by Brett Walker, AICP, Cheyenne, Wyoming
The development of new codes is always challenging to local communities, and the development of the Unified Development Code (UDC) in Cheyenne, Wyoming was no exception. Project manager Brandon Cammarata, AICP, was charged with building crucial buy-in while a committee worked diligently through 250 pages of code, word by word, over a period of ten months and 20 meetings.
The efforts were successful and the UDC was adopted in 2012. Cammarata received special recognition for his work with UDC project, receiving both the Planner of the Year award from The Western Planner and the Wyoming Planning Association (WYOPASS) in 2012.
Interested in how cities work
Born in Denver, Colo., Cammarata made his way to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he received a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration. After five years as a tax examiner for the Colorado Department of Revenue, he decided to reboot his career and enrolled at the University of Colorado at Denver to pursue a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning. In 2003, he took a position as the annexation planner with the City of Cheyenne and has been with the city for nearly ten years in several positions.
Cheyenne Mayor Rick Kaysen has often found Cammarata hard at work on Saturdays and Sundays. “To me, that speaks volumes. Not just about his responsibility to thoroughly review a project as someone in the public’s trust, but also about his dedication to provide the applicant a constructive review with prompt service and, if need be, directions as to how to come into conformance with the development codes.”
Unified Development Code (UDC)
To date, Cammarata career is perhaps best exemplified by his active role as the UDC project manager, a charge he received as a senior planner with the newly minted Urban Planning Office in 2007.
Working with the consulting firm Gould-Evans, the city set the UDC mission to “clarify, streamline, and improve” the development process. The project required the review and analysis of development regulations contained in three separate documents, with some elements over 40-years-old. While everybody seemed to be in agreement that the old codes needed to change, several fronts arose among the various stakeholders early on in the process.
Cammarata assuaged several groups initially but some in the building and development paradigm remained skeptical. Even during the tough times, Cammarata kept them at the bargaining table, making sure that all lines of communication were kept open. After two years of review, the Planning Commission decided that the process might best be served by having some “fresh eyes” take a look at the UDC, and both the administration and staff agreed.
In the fall of 2010, Mayor Kaysen assembled the Critical Path Committee– a group of seven highly esteemed, highly credible representatives from the building and development community. Cammarata was charged with leading these public meetings as the committee worked diligently through the code with the goal of presenting to City Council an Adoption Draft of the UDC. They succeeded.
On January 23, 2012, in an unanimous vote, the City Council adopted the new development regulations with an effective date of April 30, 2012. At that meeting, each member of the Critical Path Committee, some of whom were initially opposed to the project, espoused the qualities of the UDC and the cooperative attitude that Cammarata had fostered to make all sides compromise to create a development code that was uniquely Cheyenne.
While communication with the Critical Path Committee was paramount, Cammarata also made every effort to provide accurate and timely communication with all the city departments and franchises, and most importantly the public at large. By assuring that all the stakeholders involved received pertinent information and had clearly identifiable paths in which to make their questions, comments, and recommendations known, the UDC is that much more complete and credible.
Of the experience, Cammarata explained, “In terms of managing a project with such a high degree of public input and review, I understand just how crucial buy-in is from stakeholders, and I gained an appreciation of the substantial work special committees like the Critical Path Committee put into the effort when the process is accountable.”
Dedicated to planning
Having managed the UDC project from RFP to adoption, Cammarata was given the responsibility to oversee both the Urban Planning Department and Development Services, with a staff of around eight, to ensure a smooth transition.
He helps staff planners understand contextual issues and assure that interpretation of code, where needed, will be applied consistently and fairly. While there are certainly some new requirements with respect to subdivision design and architectural features, Cammarata points out “that a lot of rules and regulations in the UDC are the same as those that were in the previous codes. The recodification taking place with the UDC will provide for a predictable enforcement of codes that existed prior to the UDC, and a code structure that is easier to work with and change moving forward.”
Cammarata pointed out that the new regulations in the UDC will really make improvements in the quality of life in Cheyenne. Cammarata explained further, “In the short run, the parking credits have been, and will continue to be, key tools for the development of infill projects. In the long run, having a predictable framework for the design of open space and street networks will have a big impact for the average citizen.”
Cammarata believes that transparency is a requirement in today’s world. “In the context of planning and development, we spend so much time communicating with the public, trying to maintain a high level of professionalism and trying to develop consensus at various levels that transparency is largely built into our office already,” he said.
Public records are, of course, public. In the past, getting information often meant having to come down to City Hall, fill out a form, get charged for any research required, and perhaps have to wait for a couple of days to get copies of the documents.
Under Cammarata’s guidance, staff continues to work on a more user-friendly website and utilize the full range of tools that CivicPlus provides for the city in order to get the information out there. A new interactive development map provides a geographic reference point for people to learn about what’s going on in the city. Both the website and map direct people to the new cloud-based project tracking software called Innoprise, where one can view all of the documents that make up a particular case file including maps, exhibits, staff reports, and studies.
After ten years with the city and the success of coordinating a 21st century development code, Cammarata remains very bullish on the future. “Cheyenne has tremendous assets and the city will have opportunities knocking in the near future. Decisions made today will dictate how much or how little Cheyenne capitalizes on those sets.”
Brett Walker, AICP, is the Senior Planner with the City of Cheyenne’s Building and Development Office.
Published in the July/August 2013 Issue