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Thread: Planning commission advice

  1. #1
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Planning commission advice

    Well it seems no one like what the Z Man is doing in this fair city. Today, after 5 months into my first planning job, I have had two NIMBYers call me and very angrily told me they wanted to appeal two different projects of mine. Both seem to have reasons with merit, but after being yelled at over the phone, (one woman threatened to sue the city, and then ME) and never having bpresented to Planning Commission, it looks like Z's first time will be for two appeals. (Planners who have worked here for 10-15 years shivered when I told them) Any advise on PC, Appeals, or just angry customers? My fellow planners will help me out, but I wanted to see what Cyburbia thought.

    Thanks
    Z
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  2. #2
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    1) Start the document trail now. Note who called you and what they said.
    2) look at the document trail up until the decision was made, try to find notes and meetings.
    3) Once someone becomes abusive and threatens law suits, tell them to speak to your lawyer, as you are unable/unwilling to deal with threats.
    4) Have fun, if I could do appeals everyday I would, think of it as a test of your judgement and professionalism, being able to be righteously indignant when you win is a good feeling.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  3. #3
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Welcome to the world of current planning, son. Did they tell you their basis for the appeal? Did you make written findings in the affirmative for consistency with your Comp Plan and implementing ordinances for approval of the project? Thicken your skin. I agree with donk, if they threaten litigation, politely stop talking, explain why, and tell them that's why your city has lawyers. Respond in writing to every issue they raise in their appeal letters. As for the public hearing before the PC, stick to your guns if you're right (but don't let if get to you when the PC overturns your decisions). Relax at the public hearings, know your stuff, speak slowly and confidently, be able to answer all the PCs questions, but don't talk too much, and then sit back and enjoy. Then go out and have a

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I have not done what you are facing but it sounds like you are already dreading it. I find that going into something filled with negative expectations often becomes "self fulfilling prophesy". I suggest you try to prepare in a practical way but also prepare emotionally/psychologically and calm yourself. Facing conflict is generally Not Fun but it doesn't have to be horrible either. How horrible it ends up being is partly a matter of attitude.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Always be polite, listen and understand both sides, and then provide your best analysis and recommendation. Accept that some people will disagree and don't let it get to you. Do defend yourself if they stoop to personal attacks. Call them on it and ask that they keep their comments on a professional level. At the end of the day, our job is simply to advise as best as we are able. Do that and don't get upset if the Plan Commission or City Council decides differently.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Don't worry too much about appeals. Planning is a process of law and also of precedent. Follow the law. Be consistent following the decisions of the Commission and Council. When you write your report on the appeal, outline the law and precedent and that you (lowly and humble staff) are reflecting the laws and policies of the city. It's not about you, it's about implementing adopted law and policy.

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    When they threatened to sue, I used to either hand them the card for the City Attorney, or give them his number if over the phone. I would tell them that was their right. When they would see that it didn't bother me in the least, they would generally calm down and work with me. As for appeals, you will always have them, and you win some and lose some. Like the others said, it's your job to provide information and recomendations and that's it.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  8. #8
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Yeah, when she threatened to sue, that's when i told her of our appeal process and she calmed down right away.
    I slept on the issue and now I'm kind of excited. After doing numerous small projects with little or no effect on their neighbors, this is something different for me and something new to learn to boot.
    I think I would agree with the people and their arguments. I wouldn't want 4 duplexes being put in next door with the driveway bordering my yard, but I also cannot let my personal convictions stand in the way of job: upholding the Code, no matter what nonsense our Code sometimes allows.

    Thanks, Guys
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  9. #9
         
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    I agree with the responses given previously so I have no new advice for you. However, appeals are common. In fact earlier this year I had an awful stretch of 4 out of 5 projects that were appealed. Great experience along with cold adult beverages afterward eased the stress.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    I think I would agree with the people and their arguments. I wouldn't want 4 duplexes being put in next door with the driveway bordering my yard, but I also cannot let my personal convictions stand in the way of job: upholding the Code, no matter what nonsense our Code sometimes allows.
    Sounds like you've got the right attitude. My area is small enough that I get the "pleasure" of seeing the same people at little league games who fret during public meetings about how horrible I am. It's part of the job - if I start getting too emotional about an application it is time to back off and make sure my recommendations are objective instead of emotion-driven. As long as I can back up my reasonings with facts, while the angry citizens are just citing NIMBY arguments, I have no problems. The politicians are the ones with the really fun jobs - they have to balance future votes with the best thing for the community, and are the ones in the real cross-hairs on lawsuits/appeals. Hang in there - they may not realize it, but you're the one in the white hat!

  11. #11
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Is this.....

    Is this an appeal of an administrative decision? If so, it wouldn't/shouldn't be your decision....right....rather it would be the director's decision.....in which case, you should never worry about this type of appeal....happens often when your code isn't complete...

    If this is some other appeal process, you still shouldn't worry about it.....If I had a penny for every threat of a lawsuit....I'd be able to buy a nice car.....(only half kidding here)....

    Tell them to get in line if they want to sue you....(don't really say this, but sounds good and makes you feel tough to other planners ....)

    The biggest problem you point out is the apparent lack of departmental support. This is one of my biggest gripes with current planning!!!!!

    1. It is never "your case" it is the whole department's case whether they like it or not and all of the people working with you should recognize this! You may be the manager of the case or coordinator or whatever....but when it comes down to it....a decent department will be supportive of each other....

    2. The director should play a major role in defending against appeals or defending a departmental regulation on any issue. If you can't defend a regulation, then your department has not done a good job keeping the code up to date and you should loose the appeal. I've seen this happen in places where the Planning Board wanted to send a message to the planning department to get their code in order (even though the elected officials weren't allowing it to happen....) Obviously the department can't force a code change through elected officials...
    Skilled Adoxographer

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    I agree with what has been said about how to work the case. Depending on how the original case faired, it is always a good idea to give a report that is very fair and balanced for both sides of the case so that if it goes any further than the PC's appeal process, it will have been well documented.

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