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The Planning Department’s Policies and Procedures Regarding the COVID-19 Coronavirus

The Planning Department will continue to serve the public to the best of our ability, while also taking precautions outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Much of the Planning Department’s work takes place in neighborhoods and public meeting spaces, which presents unique challenges to the continuance of regular business. Given that our highest priority is to protect the health and safety of our community, the Planning Department is evaluating all public meetings scheduled over the next 8 weeks to decide which, if any, are critical to hold. Adaptations, postponements, and cancellations will be posted on our website and social media, while we make efforts to communicate directly with all stakeholders.

Public Meetings

The Planning Department will implement the following steps, which will be frequently evaluated as guidance from the CDC evolves.

Planning Commission Meetings

The regularly scheduled April 9 Planning Commission meeting will be virtually held. The Commission will focus the meeting on cases published on the consent agenda. The Department also anticipates presenting several zoning cases that must meet procedural deadlines for Commission review. Staff plans to recommend that all other cases with public comments be deferred.

We welcome public input on the Draft Agenda and Meeting Documents. Planning staff have put together a guide for the public to send Virtual Public Comment.

For future meetings, we are working with Metro Information Technology Services (ITS) to identify a range of opportunities for our community to provide feedback to the Commission. While we urge the public to send comments in writing, we continue to explore other opportunities for residents to participate in and shape planning decisions while simultaneously adhering to recommendations from the CDC, and other federal, state, and local agencies for COVID-19 prevention. As we finalize those strategies, we will notice Councilmembers and residents.

Metro Council

The Planning Department is working closely with the Metro Council Office on all matters related to upcoming Council public hearings of zoning items. These offices will coordinate to assure that public hearings and other meetings are conducted as soon as business can safely resume.

Other Public Meetings

Staff is postponing all Department public meetings and charettes until after the May 14 Planning Commission meeting, in line with the CDC’s 8-week guidance. Community meetings for plan amendments will not be scheduled until after the May 14 Planning Commission meeting. Plan amendment public hearings and community meetings will be scheduled with applicants following the resumption of public meetings. Any rescheduled meetings will be re-noticed per Metro Planning Rules and Procedures.

Applicant led community meetings should not occur, until May 14 given the guidance of the CDC. In general, decisions impacting neighborhoods will be deferred until neighborhoods are able to safely meet, consistent with CDC guidelines, to provide feedback and input.

CDC Guidelines (as of March 16, 2020)

In communities with minimal or moderate spread: from March 16 through March 31, all gatherings of 10+ people should be cancelled or held virtually. All events through the week of May 10 of 50+ should be cancelled, postponed or adapted.

Planning Department Procedures

The Planning Department will update our procedures and precautions regularly to align with the recommendations of public health officials. We will take the following actions to both prevent the spread of COVID-19 and maintain as much continuity to operations as possible:

Remote Work Stations

All Planning staff that are able to work from home are being asked to do so. When necessary, a minimal crew will work during business hours, but engagement with the public will be done by appointment.

Bonds

In order to provide consistent service and security for important financial documents, all submittals related to BONDS will be by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, please contact Bond Officer Michelle Hollingsworth. Michelle will be monitoring emails daily and will be in touch to set up an appointment.

Do not send by mail or drop off any bond related documents without first coordinating with Michelle.

Front Counter

Pursuant to recommendations from federal, state and local health agencies, effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the Metro Planning Department Development Services Center Front Counter will only be available in person to our customers through scheduled appointments. Phone and email consultations are strongly encouraged. To schedule an appointment, email the Planning Department Front Counter. A staff person will be in contact with you as quickly as possible. Every effort will be made to assist you over the phone or email if possible to minimize the need for face-to-face interactions.

Pre-application meetings

Near term pre-application meetings will be shifted to phone conferences or rescheduled as necessary. If you want to set up a pre-application conference, please email Shawn Shepard. Shawn will be monitoring emails daily and will be in touch to set up a phone call. If you have the standard pre-application form, please continue to include it in your email to Shawn and include any necessary attachments.

Submittal of Revisions for Cases Currently Under Review

If you currently have a case under review and you are ready to submit revisions, please reach out directly to the case reviewer for your project by email to arrange a time to drop off revisions. Please note: we will be coordinating with other review agencies to pick up revisions on a limited basis and will send comments as soon as adjusted schedules allow.

Other Submittals

For new submittals, mylar submittals, building permit review, or any other actions requiring payment of a fee, please email the Planning Department Front Counter. A staff person will be in contact to set up an in person meeting.

Administrative Reviews

Staff will continue to accept new submittals for administrative review. To avoid long lines associated with a set submittal deadline, we will only accept new administrative applications on an appointment basis. To schedule an appointment please email the Planning Department Front Counter. A staff person will be in contact with you as quickly as possible.

Staff will review the application to ensure that it is eligible for administrative review and that all necessary items are included before accepting payment or the application. Incomplete applications or applications requiring a public hearing will not be accepted. Administrative cases currently under review will continue to be processed to the best of our ability. Assigned review planners will coordinate with applicants.

Staff will continue to consult with applicants for design reviews, but using electronic methods and by conference call.

Procedures are Subject to Change

The guidelines above are subject to change based on new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Metro Nashville Public Health Department, and the Office of the Mayor. Additionally, staff is reviewing additional opportunities to conduct business and public meetings remotely through technology. If workable solutions are found, this guidance may be revised. Staff will make every effort to notify the public and all interested stakeholders.