TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Monday created a committee aimed at making Tampa more competitive by recommending ways to reorganize City Hall and streamline city rules and permitting.
"This is all in preparation for a unified economic development effort in the city of Tampa," Buckhorn said.
It also represents a Promise Kept on the Buck-O-Meter, PolitiFact Florida's effort to keep track of Buckhorn's performance on nearly three dozen campaign promises.
The 18-member committee includes developers, real estate executives, architects, lawyers, engineers, a member of the Tampa City Council and the past president of a citywide neighborhood group.
Buckhorn said he expects the committee to meet at least monthly over the next six months and focus on three areas.
"One, it is to make our processes user-friendly," he said.
"Secondarily, it is to get rid of antiquated and outdated codes and regulations," he said. "And thirdly, to look at our organizational chart and help us figure out how we can streamline our processes and make sure that everyone who touches the economic development process is all singing off the same song sheet."
During the campaign, Buckhorn often spoke of wanting to "change Tampa's economic DNA." On Monday, a member of the new committee says he hopes the group will lead to a more coordinated development effort and a helpful, proactive attitude at City Hall.
"I think it's a huge deal," said Mark House, managing director of the Beck Group. "The world has changed significantly in the last five years, and all of the people who are on the committee have had firsthand experience here in Tampa and in some cases around the country on how to streamline the process and what are impediments to development."
Buckhorn plans to use the committee's recommendations to help him reorganize City Hall's regulatory functions. Once that work is done, he plans to create a new position — deputy mayor for economic opportunity — to lead all city efforts related to development, permitting and business.
"I can't tell the world that we are open for business until I clean up my own house," he said.
Among other things, Buckhorn said the city needs to make sure its development and building codes are tailored to the realities of what it takes to build or redevelop an urban site.
"We need to stop applying suburban development codes on urban in-fill projects," Buckhorn said. "What works at a mall in Brandon will not work at an inner-city redevelopment project."
That likely will mean looking at the city's rules on storm water retention, parking, tree and landscape requirements and fire marshal's rules for historic buildings, he said.
During the campaign for mayor, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik proposed eliminating on-site requirements for parking, storm water retention and green space on selected older urban commercial corridors.
Instead, Turanchik said the city should invest in creating common parking areas, storm water facilities and small "pocket parks." Small business owners could then directly lease those from the city for less than what they would pay to comply with existing city rules.
Asked if he would look at Turanchik's proposal as a model, Buckhorn said, "potentially, yeah."
"I'm open to anything," he said. "I want to look at best practices all over the country."
And to do that, Buckhorn has named the committee he said he would create. We rate this a Promise Kept.