Raleigh’s city manager announced Wednesday that the city’s Department of Planning and Development will be divided into two separate departments “to better meet an increased demand for planning and development services.”

Beginning July 1 next year, the Planning Department will be split into a City Planning Department, which will focus on long-range planning and growth for the city, including for neighborhoods, and a Development Services Department, which will focus on development issues specifically. The change came about with input from city employees and local developers.

“We believe this change will allow our Planning and Development staff members to better serve our city,” said city manager Ruffin Hall.

Ken Bowers, who has been serving as Raleigh’s interim director of Planning and Development since former director Mitch Silver took a job in his hometown of Brooklyn last May, has been named as the new director of the City Planning Department.

The City Planning Department will be reorganized to include long-range planning, zoning administration, communications, the Urban Design Center and transportation planning. Raleigh’s Real Estate Office will be moved from the Budget and Management Services Department to the new planning department, starting in July also.

“I am excited to focus my energy and attention on the strategic policies and actions necessary to keep Raleigh on a path toward greater prosperity, sustainability and equity,” Bowers said. “We have an impressive team assembled in City Planning and we are looking forward to working with the citizens of Raleigh on the next round of planning and implementation.”

A search for a director of the new Development Services Department will begin by March, and the City hopes to fill the position by the summer. The department will provide services in four areas, including customer service/intake, development plan review, building inspections and information management.

“Improving development services has been a goal for the City of Raleigh and elevating these services and resources to a department level ensures customers will now have a team organized to meet their unique and increasing service needs,” Hall said.

Many Raleigh residents have been openly critical of the Planning Department recently, especially in regards to controversial rezoning cases and developments like the seven-story student-housing tower currently under construction on Hillsborough Street.

At least one citizens’ advocacy group, Grow Raleigh Great, has spoken against the Planning Department under Ken Bowers’ direction. A September post on the group’s website criticizes the department for ignoring the City’s vision, laid out in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, of small walkable neighborhoods in favor of strip malls and supercenter stores.

“We have found that the current Planning Department under acting Director Ken Bowers is uncooperative and unwilling to work towards consensus with Raleigh’s citizens,” the web post states.