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Urban Planning & Land Use Permitting in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Bureau of Development Services - DSCOn Tuesday, March 4th, 2008 Tom Gihring, an international planning consultant, presented to over 75 BDS staff on his work with the Governance Accountability Project (GAP) in introducing zoning to municipalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Mr. Gihring used BDS as an example when introducing and helping to establish planning and permitting programs in Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Visit to BDS
Before leaving to work in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2005, Mr. Gihring visited BDS and spoke with staff in order to gather information on our permitting and plan review process, including how we provide assistance to customers, review plans and issue permits. He also took photos of the DSC and staff in action. Armed with this information he left to work in Southeastern Europe.


Bosnia - City of SarajevoWork in Bosnia-Herzegovina
In his work with GAP, Mr. Gihring and his colleagues were able to introduce zoning as a practice to four municipalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mostar, Tuzla, Sarajevo and Banja-Luka. He shared photos of these four cities during his presentation, including shots of beautiful historic buildings and not so attractive newer structures.


Bosnia-HerzegovinaMr. Gihring explained that in Bosnia-Herzegovina the government planning staff are responsible for creating a regulatory plan for the city.  The regulatory plan is, in essence, the design of the city, including the location of all buildings and the landscaping.  Mr. Gihring explained that in a socialist system there is no distinction between public and private, developers are viewed as instruments to carry out the public will. There, it is revolutionary to see public and private as separate and responding to a land use market is a brand new idea.  He noted that the existing practice of a regulatory plan provides a single solution, while the introduction of zoning provides multiple options for development.


BDS Abroad
Mr. Gihring was able to use the information and photos he had gather from his visit to BDS when helping to implement a new way of responding to development Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was interesting to see photos of Mr. Gihring and his colleagues looking at maps, discussing zoning methodologies and making decisions that will help to shape future development.  It was also exciting to see pictures of new permit centers that are modeled on our very own DSC. When Mr. Gihring shared that the phrase "one stop shop" is known in this area of the world staff in the audience laughed. 


Successes in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia-Herzegovina 2Successes of the GAP program in Bosnia-Herzegovina has included a new urban permit center in Sarajevo, complete with hand outs for the public, on-site staff available for consultation, and a website. Banya Lucas has also established a new permit center, has a new GIS system, land use maps, and zoning districts.  It is rewarding to think that the work we do here has helped in this project in Bosnia-Herzegovina in some way. The GAP project ended in July 2007 and US AID and international donors, including Sweden, want to continue this work and provide other municipalities an opportunity to be involved.  Phase 2 of this project will go in to effect soon.


Mr. Gihring, who's career has included service as a Peace Corps & Peace Corps-Crisis Corps volunteer, as well as work teaching land use planning in a university in Africa and at Portland State University, is not certain what his next project will be. He did share that his work in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been very rewarding.  After the presentation, a number of BDS staff expressed appreciation that Mr. Gihring took the time to share this experience with us and to offer us a glimpse of the value planning and permitting plays in the world. 


Sally Peters,

Bureau of Development Services

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