Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has appointed a new director of Planning and Design Services, filling a long-vacant position in a department in need of a turnaround.
The last director resigned under former Mayor Jerry Abramson, who left the position open. The department was among the first to be looked at in Fischer’s review of city agencies, and the subsequent report uncovered what it called “systemic problems” and delays in zoning and development rulings.
Fischer has now appointed certified planner Phil Bills to lead the department.
“Well there are several things [in the review] that need to be addressed early on. I’m just going to have to sit down and look at them and figure out which one has the highest priority,” says Bills.
“His new job is to enforce good planning principles, not just to approve anything that comes before the commission,” says attorney Steve Porter, who helped conduct the review of Planning and Design Services. “You have to weigh it against the goals of the community and good design and good planning features, as far as transportation and design and everything else is concerned.”
I asked Porter if Phil Bills understands Porter’s concerns that the department needs to be more transparent and more focused on serving the public good.
“I think he should,” Porter said.
“Do you think the mayor understands that?” I asked Porter.
“Sometimes I wonder,” he replied, laughing. “From the speeches I hear him give, I’m not sure.”
Bills says he agrees with Porter’s assessment.
“You just need to get the best project before the community,” he says.
Bills will take office later this month. He is 66-years-old and says he plans to serve at least through Fischer’s first term in office.