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Thread: How specific are your memos?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    How specific are your memos?

    I am in the process of writing a memo for our PC meeting regarding a site plan for a 22,000 warehouse building. I write one memo that contains each agenda item. The previous planner wrote one memo for each agenda item. I know from being on here that a lot of you guys put a lot of detail into the memo.

    Basically for the site plan, my memo says that the site plan meets all the zoning requirements, and staff recommend approval. The site plan and the application has the use, zoning, and all other pertinent info so I don't spend a lot of time rewriting everything that is already provided. I do however write extensively on items that need explanation.

    We are a small town and the PC is very familiar with it, but most of the PC will do site visits on their own. I spend A LOT of time making sure each site plan meets regulations and contains all of the necessary info, and my PC relies on me to ensure that they are right.

    I have not had anyone suggest that my memo's be more thorough (because the info is still being provided, just in other formats), but I'm wondering if I should be? What info do you all put in memo's that gets it to be pages long? Do you write a memo for each agenda item, or just one memo total for the entire agenda?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I found it a good idea to avoid writing memos on something unless its really important and can't be addressed in the staff report. Superfluous memo-writing can create a "boy who cried wolf" scenario.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    You asked about "memos" to the PC. Are these "memos" what some of us would call "staff reports": summaries of the facts, issues and staff position relative to an item under consideration by the PC? Or are the memos something in addition to the staff report?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by indigo
    You asked about "memos" to the PC. Are these "memos" what some of us would call "staff reports": summaries of the facts, issues and staff position relative to an item under consideration by the PC? Or are the memos something in addition to the staff report?
    Staff report, sorry.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    I err on the side of more details are better. Applicants do submit site plans with the zoning and setback info on there, but oftentimes, it is incorrect. Therefore, I have gotten into the habit of checking these details and more just to be sure. Therefore, since my handwritten notes contain this info, it's just easy to type them in when I'm ready to formalize my report.

    In addition, I like the the more details are better review because it allows me to approach each site plan with the same level of scrutiny. You know, that whole equal protection and due process thing. And if each staff report is similar in length and content, then I know that I'm not engendering a perception that I may be playing favorites.

    And yes, one staff report/memo for each site plan review.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    information, please

    the APA guidebook Planners Advisory Services did a booklet on staff memos that i found very helpful, even just to confirm that the way i do them is not off-base - i think you can peel it off their website - check your PM too

  7. #7
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    We're very specific, since we expect all plans approved by the Planning Board to be the actual construction plans....a sample comment from one of our memos:

    1. The Applicant shall address the following relative to the submitted drainage report:
    A. Reach 71 (roadway swale) was added to the revised existing conditions information for flow to the municipal detention basin #2 from the outlet from the twin 15 pipes under North Wentworth Avenue with this latest submission. However, the analysis does not appear to include the routing of Reach 70 through new reach 71 as implied by the existing topography. In addition, the existing topography provided does not appear to indicate existing grading associated with the 1 foot wide by 2 foot deep swale. Please update the analysis to address reach 70. In addition, please provide additional spot elevations to verify the geometry of the swale at this location is consistent with the existing conditions. Please update the post development analysis for phase 1 accordingly.
    B. The 50-year elevation appears to extend beyond the existing drain easement at pond 100. We recommend the Applicant provide a drainage easement to completely encompass the 50-year elevation at pond 100.
    C. The top grate elevation in the pond routing calculations at pond 600 under the post development condition for phases 1 and 2 is indicated at elevation 320.00 and is not consistent with the detail on sheet 25 of the plan set (320.9). Please update the analysis rim elevations and detail rim elevation to be consistent.
    D. The minimum riprap apron length and bottom width for the paved flume in the riprap calculations for phase 1 are not consistent in the detail on sheet 23 of the plan set. Please update the detail to be consistent with the riprap calculations.
    E. The report does not address the changes necessary under phase 2. Please revise the report as necessary to comply with the regulations.
    "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

  8. #8

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    Michigan apparently is not yet in the world where decisions must be presented as findings of fact and conclusions of law. But that is the defensible way to present a decision, so staff reports should follow a findings and conclusions format. It is not enough for you to say "the staff found," you have to list your findings.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Michigan apparently is not yet in the world where decisions must be presented as findings of fact and conclusions of law. But that is the defensible way to present a decision, so staff reports should follow a findings and conclusions format. It is not enough for you to say "the staff found," you have to list your findings.
    Ummm, not sure how to take that?

    Each and every motion by Planning Commission contains findings of fact. My staff report will also contain them as warranted. In this case, the site plan contains everything required and should be approved as submitted.

    Maybe I should add that our ordinance is quite clear and states that only complete and accurate site plans will be submitted to the Planning Commission. There are times that I review 3 or 4 versions before actually sending it to them because there are inaccuracies or many items missing.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    My last town never used staff reports, now I'm waiting for the printer to slowly churn out my 91 pager. They do come in handy.

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