Bill Bell, director of development services in Orem, retired Thursday after 36 years of civic service, 25 of those years in Orem.
Bell started his employment at Orem in July 1994 when he was hired as a building inspector, then plans examiner, then the chief building official and finally, the development services director in 2013.
Prior to coming to Orem, Bell worked for the United States Bureau of Reclamation as an inspector on the Jordanelle Dam; for Tooele city as a code enforcement officer, then building official.
“My most fun was as director,” Bell said. He added that working with the public was educational and he learned that Orem was lacking in future planning.
“Bill has been a visionary leader in his tenure as director of development services,” said Jamie Davidson, city manager. “He has been the catalyst behind the city’s efforts to prepare for the future and to imagine what Orem can be going forward. His efforts will serve the citizens of Orem well for years to come. I wholeheartedly thank him for his dedication and service to the city of Orem.”
When Davidson asked Bell what he needed as he began serving as director, Bell said he told him a long-term planner. Davidson got it for him.
“Before the recession we were a processing office,” Bell said. “There was not a lot of planning for the future. That was my top priority.”
Developers used to come into the city with their plans and development services would just push the paperwork through the Planning Commission and the City Council, according to Bell. There was no looking to the future of Orem. Bell changed that as director.
Bell said that by planning for the future through projects like the State Street Master Plan, Orem residents are benefiting. The State Street Master Plan has been in the design stages for the past four years and was approved by the city council in fall 2018.
As director, Bell was also over the city’s involvement with the building and redesign of the University Place development, the Palos Verdes student housing development and the future plans for Geneva Road.
According to the planning web site, “in 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency selected Orem as a Brownfield Area-Wide Plan (AWP) grant recipient. The AWP program assists communities in responding to local brownfields challenges, particularly where multiple brownfield sites are in close proximity, connected by infrastructure, and limit the economic, environmental and social prosperity of their surroundings, areas such as the Geneva Road corridor.”
It continues, “The Imagine Orem: Geneva Road plan focuses on developing a strategy for addressing brownfields in the Geneva Road corridor. This historic industrial area continues to be an important source of employment and tax revenue for the City. However, it also contains many vacant and blighted brownfield sites, owing to commercial and industrial uses historically located in the community.”
Brownfields, like those found along Geneva Road, are areas that have been cleaned from hazardous waste.
“We protected the neighborhoods by limiting high density housing to specific areas,” Bell said. “That passed a few months ago. With Geneva Road we feel the same way.”
There will be no lapse between Bell leaving and the new director coming on. Ryan Clark, Orem’s economic development director will be taking Bell’s place as the new director of Development Services.
As economic development director, Clark has worked to bring groups like Trader Joe’s, Tucanos and other businesses to Orem. Clark is also spearheading the committee for Orem’s 100th birthday celebrations. As director of development services, Clark will continue with the long-term city planner, but will oversee city planners who work with developers in making sure buildings, homes, developments and business align with codes and regulations and the city’s plans as they look forward.
Clark has worked for Orem for about 21 years, 14 of those as a staff engineer in development services. He has engineer land surveyor and professional land surveyor licenses in Utah. He has been economic development director for the past six years. He graduated with an MPA from Indiana State University.
“Ryan is a sharp individual and was taken from development services to be economic development director,” Bell said. “He cares about Orem. It will be good to have him back in the department.”
While Davidson gives kudos to Bell, he is also excited to work with Clark in his new capacity at the city.
“I very much look forward to working with Ryan and our development services team as he assumes leadership of the department,” Davidson said. “Ryan has a great background in engineering, planning and economic development. His experience will prove vital as the city continues in the implementation of its State Street Master Plan, as well as other initiatives within the department and the city as a whole.”
While he may be retiring, Bell says he will have many things to keep him busy. Bell is a landscape photographer and said he will be spending more time with that hobby. He is also a silversmith and goldsmith and designs jewelry.
After completing a few honey-dos, Bell said he and his wife are going to take to the road. Both he and his wife enjoy riding motorcycles.
“I am planning on wearing out a few motorcycles,” Bell said.