04/15/14 — Ex-Raleigh planner talks development

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Ex-Raleigh planner talks development

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on April 15, 2014 1:46 PM

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Former Raleigh Chief Planning and Development Officer Mitchell Silver, right, speaks with Goldsboro City Manager Scott Stevens before a public presentation at City Hall Monday about the importance of leveraging land in the best way to maximize economic development and tax revenues.

A former Raleigh city planner spoke at a public presentation at Goldsboro City Hall on Monday about the importance of leveraging land to maximize economic development and tax revenues.

City officials, including City Councilman Michael Headen, attended the presentation in addition to members of the public.

Mitchell Silver, who will be starting his new job as the commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation in New York City later this month, worked with the city of Raleigh for the last nine years.

In that time he drove progress on the city's comprehensive plan update and began work re-writing the city's development codes to be more friendly to the way the economy is shifting.

"I'm here to make the economic case for planning," Silver said. "It's deal-making versus place-making. When economic development makes a deal it needs to match into the plan."

Silver said that by including planning and economic development together into one package, it allows the two to work better together for a common goal of making the economy and tax base grow.

"We using planning as a strategy," he said. "Make a conscious effort to use planning to strengthen the economy."

Silver said that Goldsboro could benefit from using the same strategies as Raleigh to build up its downtown and increase its tax base.

"A lot of these strategies could benefit Goldsboro like it did Raleigh," Silver said.

One area he said the city should focus in developing a rail system between Raleigh and Goldsboro.

"People can live there and work here or live here and work there," Silver said.

Silver said bringing Union Station back was the most important part of that goal.

"It opens up the potential of connection," Silver said. "You could work here or there and take the train home."

In addition to creating a rail line between Goldsboro and Raleigh, Silver said the developing the city's downtown is important, too.

Silver said that the highest value per acre tax value comes from multi-story buildings with mixed residential and business uses such as those downtown.

Silver said in Raleigh the city eliminated commercial use as a zoning code and trimmed down to residential, mixed use and special districts.

"We got rid of commercial and it's working wonderfully," Silver said.

Silver said it takes 600 homes built on 150 acres to equal the tax revenue of the Wells Fargo Business Center in downtown Raleigh. The center sits on 1.2 acres of land.

"People always ask us why we are spending so much money downtown and this is it," Silver said.

Silver said that urban mixed use areas keep the tax base low as well as catering to the way younger generations want to live.

"In all the time I have been here, our taxes haven't gone up unless we pass a bond," Silver said. "And the people have to vote that in."

Silver said that planning has given the city of Raleigh an edge over the last decade that has led to growth in many portions of the city.

He said to create effective planning in a municipality, different departments need to know what the other is doing, Silver said.

"When you have the silo approach where everyone sends information up to the top, you don't have communication there," Silver said. "A fragmented government gets fragmented results."

Silver said it is better to take the approach where the departments form a circle of information being spread across from department to department and to the central leadership.

Silver talked about the importance of diversifying a town's economy so as not to be a one-industry town. He also said that government needs to look at land as valuable the same way companies do.

"We in government often don't look at how valuable land is and we need to," Silver said. "Just like corporations do, we should do that."

He said that municipalities need to think of themselves regionally to thrive in a global economy.

"It's not just one town," Silver said. "It is a mega-region of business."

Silver spoke about the importance of planning representing the interests of all age groups and targeting certain age groups in ways they prefer to receive information.

"The older generations still love public meetings but the younger generations want social media," he said. "They couldn't care less about a public meeting."

Silver said that the city of Raleigh put forth a social media campaign to gather information when planning.