Old homes, new businesses made director's job 'fun'
John Kuss will return to city part time after month on beach
As he was wrapping up his tenure as Grandview Heights' director of building and zoning last month, John Kuss reflected on the past 12 years.
They've been busy ones, he said.
"There have been projects all over town," Kuss said. "Pick any street. For a town our size, we've had a lot of activity."
The year he arrived in Grandview, the city issued 295 permits for residential or commercial/retail construction activity, Kuss said. More than 500 permits were issued in four of the five years from 2007-11.
Kuss retired Dec. 31. B.J. Artrup, an architect who has been serving as president of the city's board of zoning appeals, will succeed him.
Most of the permits issued during the last decade have been for additions and improvements to residences, Kuss said.
"We have a lot of houses built in the 1920s and '30s, and they didn't build family rooms in those days," he said. "So, many of our homeowners have built additions on the back of their homes or the master bedroom suite."
Commercial permits have increased in the past few years as the Grandview Yard project and redevelopment of a number of other sites have taken place, Kuss said.
"It's been fun working on the Grandview Yard project," he said. "These large projects are a lot better managed and you have a much higher quality of contractors involved than you get with some of the smaller projects."
Kuss said his mission as building and zoning director has been to provide "customer service" to contractors and developers and assist them in making sure they meet the city's standards and are able to get their projects completed as quickly as possible.
His perspective was influenced by his experience in "my first career," working in the private sector, he said.
Kuss co-owned a business for many years, and after his partner bought him out -- "he wanted to build houses and I wanted to do commercial work" -- he began a long stint as construction manager for The Limited.
"One of the things I think I've brought to the table in my job with the city is that I have a sensitivity to what contractors are going through," he said. "I've been in their position."
He added he now better understands the positions taken by the public officials he dealt with in his earlier job.
When he arrived in Grandview, "this department was one person: me," Kuss said. "I'm proud that we've been able to build a department here."
The addition of department secretary Gayna Gilbert and residential building inspector/code enforcement officer Ron Ayers has been critical, he said.
"They've done just a great job," Kuss said. "I couldn't do it all myself and do it justice."
Now, with Artrup coming in, "I feel like I'm leaving the department in good hands," he said.
Working with a consultant, the city was able to craft a set of design standards that were added to the building code to serve as guidelines, Kuss said.
"I feel like I've been able to serve the community and that the property values in our city are higher, in part because of what we've done here," he said. "Not only the obvious things like the building projects in the community, but also the maintenance function and code enforcement work.
"I've really enjoyed working with the people here," Kuss said. "I don't really look on this as having been a 'job,' because it's so much fun."
His initial plans are to spend February relaxing in Palm Coast, Fla.
While Kuss is retiring from full-time duty, he will return in the spring to work as needed for the city on a part-time basis.
"I'll be helping with whatever they need me to do," he said. "It will be interesting. Like anything else, when there's change, you adjust to it."