Prairie Planner Spotlight - Meet Kim Lee, AICP - Planning Manager for the City of Bismarck, ND

Reprinted courtesy of the North Dakota Planning Association

The North Dakota Planning Association (NDPA) newsletter introduces a new feature, Prairie Planner Spotlight, which highlights a North Dakota planner. The 2018 Winter/Spring edition’s featured planner is Kim Lee, AICP. Kim is the Planning Manager for the city of Bismarck with over 30 years of experience. She recently did a Q&A with NPDA newsletter editors.

 Kim Lee, AICP

Kim Lee, AICP

Why did you decide to become a city planner?

As I was completing the last quarter of my undergraduate degree in anthropology at NDSU, I took an introduction to planning class with little knowledge of what planning actually was.  After the first few classes, I was hooked and started working on my application for NDSU’s Master of Community and Regional Planning program.

What are your areas of expertise?

Primarily current planning, including zoning administration and application of subdivision regulations, and planning management.  Although I enjoy long range planning, I would not consider myself an expert in that area. 

What aspects of planning do you enjoy the most?

Having the ability to influence and shape the built environment, primarily through long range but also through day-to-day current planning decisions and recommendations.

Describe a recent project you’ve contributed to that you are proud of. Why is it important? Highlight methods that made the project a success.

As Planning Manager, I am involved in a variety of projects that are important to our community.  Some of our recent projects include implementation of a land records management system (TRAKiT) that streamlines the review and approval process for planning applications; adoption of an updated Growth Management Plan that provides guidance as the community grows outward; adoption of an Infill and Redevelopment Plan that provides tools for increased density within the development areas of the community; and continued improvements to our development review and approval processes.  The collaborative approach of our Planning staff and our commitment to public involvement have contributed to the success of all of these projects.

Is there a specific policy or zoning issue that made headlines in your City in the last year? What was the policy outcome?

The City of Bismarck is changing its position on funding infrastructure in advance of development.  We recently adopted a new phasing plan, which is part of the City’s Growth Management Plan, that identifies priority areas and future areas as one tool to implement this new policy.  Although the City’s new approach is more sustainable in the long term, the development community has grown accustomed to the status quo and is resistant to this change.

What is one planning challenge you foresee for your community over the next 10 years? How is the community preparing?

I think Bismarck’s biggest challenge over the next 10 years is balancing growth with management of our footprint.  It is much more cost effective to serve more dwelling units with less infrastructure, but there is still a significant demand for single-family homes on large lots in our community. Changing perspectives on what is sustainable in the long term and what is not will continue to be a challenge. 

What do you like about the way your community was historically planned? What don’t you like?

In my opinion, Bismarck is a very well-planned community.  I especially like the areas in the older parts of town with wider boulevards, a significant tree canopy, sidewalks and mix of residential housing types. The neighborhoods with only one housing type (usually single-family) and limited pedestrian connections to the rest of the community are less appealing to me.    

Do you have a favorite book about planning?

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs.


Published in the July 2018 issue of The Western Planner courtesy of the North Dakota Planning Association.

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