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Thread: Small town with no planning staff

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
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    Small town with no planning staff

    Are there any other citizen planners out there who function without a professional staff? I am a professional planner employed by a city in which I do not live, but am also the Chair of my planning board. The issue we have is that with no professional staff it is difficult to address any issues related to application completeness or really anything at all outside of our official meetings. I do not have the time or energy to serve as planning staff to my own board. I would love to hear from any others who have experience with staff-deprived boards as to how to get things done in a timely manner.

    Thanks!!!

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    There are plenty of towns in NH that do not have professional staff. Most of these get professional planning services of a circuit rider planner from a regional planning commission. I don't know if NY has a similar option.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    There are plenty of towns in NH that do not have professional staff. Most of these get professional planning services of a circuit rider planner from a regional planning commission. I don't know if NY has a similar option.
    Not that I know of. We do occasionally pay an engineering firm to review very complex applications, but that gets expensive and applicants really complain about the cost.

    Do the NH towns pay for the circuit rider services?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    There are plenty of towns in NH that do not have professional staff. Most of these get professional planning services of a circuit rider planner from a regional planning commission. I don't know if NY has a similar option.
    Some county planning departments in NY offer circuit rider professional planning services for free or fee. Definately worth inquiring into.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  5. #5
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ssc
    Do the NH towns pay for the circuit rider services?
    It's part of the yearly fees they pay to the commissions for their services.

    http://www.nharpc.org/
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    Some county planning departments in NY offer circuit rider professional planning services for free or fee. Definately worth inquiring into.
    Thanks. I will definitely look into it. However, my hopes are not high as the director of planning in my county does not believe in planning.

  7. #7
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Not a solution, but may help. Get your application forms in shape. Make a checklist with the things you expect, including preparing packets for each commissioner. Require professionals to prepare exhibits and sign the exhibits as consistent with their licences.

    The first item of review for any application would be an assessment of whether they have made a proper submittal. If not, continue the item. Applicants will learn quickly to submit properly. The Commission will learn quickly what to expect and what to require.

  8. #8
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wulf9
    Not a solution, but may help. Get your application forms in shape. Make a checklist with the things you expect, including preparing packets for each commissioner. Require professionals to prepare exhibits and sign the exhibits as consistent with their licences.

    The first item of review for any application would be an assessment of whether they have made a proper submittal. If not, continue the item. Applicants will learn quickly to submit properly. The Commission will learn quickly what to expect and what to require.
    I would echo this idea whole heartedly. When I revised the regulations for the community I work for, we established an extensive checklist. The Board is very clear to applicants now: if you have all the checklist items, the Board will accept jurisdiction on the plans. If you're missing any checklist items, the Board will find the application incomplete, and send you back to square 1.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  9. #9
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ssc
    Thanks. I will definitely look into it. However, my hopes are not high as the director of planning in my county does not believe in planning.
    Bypass the director and go straight to his staff then. They are the ones who do the real work anyway.

    BTW - that now makes two county planning directors I know of like that in the upstate region. Sigh......
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  10. #10
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    I would echo this idea whole heartedly. When I revised the regulations for the community I work for, we established an extensive checklist. The Board is very clear to applicants now: if you have all the checklist items, the Board will accept jurisdiction on the plans. If you're missing any checklist items, the Board will find the application incomplete, and send you back to square 1.
    That is exactly what our City did before I came onto the staff. Before that the P&Z Commission handled all of the review duties and occasionally had an engineering firm review stuff. In many cases they would outright deny something rather than table it because it was obvious the applicant hadn't read the application.

    "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)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    I would echo this idea whole heartedly. When I revised the regulations for the community I work for, we established an extensive checklist. The Board is very clear to applicants now: if you have all the checklist items, the Board will accept jurisdiction on the plans. If you're missing any checklist items, the Board will find the application incomplete, and send you back to square 1.
    I really appreciate all the input. I will work on a checklist and on getting tough with applicants - that is probably our best option at this point. I am not sure why it is so much more difficult to do at home what I do every day at work

    SGB - maybe we are talking about the same planning director and there is only one anti-planning planner. But probably not....

  12. #12
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    The main thing is to be consistent. It's good to build on ordinance and precedents. Refer to previous decisions made when making the current decision. You are training applicants to do the right thing. You are training yourselves to be consistent and to benefit the community.

    If you are not under county jurisdiction, make your own decisions for your own community. Don't let anti-planning county staff affect you if you want good planning for your town.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian mallen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ssc
    I am a professional planner employed by a city in which I do not live, but am also the Chair of my planning board.
    I have grappled with this issue. I have a couple of professional planners who work for other cities and live in my city. I have purposely not approached them about serving on my boards. Although my Boards could use a little professional peer guidance, I have avoided this for a few reasons.

    First, its my city and I don't want no stinkin' planner with perceived authority second guessing me all the time. But more seriously, I work in a rapidly growing area and I have been concerned about potential conflicts (ie retaliation) betwen applicants (developers) and planners from other communities. Have you had any problems or issues like this?
    Last edited by mallen; 28 Sep 2005 at 1:24 PM.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mallen
    I work in a rapidly growing area and I have been concerned about potential conflicts (ie retaliation) betwen applicants (developers) and planners from other communities. Have you had any problems or issues like this?
    I can see how that could be a concern in a rapidly growing city, but the town I live in is so tiny that developers rarely darken our door so we haven't had that particular problem. We do get conflict of interest issues in our community when we get applicants who are either relatives or next door neighbors of planning board members.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mallen
    I have grappled with this issue. I have a couple of professional planners who work for other cities and live in my city. I have purposely not approached them about serving on my boards. Although my Boards could use a little professional peer guidance, I have avoided this for a few reasons.

    First, its my city and I don't want no stinkin' planner with perceived authority second guessing me all the time. But more seriously, I work in a rapidly growing area and I have been concerned about potential conflicts (ie retaliation) betwen applicants (developers) and planners from other communities. Have you had any problems or issues like this?
    Some observations from my recent past:

    I work for a private firm and one of my peers serves on his village's plan commission. Theyare too small to have an in-house staff, so his expertise doesn't have the "perceived authority" conflict.

    In the last community I lived in I offered to serve but there was such a long list of pals-of-the-mayor I didn't have a chance.

    One of my clients is pondering appointing the owner of a local civil engineering firm to the plan commission. He would have to abstain from voting on anything he had involvement in, obviously, but his expertise would bring the rural community's plan commission into the 20th century.

    As so ssc's orginal question. many - far too many - rural boards in our area function without any advisement. Those that do have professional help tend to lean on engineers rather than planners.

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