Service at the Heart of BPD’s Growth and Development
When she entered Ball State’s College of Architecture and Planning, Amy Schweitzer thought her future was in architecture. She quickly found out, though, that it wasn’t the field of study she wanted to pursue.
“Architecture seemed more about high-end design, and I was more interested in the practicality and functionality of design,” she explains. “I wanted to be involved in the type of design that incorporates the large scale physical, economic and social issues a community might face—solving problems and enhancing a community’s quality of life.”
That realization set her on a different path—one that today allows her to play an integral role in Auburn’s planning and design as the administrator for the Department of Building, Planning & Development (BPD).
It’s a role for which she is well-suited. With degrees in urban planning and development and economics as well as a certification by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), Schweitzer has spent the last couple of decades working in planning and zoning in the public and private sectors. When the BPD job in Auburn came open in 2016, she jumped at it.
“I have a passion for what I do and the opportunity to do it for the community I love, where my family lives and our kids go to school—it was the position I had my sights set on for years,” she shares.
Enthusiasm for her work continues today. It is further buoyed by a staff with the same passion—a staff that is also new in the past few years.
- Joleen Jones serves as the department’s Permits & Licensing Coordinator. She is the first point of contact in the office for professional builders, homeowners, electricians and plumbers. Her efforts in updating protocol and creating processes have increased the department’s efficiency.
- Building Inspector Mat Snyder has been in the role for the past year. He had big shoes to fill—the previous inspector served for 24 years. Mat hit the ground running and it’s paying off. “He brings lots of energy to the department and has become well-respected by the building community in a very short time,” Schweitzer says.
- Zoning Administrator Amber Bassett joined the department a little over two years ago. In a short time, she has become the leader in dealing with zoning issues and questions—one Schweitzer relies on daily. She has taken the lead on special projects such as the Cedar Creek Landing project and coordination with the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Alexis Busselberg, new to BPD this summer, is getting up to speed on the ins and outs of the department. She will eventually tag-team with Amber, focusing on zoning questions, permits and other special projects that arise.
Together, the five-member BPD team plays a significant role in Auburn’s development and growth. They guide projects from start to finish by administering the local plan review process, issuing permits, conducting inspections and serving as staff for both the Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.
And no day is quite like another.
“I love the diversity of each day,” Schweitzer says. “One day we’re knee-deep in a large project like the Sixth and Main Revitalization, and another we’re reviewing ordinances about raising pigeons in a backyard. But every day, we’re always learning and that makes it interesting.”
Interesting and busy. In fact, in 2017 and 2018, the team has:
- Issued around 2,500 permits
- Conducted 1,825 scheduled building inspections and countless site visits
- Oversaw the review and Plan Commission approval of 15 development plans for non-residential projects; 5 commercial subdivisions creating 10 new lots; and 6 new residential subdivisions creating 100 new building lots
- Created a new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to replace the city’s 1988 Zoning and Subdivision Control Ordinance
- Completed the Sixth and Main Street Revitalization Project
- Facilitated the update of the Downtown Revitalization Plan and the City’s Trails and Sidewalks Plan
While Schweitzer is proud of her team’s accomplishments, she’s most proud of how they’ve delivered them—with a service-oriented attitude.
“We are here to serve the community,” she says. “We work hard to help people achieve their goals, and when they can’t do what they want to do, we try to offer alternatives. We believe it is our job to help people navigate the building and planning process, whether it is for a simple fence or a complex 130-unit senior living facility.”
Her team carries the same attitude, particularly as they serve as Auburn’s central contact for the whole development process. BPD coordinates the review of projects by city (and sometimes DeKalb County) departments to ensure continuity and collaboration. And they hope that coordination and collaboration will help them achieve their future goals, including facilitating improvements to the State Road 8 corridor, engaging the community in the development of a new comprehensive plan, and continuing to enhance customer service through more online functionality.
“Service is at the heart of what we do every day,” Schweitzer says. “We are excited to continue the momentum of the past couple years. There’s a lot of great opportunities before us to help shape the built environment in Auburn.”