After scoring low marks in a recent community survey, Oak Park’s Building and Property Standards Department is looking to respond.

The department – tasked with functions such as inspecting properties and giving building permits – scored second lowest in a 2008 phone survey of village residents. And Steve Witt, head of building and property standards, said the department is holding a series of roundtable discussions with stakeholders in the community to improve its efficiency and its public perception.

“The permit process is not as smooth as it could be, and we acknowledge that,” Witt said. “We’re just trying to pay some attention.”

The department will meet with several different groups – such as homeowners, small businesses, architects and engineers – to hear their thoughts on how the department could run more smoothly.

The first meeting was March 25, when building and property standards met with a “broad-brush” of people from different groups in the community. Witt could not say yet what changes would come out of the meeting, but the department is putting together an action plan to bring to the village board in the future.

Local architect John Schiess was one person who attended the focus group. He and a group of five others formed a group called the New Bedford Falls Collaborative back in December as a way to help address some issues they were having with a proposed 18-unit condo building at 6603-6609 North Ave.

Schiess felt the meeting was helpful and is looking forward to future talks with building and property standards.

“Nowhere did he disagree that things need to change,” Schiess said of Witt. “If he agrees and we agree, then it’s just a matter of how we get there.”

-Marty Stempniak

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