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Thread: Planning board training

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Planning board training

    What have other jurisdictions done regarding Planning Board training? We've just had quite a bit of turnover on our board and, as a county, are interested in going in a slightly different direction (being more pro-active, if our luck holds). Because of a lack of training, our planning board hearings are a bit chaotic and we're hoping to get the newbies off on the right foot... any thoughts from other places?

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Saturday workshop. With Food. Lots of Food. Transportation. Beer if you can swing it (I was never able to sell the City on that one )

    I did a series of Powerpoint presentations on our ordinances and the processes that they contain. I made sure to include a lot of pictures, especially when discussing landscaping and lighting. Particular emphasis was on their role in everything. I would use old plats, etc. as examples and activities during the workshop (this is why you should keep those crappy first drafts of plats submitted). I also would make up hypothetical variance requests, SUPs, etc. to take them through. They had varying levels of difficulty with emphasis on using the ordinance criteria. The same thing held true for Zoning Changes. During these I would also explain the Staff Report format so they would learn where to find the information that concerned them most. The most fun was taking the Commission through a hypothetical PUD request for a mixed-use project. This is where I introduced them to several different planning principles and all of the different facets that should be discussed in the process. This usually takes the entire morning. At that point we break for lunch (supplied by the City).

    Afternoon: This is their reward. We spend the next few hours touring different areas of the City. Staff discusses where most of the development is occurring, etc. THis helps to get them more familiar with the City when requests come in. Also, this trip includes stops at the city's best practices and worst practices. This is where I translate what the ordinance language means when placed on the ground (good time to discuss impacts of recent ordinance amendments or areas that could use improvement). The final stop is at a local ranch. I have a friend that works for a local planning (development) company that helps me out with this part. He shows them how he goes through the land planning process, dicussing aerials, drainage patterns, elevation characteristics, etc. This includes a walkthrough of the property where he points out different features.

    The Commission really enjoys this process. We do this every two years, unless we get more than two new people on the Commission in that time frame. Remember, check your local open meetings laws about posting for workshops. You don't want to end up with a little Sunday school chat with the City Attorney!

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    In Kentucky they have in the State Statutes:
    147A.027. Orientation and continuing education training for planning and zoning officials and staff.
    http://law.wustl.edu/landuselaw/Plan...g/Kentucky.pdf
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  4. #4

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    Here in Tennessee, all Planning Commission members are reuired to have 8 hours of continuing education (Board of Zoning Appeals - 4 hours) per year by state statute. This continuing ed can be almost anything planning related, but must be approved by the full commission. We have used guest speakers at Planning Commission meetings, conferences put on by various organizations, and videos for our continuing ed requirements.

    For new members, I generally sit down with each one, go over the state laws governing our roles, review zoning and subdivision regulations and other plans we may have. I also like to talk about some of the concerns of the commission and projects that are currently underway, and planning in general. This all hits some of them like a ton of bricks, for it is a lot for the citizen member to try and absorb. Generally, I try to keep the lines of communication open as much as I can for questions and concerns and use those opportunities as a chance to educate and/or enlighten. We also have a Planning Commissioner Handbook published by the State that provides a lot of background and explains the basics.

    Sometimes I even get enlightened myself by various members, which is the beauty of our system. People with various backgrounds, interests and skill sets working together, discussing issues and trying to reach concensus. Understand though, that you can lead some to water, but they may not take a drink. It could easily depend on who appoints and what their intentions are. Good Luck to you.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Mtn Woman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vaughan
    What have other jurisdictions done regarding Planning Board training?
    In New York we have several resources available. Locally I have a town completing a certification through http://www.nymir.org/zoning/ Each month the board members review a chapter and are tested. The board's clerk keeps the answer key & scores the members. Once completed, board members are more confident about their work... and their decisions are more likely to stand up well in court.
    Living and dreaming are two different things-but you can't do one without the other."
    -Malcolm Forbes

  6. #6
         
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    While I agree with the Repairman, you don't want the County Attorney to run your training program, your attorney can act as the "enforcer" when it comes to keeping the board's hearings under control. The attorney will be the one in court defending the county if it all goes wrong. You, as a planner, can stress the importance of due process, creating finding of facts and making a rational decision based on the facts presented, but the attorney can help keep the Planning Commission in line during the actual hearing. The planner's role in the hearing is to present the facts and the analysis. Its difficult for the planner to be the enforcer also. If your attorney doesn't attend the Planning Commission meetings then maybe the Planning Director could act in that role. Commissioners also need to understand their legal liability if they exceed their authority. This helps in keeping them focused on the proper hearing process. A good attorney can make your job much easier.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Big Owl's avatar
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    In North Carolina we have this resource availble from the state chapter of the APA.

    http://www.nc-apa.org/Citizen_Planne...er_options.htm

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmmm.....

    We are having the same issues here, with many new members...... Don't most regional APA annual meetings have a Planning Board day (saturday or weekend) associated with the meetings? These seem ok, but if your looking for specific's, some Regional Council of Government's do these training sessions...(DRCOG in Denver or PPACOG in Colorado Springs I think are good examples) I still have a training workshop booklet from a DRCOG sesssion that I thought was very useful. I can't remember if the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute conducts such workshops......

    In Montana you might need to conduct the training yourself, I would agree that the County Attorney should be kept away, but you should meet with the attorney before and make sure what you say is correct under your state law.....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
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    You could also check with any universities in the area that have planning programs. For example, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach holds Spring and Summer workshops targeting the planning commission's and zba's around the state. If they are not holding any more workshops, they may have informational handouts leftover and readily available

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    As a planning commissioner, I received about two hours of training from the city attorney on the role of a planning commissioner, conflict of interest, open meetings, etc.

    Oh, and I have two degrees, two certifications and sixteen years of experience.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    I have pulled together an orientation/training sesson I use for new PC/BZA members. Its based on one that a friend gave me while I was in Kentucky. It's worked fairly well. I''ve passed it along here in Indiana. Pmail if your interested.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for all the suggestions, folks... I think that we're trying to do more than just training given by the county attorney... it would be great to actually get into planning concepts as well. I love the idea of a field trip. We'll see...

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vaughan
    Thanks for all the suggestions, folks... I think that we're trying to do more than just training given by the county attorney... it would be great to actually get into planning concepts as well. I love the idea of a field trip. We'll see...
    You could surf the Citizen Planners subforum for some suggestions of materials there.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Check out the APA website:

    New! Four-Hour Primer for Planning Commissioners
    Details of the new audio/web conference season are now available. New this year is a two-part program, "Introduction to the Planning Commission," which includes special reading materials and instructions for supplementing the programs with two hours of local training. This, plus six other new programs.


    http://www.planning.org/audioconference/primer.htm
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  15. #15

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    The important thing is to find an unarguably authoritative attorney and scare the bejesus out of them about due process and not making up the rules as they go! IMO, there isn't anybody in Montana who is scary enough. Beyond that there are lots of resources that have been mentioned. I don't think handouts, even books, work well for most board members. They need an interactive experience.

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