Until last Friday, I thought it very common for planning staff to prepare comments for a development review committee (or similar board) prior to public hearings on development proposals. However, in attending a state-wide forum on planning and zoning issues, I was surprised to learn of pretty strong opposition to this practice by many planners, planning commission members, and development review board members. It seems, at least from the forum, that the greatest oppostion to this is that it "gives too much power to one person."
My community isn't exceptionally large (approx. 16,000), but it is among the most populated in the state (VT). Our DRB meets twice a month, and our agenda generally consists of 15-20 items at each meeting. Meetings most often run past midnight. We have a full-time staff person tasked with development review. For quantitative items, staff assesses compliance. For items more qualitative, staff highlights the issues that the board should discuss and provides them with the standards for such review. Without staff work on these notes, we would be asking volunteers to invest probably 20-30 hours per week of their time in their own review of items. If such review is saved for the hearing, our meetings would not be done at midnight, but rather 6 am. Nevertheless, some towns were appalled by the idea of staff notes, considering them leading and all-too-powerful.
So I'm curious, as to the practices in your community? Thoughts on the matter?