Evan Maxim, a senior planner, quit to go to work for the City of Mercer Island. He follows recent resignations of Mona Davis and Laura Philpot in the last year, all senior staffers in planning or public works. Davis went to work for Renton. Philpot now works at Maple Valley.
Maxim is a long-time employee, having work through the Town Center Plan (approved in 2009), the Comprehensive Plan and a variety of other issues. He was lead in reviewing most development projects.
The loss of senior, tenured talent is hurting operations, say people who deal with these departments. The new employees, or those with limited experience, are sources of complaints with development applicants, whether large or small projects are involved, these people say.
These people, none of whom want to be identified, complain that the lean staff is overworked and becoming increasingly inexperienced as senior people leave.
Overworked staff is causing long permit processing time, especially for small developers of what is called “short plats.” These are often developments for four homes, plus-or-minus.
It’s also causing mistakes in interpreting codes, say these small developers. Appeals of large developments have increased in recent years due to decisions by the staff. Hearing Examiner John Gault has upheld some appeals, occasionally chastising staff actions in his findings.
Short-staffed, poor work
The complaints about over-worked staff and poor work are not new. In 2009, when this writer was on the Planning Commission, it occasionally complained about sub-par work quality due to an overworked, under-staffed staff. The Commission even sent a message to the City Council, on a 7-0 vote, that in part identified this issue and urged the hiring of more staff.
The City Council and then-City Manager rejected this recommendation in the name of maintaining a lean staff-to-population ratio, which was the lowest of Eastside cities at the time.