In county government, the Planning and Building Department has the biggest impact on real estate. This is why I’m so pleased to introduce Brent Schultz, the new department director.
Brent has spent the last 33 years working in city and county government, so you’d think he and I wouldn’t have much in common since one of my favorite pastimes is recounting the failings of local government, but Brent’s can-do attitude is refreshing. Like his predecessor, Brent is an advocate for economic development while protecting natural resources and adhering to relevant regulatory requirements. I applaud the County for hiring him. He’s only been here since September, but he’s already making a welcome difference.
Brent came to Mendocino County because his son, a Ukiah Elementary School teacher, and daughter-in-law had a child and relocated here in 2015. There’s nothing as effective as a new grandchild for inspiring people to upend their lives and relocate. So, after visiting their granddaughter, Edie, several times, Brent and his wife of almost 36 years, Tracy, decided Ukiah seemed like a charming town and Brent applied to become the Mendocino County Director of Planning and Building Services. When he got the job last September, he and Tracy relocated from Southern California.
The Planning and Building Services Department is responsible for overseeing a wide array of issues pertaining to many types of real estate, including residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial. They work with the public to assure new and existing uses comply with building codes, the County General Plan, Zoning code and other related ordinances, or if appropriate, they help property owners apply for Coastal Development Permits, Rezoning and General Plan Amendments. They also manage the process for building, administrative, and use permits for projects big and small—from room additions to subdivisions, from installing a new electrical outlet to approving a General Plan amendment for hundreds of acres. They deal with environmental impact reports, certificates of occupancy, business licenses, HVAC installations, large greenhouses, and so much more.
While I’m not a big fan of regulation, I am glad that Brent and his team enforce codes that protect all of us, for example, making sure people don’t start pushing dirt around and damaging local streams. The Planning and Building Services Department also manages permit issuance for cannabis businesses and assists with the fire recovery building process. They’re a busy bunch over there.
The good news is this: Brent understands that for the County to provide services such as law enforcement, libraries, healthcare and social support programs, it must collect more than just property tax revenue. The County needs the tax revenue that prosperous local businesses can provide, so paving the way for those businesses to thrive just makes sense. He really likes it when he can help everyone win. He described a project in Southern California where he was able to help a developer purchase and renovate apartments while at the same time generating revenues that helped fund a new 300 unit downtown mixed use project. He’s not a fan of inclusionary zoning, but instead likes creative solutions so that all stakeholders around housing developments win.
Basically, when it comes right down to it, he just likes to solve problems to improve the community. To illustrate his method, he tells a story of how his dad, also a private pilot, would approach airports by looking for a safe place to land in an emergency. His dad would always emphasize the need to deal with the unexpected, always thinking ahead for solutions to problems before they occur. Brent tries to do the same in his work life. He does his best to anticipate problems so he can create smooth landings.
He supports simplifying ordinances so they are easier for everyone to understand and follow, and he encourages people to make an appointment to come and talk to him. He says, “I’m open to any ideas. I’ll make time to listen. If you want to make something happen, let’s talk.” You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 234-6650.
If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at email@example.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.