development Department have their fingerprints on nearly everything that goes on within the city.

If a resident wants to build a shed in their yard, the department is one of his first contacts.

If a developer is eyeing a piece of land for a residential, commercial or industrial project, the second-floor office in city hall is one of their first stops.

The department is the go-to resource for a variety of the city's decision-making boards, including the plan commission, board of zoning appeals, redevelopment commission, traffic commission and others.

The department is also responsible for everything from making sure a project meets zoning compliance to applying for grants for state and federal projects to shepherding long-range plans to determine the city's vision to determining what streets within the city need to be paved, designing infrastructure projects, locating streetlights and guiding ADA compliance.

City pedestrian pathway/trail/sidewalk projects also fall under their wings.

They also often work with neighboring communities as well as federal and state partners to benefit the city.

The list of what the five-member department can go on and on, said Director A.J. Monroe, who has worked for the city nearly 20 years.

Monroe said only about 20 percent of what goes on within the department is what most people think of as "planning."

Kurt Knutsen, development review planner, is the go-to person for those tasks, working closely with property owners and potential developers to determine if a project is a good fit for the city and whether or not it meets city codes. He works closely with the plan commission and BZA as potential projects make their way through the city process.

Sandy Kolb, employee in responsible charge/project manager, spends much of her time working on federally-funded projects within the city such as the recently completed Willowcreek Road/ Central Avenue/Evergreen Road project and the Central Avenue East projects. Kolb also keeps track of road conditions and is responsible for the annual paving rating system of city streets, which determines what roads are prioritized for paving and which can be included in the state Community Crossings matching grant program. Kolb is also responsible for internal review of development projects, ADA compliance, Title VI compliance and grant procurement.

Sonya Lindgren, administrative assistant to community development, is the lead representative with the traffic commission as well as in the process of maintaining street lights and working with those seeking home occupation or right-of-way permits.

Joe Ebert is the geographic information system and landscaping design lead for the department. His work includes mapping infrastructure for the city as well as the city's storm water and sanitary sewer departments.