Durham, NC, Reorganizes to Streamline Development Review

Durham, North Carolina, joins the ranks of local government agencies who have shifted to an integrated development services model focused on customer service.

May 11, 2017, 5:00 AM PDT

By Pete Sullivan


Durham, North Carolina

James Willamor / Flickr

The Durham City-County Development Services Center (DSC) opened on April 3, 2017, with a mission of streamlining Durham’s development review process and enhancing customer service. A joint initiative of the Planning, Inspections, and Public Works Department, the DSC is both a new physical space and reorganization of program activities and staff. The DSC is intended to be a “one-stop-shop,” providing 1) application intake for Planning, Inspections, and Public Works, 2) in-person customer service, and 3) quick turn-around for minor planning and building projects.

Collectively, Durham’s development review process includes over seventy different permit and/or review types, spanning more than 20 city and county Departments. The rate and complexity of development in Durham has increased over time, giving rise to the concept of a more integrated service delivery model, as seen in other cities like San Diego, California; Redmond, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.

The broader trend toward integrated development services counterbalances the intense specialization occurring in the development industry. Within local governments, multiple work units are frequently involved in the development review process, from planning and public works, to transportation and sustainability. While these work units often perform well in their respective areas of expertise, the typical customer desires a single point of contact, whether they are asking a general question or applying for a specific project. An integrated customer service model like Durham’s ensures that the focus remains on customer service delivery, and allows a single work unit to continually evaluate the development review processes and improve its predictability, timeliness, and quality. 

Creation of the DSC was led by Patrick O. Young, AICP, who was recently named director of the Durham City-County Planning Department. Mr. Young joined the department in 2008 as Assistant Director, and has helped advance the creation of affordable housing in Durham. He succeeds Steven L. Medlin, who retired after 30 years of service to the department.

DSC photo

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 in North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association

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