David DeYoung is the planning director for the Town of Clayton. He and his team work to predict the areas of growth in Clayton and plan the infrastructure to support it.
Q: What exactly does a planning director do?
Well, we direct growth for the Town of Clayton. We have several divisions. We are responsible for downtown development, code enforcement, GIS which stands for Geographic Information Systems and Planning. The downtown development coordinator, Bruce Naegelen is responsible for all the development in the downtown area. We have Dede Bumgarner who is responsible for zoning code enforcement. If someone isn’t following code procedures, like putting up a sign illegally, she handles that. Beth Franson is the GIS Analyst. All the mapping for the town comes through us. And for planning, we review all development that comes in through the town. Any new construction other than the individual single family home comes through us. But, even those we do zoning compliance on.
Q: So you have a huge job.
We do a lot of stuff. A part of the review process is landscaping review, architectural review. We make sure sites have adequate parking, lighting.
Q: What do you study in school to become a planning director?
I started out as an architecture major, but then switched out to study urban and regional planning. I graduated from State University of Buffalo with a degree in Geography with a specialization in urban and regional analysis.
Q: So after graduating from SUNY Buffalo what did you do?
After I graduated I worked for the Town of Amherst which is a suburb of Buffalo. I worked in community development and did community development block grant work. Then I moved to Florida and took a private sector job with a consulting firm.
Q: What did you do there?
Pretty much the opposite of what I do here. I took plans through the approval process. So companies like Walgreens, CVS and PepBoys would hire us to process their applications. It’s called “entitlement planning”. You’re basically getting their approvals so they can go build. I worked there for about eight years and then I left and went to work for the Palm Beach County School District.
Q: That sounds like a big change.
I did intergovernmental coordination and school planning. School districts are governmental agencies just like towns and cities and so sometimes school boards and town governments don’t get along. It was my job to keep things civil and make sure that communication lines remained open. I made sure everyone understood exactly what we were doing in site modernization, expansion, improvements. You had to be opened minded and take criticism from local governmental positions.
Q: So what brought you to North Carolina?
My wife and I were looking for a change. The economy in Florida had been on a decline. But the true reason to relocate was that our oldest son, Paul, who is 10 and had leukemia when he was five had relapsed. We went to Boston Children’s Hospital for a bone marrow transplant. His little brother, Ethan, was his donor. When we went back to Florida I knew we wanted to be closer to a premiere medical facility in case any medical issues came back up. It was a toss up. We were looking at Boston and at Duke, the Triangle area. I saw the job and applied and was fortunate enough to get this job.
Q: How is your son now?
He’s good. He’s 10 and he’s doing fine, really good. My younger son is doing good too. He’s eight.
Q: Do you live in Clayton?
Actually we live in Apex, which, if you were a planner and you were going to map it out you would see we’re almost equidistant between Duke and Clayton.
Q: What kind of challenges have you faced as the planning director for Clayton?
We’ve done a lot. We’ve improved the zoning process and zoning code. We recently did some restaffing. I think it’s a challenge every day to make Clayton a place where businesses want to locate and keep Clayton looking pretty.
Downtown, we have done a lot with the facade grant program. Bruce does a really good job with that.
Communication is a big part of the job. We communicate with the businesses. We don’t just go out to the businesses and cite them for doing something wrong. We try to talk with them and explain the rules and give them an opportunity to come into compliance.
A good example is the lot that used to be behind Bojangles. They used to allow semis to park back there. The owners of Bojangles felt they needed to have that lot for truck traffic, but we were having a lot of different problems with leaving trucks, spilling oil, trash and such. It’s not beautiful, but it’s definitely improved.
Q: What areas do you feel are really growing locally?
We’re doing infrastructure analysis in the area of N.C. 42 and U.S. 70 Bypass and 70. It will help us understand and plan for the future growth we expect to see in those two areas. We can either just let it sit there forever and hope that stuff happens, or we can plan for the infrastructure to be put in place, foreseeing growth and helping guide it.
The N.C. 42 Bypass into town is the hottest corridor right now. The reason being is that the hospital is expanding so you think of the things that need to be in place to support a 50-bed hospital. You need housing for staff, you need supportive retail. Not too far behind would be a hotel or extended stay hotel for people coming to see people in the hospital.
There is an assisted living facility there. There are talks for a nursing home nearby. There is a Sheetz proposed at the corner of Amelia Church and 42. There is a 216-unit apartment directly behind that. Then you need all this other public supportive stuff to make that work. That is the area under the most growth pressure right now.