Cozart Wants Zoning Office to Focus on Customer Service, Transparency
New zoning administrator will lead team of 23 county employees.
Norma Cozart, who was formally named Arlington County zoning administrator this week, hopes to make life easier for people who have to interact with her office.
Cozart has been with the county for 23 years, including 14 years in the zoning office. She has been acting administrator since August, when the former zoning chief, Melinda Artman, resigned to attend Virginia Theological Seminary.
"In all that time, I've tried to build a staff that delivers excellent customer service," Cozart said. "I'm looking to continue that, looking at streamlining the process for permitting, and developing a one-stop place for information for the permitting process -- so when a person comes in for a permit they find out everything they need to know in terms of ancillary uses."
For example: When someone requests a certificate of occupancy to open a restaurant, the zoning office should inform them about the processes they'd have to go through for things like outdoor seating, live entertainment or to have certain types of signs.
The county has begun the long process of digitizing its zoning records, Cozart said. Efforts also are under way to make the office's website more customer-friendly.
The county, too, is in the process of overhauling its zoning regulations. The first part -- a section of the sign ordinance dealing with A-frame signs and umbrellas -- is done. The rest of the sign ordinance should be finished around the end of summer. Then, a larger reorganization of the mammoth zoning ordinance can begin. Once that's reorganized, the county can begin the process of evaluating its content -- and strike "archaic" language that regulates things like horse-drawn carriages, Cozart said.
Artman, Cozart's predecessor, developed a reputation for her by-the-books interpretation of zoning regulations -- an approach that caused heartburn with some local developers.
"I start out looking at the ordinance as law," Cozart said. "But then you also have to look at interpretations from similar situations in the past. You look at determinations that have been made. You look at whether you can get to 'yes.' And if you can't quite get to 'yes,' you look with your customer, or the developer, to get to options."