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Thread: Request for funny planning related story

  1. #1
    Cyburbian pandersen's avatar
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    Sep 1998
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    "Off Kilter"
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    Request for funny planning related story

    Hey There Fellow Planners:

    Its late on Friday afternoon and I'm looking for a bit of a laugh. Yes, that's right - in this profession, you have to laugh every once and a while or face the possibility of going stark raving mad.

    Lets here from everyone out there in cyberspace. What, professionally speaking has made you laugh out loud! sneaky developers, uneducated planning board members, crazy planning proposals etc.

  2. #2
    OK, I get a call from a woman who has just recieved a notice letter. An application to modify conditional restrictions on a parcel about 400 feet away from her home, actually minor things, details about a wall that was to be built.

    She asked, "will it raise my taxes?" - no
    "will it decrease my property value?" - no
    "will they be selling that demon liquor?" - no
    "well, I guess that will be ok then" - she then invited me to join her pentacostal church. Which met in a storefront, in the shopping center, which had requested the action.

    I almost forgot to mention, the wall had to be raised because of the storefront church. Just one of lifes little circles.
    In my life, I have met men both good, and evil. I defend my self against them all...

  3. #3
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The weekly calls I got about folks wanting to set up machine shops as home occupations in a certain Colorado county don't compare to this.

    When I worked in "Lost Causes," in the beautiful Land of Entrapment, I got a phone call one day while I was working on the front counter. The man on the other end, speaking broken English, wanted to know how he could build a cockfighting arena on his lot. His property, despite being located in a dusty colonia, was zoned R-1, so of course a cockfighting arena was out of the question. Not only is cockfighting illegal in the city, but such a use wouldn't be permitted unde the city's home occupation regulations for a host of reasons. He said "I'll keep it quiet," "it will only be once a week" and "we won't bother many people," but still, rules are rules. Dejected, the man thanked me, and hung up.

    A few days later, the phone rang again, like it did 30 or 40 times in the day of an Acting Zoning Administrator (had the dutues of the job, but the pay of a Planner I). It was the same man who asked about the cokfighting arena. "I know cockfighting not allowed, but I have a friend that raises Pit Bulls and Chows tambien. Is it okay to have, what you say, dogfight?"

  4. #4
    When I was a planner in New Orleans in the 1970's the Mafia controlled everything. Once a zoning change proposal came through to put a supposedly Mafia-owned project in a single family neighborhood. My report to the Planning Director
    recommended against it. He told me it would probably be approved anyway. "Politics." Anyway, the proposal made it through the Planning Commission to the City Council, much to my dismay. It went up for ordinance, through two readings. Then it was suddenly dropped. I was curious and got in touch with the attorney for the owners. Seems like a Mafia boss's mother lived in the neighborhood and called her son and said, "no soap."

  5. #5
    Hopefully some reasonable people might enjoy my comments (if they can get past the postings that remind me of an episode of Law & Order where a murder charge defendant was a mentally ill ex-planner who was acting as his own attorney). (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

    I have just got to share my pet planning peeve and that is the practice of incomparable comparisons. A local service district wanted a lighted sign not permitted by ordinance and as part of their arguement in the Board of Adjustment meeting suggested that lighting the flag of the U.S.A. through the night was equal to their "need" to light their sign. I said in the meeting "you had BETTER light your flag." The district did not get the lighting.

    Also, a man who was operating a tow-truck business from his home (which would have been fine if he were keeping his tow-truck off-site as required by ordinance restricting commercial vehicles using subdivision streets). This man compared his bringing his tow truck into his subdivision (everyday, coming and going at all hours)to a fire engine truck coming into subdivisions. I would have said, again, that fire engines had BETTER be able to come into subdivisions (and besides is not commercial, nor do we expect fire engines on a particular street day after day). The gentleman agreed to store his truck off-site rather than lose his home occupation.

    Finally, I've heard many residents complain about incoming subdivision off the end of their stub street and all the traffic it would bring. These complaining folks seemed to suggest that their kids could be killed by people on their way to their new homes, as if all new neighbors would be childless, godless heathen that would step on the gas until they got to their new driveways.

    Now, before you get all New Urbanist on me, the city I worked for was figured to be 97% built out and was land-locked by surrounding jurisdictions (read sub-urban/urban)so where did these folks think that stub road was going?

    Turns out, the loudest, most emotional detractor was operating an illegal home occupation child day care that cared for more than half again as many kids as would be allowed by ordinance. She was actually creating more traffic than the particular phase of the subdivision she was objecting.

    Sorry to drone on folks. I quit my job with this city in preparation for a move to another state and I guess I miss writting staff reports!!!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 1998
    Location
    Greensburg, Kansas
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    2,956
    Uprite,
    You were fortunate with the tow truck business. In my previous city, the board of appeals in a similar setting determined that the truck was a personal passenger vehicle because the kids went to school in it.

  7. #7
    I had a guy come in to see about a proposed shopping center. I was showing him the plans and he was acting very knowledgable and pointing out the various features on the site plan as if he knew what he was talking about. Then he noticed the "underground detention" and actually said, totally serious, "oh yeah, that's where they keep the prisoners underground".

  8. #8
    A prospective buyer of a subdivision lot came in to look at the plat and wanted to know why the next door parcel was smaller than the others. I explained to her that it was a stub-out, and that it would provide access to the undeveloped land behind the lot she was interested in when it was subdivided one day. I further explained that one day, she might be living on a corner lot. The next day, the developer came into my office and threatened to sue me for "telling that woman the truth."

  9. #9
    I once had a person call me on the phone and say, I'd like the 1990 census, and could you fax it to me please?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Sep 1999
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    400 miles from Orlando
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    13,760
    It was a packed public hearing for an office project that would swallow a couple of residential lots and encroach deeply into a single-family neighborhood. The applicant's engineer inserted foot into mouth when he described the existing neighborhood as "a bunch of crackerbox houses". After much very angry booing from the public and stern looks from the P&Z, the application was withdrawn and the P&Z took a short recess, during which time most of the booing public headed outside. I was headed down the hallway when I heard a "pssst,psst...". I turned around and found the applicant's engineer peering thru a barely-open men's restroom door. He whispered "Is it safe to come out?" The public hung around outside for so long he spent half an hour hiding in the bathroom. He never lived that one down.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    Jul 2002
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    Akron
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    2,255
    We had a lady in a nearby township make the front page of the local rag (photo & all) because a cellular tower was constructed near her property line and within view of her house. Sad case. All she could say was how towers should not be permitted near residences etc. Anyway, it played out that her house was a non-conforming residence on commercial land that she had rezoned several years before.

  12. #12
    anonymous
    Guest
    staff: This is a 25-acre parcel. The application is to break off 10 acres for a new lot.

    city council member: Will the remaining parcel meet the 10-acre minimum size?

    (This appeared in the meeting minutes.)

  13. #13
    Favorite quotes from ‘planners' I have met:

    Planning Director: "We don't use planning theory here, it doesn't work."
    Transportation Planner: "Transportation has nothing to do with land use."
    Long Range Planner: "The Comprehensive Plan is just a bunch of policy statements, you don't have to follow them or anything."
    Zoning Administrator to Subdivision Coordinator:
    ZA: "Can you tell me the problems you see with the addressing policy?"
    SC: "Yeah, it's stupid."
    ZA: "What exactly is stupid about it?"
    SC: "The whole thing. It's stupid."
    ZA:"Can you be more specific?"
    SC: (in a huff), "Here, page 12 is stupid, can't you tell?"

    And all these people work (or have worked) for the same city. Can anyone guess which planning department I'm referring to? Dan?

  14. #14
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I'm visiting there right now, as I type this. KRWG is playing on the stereo in the background.

  15. #15
    Dan,

    What are you doing there? Interviewing?

  16. #16
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Oh God, no. Just visiting friends.

    I do miss the place, though, despite all of the faults.

  17. #17
    Good grief, Dan--if you were visiting here I would have loved to have met you! I must find out if all the stories I hear are TRUE! Look me up next time.

  18. #18
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    What, the stories you've heard about me, or bd?

  19. #19
    I worked for a rural Washington County that had a clearly unqualified planning director (he was not a planner at all, but a long time public works employee). After three years on the job, he decided to begin learning some planning concepts. One day, he decided to wow staff with his planning knowledge by suggesting "vertical zoning" for a quarry. As he explained it, the bottom of the pit, where the mining was done, would be zoned "heavy industrial," but the surface area, where the material was prepared for market, would be zoned "commercial." Hmmm.....I guess the core of the earth would be zoned open space??

  20. #20
         
    Registered
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    Maryland
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    This is more of a code enforcement story but it is still funny.

    An elderly lady called the office and complained, "my neighbors are putting up a big wooden fence around their back yard and I can't tell whats going on over there!"
    Two weeks later she insisted that I come to her house to see for myself what her neighbors are doing. In a whispering voice she said they are doing "private, married, bedroom stuff" in the back yard. I told her I couldn't see anything, to which she snapped, "well if you stand on that mound of dirt in the corner and lean way to the left you can sure see them!"

    I followed her instructions only to discover that her neighbors were sunbathing in the nude! I told her they look like a nice couple and that she should get acquainted with them. Maybe she did, I haven't received any more complaints from her.

  21. #21
    As Planning Director for a small New England town, I received a phone call from a homeowner who had come home from work and discovered that the next door neighbors had planted a row of small trees along their common property line. Although the caller refused to indentify herself, she wanted to know if this was permitted. I said "no problem" as long as the trees remained on the adjoining property and did not tresspass. The caller, however, still seemed frusrated, so I asked what the "real" issue was. She said the neighbors were black, and that this was the problem, not the trees. Not quite knowing how to respond, I suggested that she invite the neighbors over for coffee and get to know one another. With that, she slammed the phone so hard that it hurt my ear. To this day, I have no idea who the caller was.

  22. #22
    A couple of weeks ago we had our regular weekly planning board meeting in our very suburban, almost entirely built out town and the item on the agenda was a 90 lot single family residential subdivision that had been in the works for years and years and was up against major neighbor opposition. After three hours of listening to dire predictions of children being hit by auto traffic in the road (our town doesn't require sidewalks) and forecasts of water pressure diving so low it will take 30 minutes to pull a glass of tap water, the impending horrors of overcrowded schools, reckless drivers, etc,etc,etc.

    Finally, one woman, an adjacent property owner, stands up and asks the developer of the project: "Now, all I want to know is what is the price range of these new houses?"

    The developer responded "Between $190K and $250K" (in the upper ranges of housing value in our region).

    The woman mulls this over and finally says "At which end of the new street are the 190's going to be, and which end is the $250's?"

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