By Guy Nahmiach
City planning is crucial in the growth process for every city. I sat down recently at Bardo with Lauren Mikulak, Planning Manager for the City of Wheat Ridge.
Who is Lauren Mikulak?
I am a mom of two kids, wife to a middle school principal and a public servant for the City of Wheat Ridge. We love the outdoors and brew our own beer. Originally from Michigan but moved through eight cities before landing in beautiful Colorado.
How did you become a planner?
It’s definitely a career path. I studied architecture in college and went to work for Habitat for Humanity. With my time spent helping during Katrina in New Orleans, I got a taste for how many small projects contribute toward an overall environment. I decided to pursue my masters in Urban Planning and applied for a junior position in Wheat Ridge... that was eight years ago. I am now the Planning Department Manager.
What exactly do planners do?
We approve business licenses. Matching locations, zoning and what the license is intended for. In short, we answer three basic questions: What can I do? How can I do? And where can I do?
What are some hard decisions you’ve made lately?
Giving bad news is always tough. I am the bad cop sometimes and have to deliver or enforce existing laws. That’s never fun.
How do communities benefit from your work?
We help communities by coordinating growth. We are involved in every project and assist in converting a vision into a regulation framework. Meaning that an idea is brought from concept into an environment where everyone can benefit from. We also protect neighbors from one another. One person building structures too tall or close to their neighbors. Protecting one’s property rights without infringing on their neighbors’ rights.
What’s the fun side of your job?
Seeing a project break ground. This means that a homeowner/developer/investor has brought forward a concept and we worked with them using existing guidelines right through all the steps and helped them achieve their goals.
What frustrates you as a City of Wheat Ridge planner?
Social media. Misinformation. Stories based on hearsay and not facts.
I just wish we had more questions from the public so that we could inform people of the correct way of approaching projects.
If you could advise homeowners about projects overall, what would that be?
Do your homework. Advice is free. We have a Planner of the Day (POD) program where we answer questions (phone or in person) about the process, the details and best practices. If more people utilized this service ahead of building, the overall experience would be smoother. The planning department can be reached at 303-234-5931.
What’s next for Lauren Mikulak?
I love my job and while I thought about joining private enterprises, I know that I will remain in the public sector. It’s an exciting time to be in Wheat Ridge.
Thanks for your time.
Lauren Mikulak can be reached at the City of Wheat Ridge at 303-235-2845.