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Thread: County v city planning

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    County v city planning

    For those Cyburbians who have experience with both county and city planning, I would be interested in learning about what you think the differences and similarities between the two are.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Currently work in a combined office.

    Only difference is zonings going before City Council aor County Commissioners - different meeting days.

    Follow County personnel benefits.

    Two Budget hearings - City and County Council (fiscal matters only)
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    I can't speak for all areas of the country but in Michigan where I was a county planner, the planning commission was only advisory in zoning with the final decisions made by the townships. Cities were not required to consult with the county in their zoning although there was occasion voluntary interaction.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Big difference, in my opinion. I currently work as a county planner but serve as a volunteer for the city and work closely with the city folks. My thoughts:

    There are a lot more regs in the city than the county, so an average day for my city counterparts means lots of site plans, working closely with building and engineering depts, and a lot more detail in regards to architectural or design review.

    There are a lot fewer regulations in the county, which means a lot less structure. A typical day could be yesterday- morning meeting with a wildlife biologist talking about development down in our ski area; a working lunch with members of an unincorporated community who are trying to get together a neighborhod plan; an afternoon spent pulling together various staff reports for subdivisions all around the county; a planning board meeting on a subdivision way out in farmer country. Very varied.

    I've thought about this a lot because I almost made the jump to the city two months ago. I passed because I love variety in my county job, the way it lets me see the big picture, and the way I get to be more of a free agent rather than a cog in a well-regulated machine. The downside is that a lot of the current projects I work on I don't really believe in- the best we get is well-designed sprawl that still takes farmland out of production, impacts wildlife habitat, and ensures another neighborhood has just gotten built that is entirely car dependent. Working for the city would mean working on projects that, hopefully, would contribute to the city functioning better.

    Its a tossup. For me, I'm not a detail person, so I like the big-picture view I get with the county and the feeling of being on the edge of creating policy. You could be different and want to work on projects that get more bike lanes on the roads or provide more opportunities for people to live near where they work.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    The issues are different. Now I am going to speak in generalities, so nobody flame me on this. Counties deal more with agricultural issues, farmland preservation, cafo's and helping the farmers out. They do not deal with neighborhood plans, historic preservation, infill, etc. Both deal with growth, though most of the sprawl does happen in the urban fringe areas in places that were greenfields, literally. Provision of the infrastructure can be more of a challenge. Further, in counties, the growth tends to be more spread out and piecemeal, creating it's own set of challenges.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  6. #6
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I've worked for three counties that had/have a mixture of urban, suburban and rural patterns of development (including my current county). We get to mix it up with everything.

    But the defining issue, in my experiences:

    City planning public hearings = evening meetings.
    County planning public hearings = morning and afternoon meetings.

    Hands down, county work wins out. Work hours should not cut into cocktail hour, ya know.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Counties in Florida seem to be more concerned with growth management and following the state rules. Although not all cities exercise their independence from the county in the way of planning, those that do tend to be pretty pro-growth.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    In Georgia, counties and cities have the same general framework of rules, but they end up with different growth patterns. Cities want to grow through annexation, increase their commercial tax base, and focus on redevelopment. In counties, the community is more concerned with maintaining the status quo, restricting commercial proliferation, and growth management. I think the philosophies for growth are different here because they are placed in much different circumstances. The high millage rate in cities, compared to unincorporated counties, make it necessary to grow their commercial tax base. That is my $0.02.
    Satellite City Enabler

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    In New Jersey the difference is like night and day. I work for a County Planning department but I also have many firends that consult or work for city planning departments. Compared to most states the County is very weak in NJ. The municipality has the final say over all zoning matters, they make their own zoning and master plans and rarely involve us at the county while they write them up (I constantly tell them we are a free second opinion). They also control variances, landscaping, and off site improvements to township facilities. This has led to the home rule probem and the rateable chase that has plagued NJ. I at the County level have ultimate control over access to county roads (which we have a lot), waterways and cluverts are almost all maintained by the county engineers department so I get them upgraded and protected where possible, drainage issues pertaining to mosquito breeding and EPA/DEP issues are about all I can comment on. Occasionally I'll have a big problem with a site layout or access that isn't on a County road and I'll offer my professional opinion but it never goes anywhere becasue some deal somewhere has been struck to get whatever built, that's kind of frustrating since I would say we at the County have a more regional view than the municipalities do.
    @GigCityPlanner

  10. #10
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Never worked for a city; only for counties and an rpc. But, I've dealt a lot with city planners, have some friends who are city planners, etc.

    Like already mentioned, to cities growth is good. To counties, growth is bad. We just try to fight off development, and deal mostly with the a new rural home here and there. Where I work now, the townships control their own zoning, so we get to actually "plan" stuff (outdoor recreation, farmland preservation, hazard mitigation, etc are a few of our recent plans), and regulate a lot of environmental concerns. At the county I worked for before, we only had time to basically be reactive and handle every zoning petition for a large-lot subidivision or some kind of contractor storage out in the boonies. Sprawl was a real problem in that county, and we were so short staffed, planning didn't really take place.

    City planning deals more with economic development, incorporating infrastructure improvements, historic/downtown preservation, etc.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    OH Yeah....

    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    I've worked for three counties that had/have a mixture of urban, suburban and rural patterns of development (including my current county). We get to mix it up with everything.

    But the defining issue, in my experiences:

    City planning public hearings = evening meetings.
    County planning public hearings = morning and afternoon meetings.

    Hands down, county work wins out. Work hours should not cut into cocktail hour, ya know.
    Spoken like a true patriot of the vino Now I know why I like this guy so much, he's got his priorities straight

    In Colorado, there was a difference between a County and City:
    A few Counties had "Home Rule" authority and could develop regulations and policy beyond the statutory limits placed on the vast majority of counties that were "statutory." I'm fairly certain that most cities over 15,000 people are now Home Rule Cities and that only the smaller towns are "statutory cities." There are some tax collection implications involved with this status, with home rule authority being preferred since it allowed a wider variety of authority/flexibility for many issues. In Colorado, Counties had just about zero authority over any city within their boundary. This tends to make the County a quasi mediator of regional needs.

    Florida Counties (some by charter) still retain authority over certain aspects of future land use planning, although you wouldn't know it by looking at some of the larger communities in the state The State DCA also adds another layer of review and approval for land use map issues and special projects like LAC/DRI/RAC's and so on.....but I'll let TN bore you with that stuff.....

    Arizona is similar to Colorado in that a County can't say BOO to a City. Most authority here seems statutory in nature.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One;
    Florida Counties (some by charter) still retain authority over certain aspects of future land use planning, although you wouldn't know it by looking at some of the larger communities in the state:r: The State DCA also adds another layer of review and approval for land use map issues and special projects like LAC/DRI/RAC's and so on.....but I'll let [B
    TN [/B]bore you with that stuff.....
    You are an evil one, TO.

    For me, I prefer working for a county. I have worked for counties, cities, and a regional government, and I really enjoy counties since they really lend themselves to touching a broader range of topics and not always the same small town players are in the game. In the cities/towns that I have worked for, the town/city manager thinks that s/he is a god and that s/he only knows what is best. Mind you, these are smaller towns in Florida (where in some instances you can hear the "Deliverance" theme playing as you drive in.

    However, I think it is how your state is structured whether or not working for the city or county is best. So in the case of the state of Florida, always go with the county.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian GeogPlanner's avatar
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    With home rule in NY, counties become more "advisory" in nature, or at least that has been my experience. General Municipal Law Section 239 is where the County Planning Board is enabled. It has the charge to review projects for countywide or inter-municipal impact. Local issues remain local issues. Many of the cases we see come to us because of where they are situated, within 500 of a county/state interest. But most of those cases are left for local consideration only after finding no inter-municipal or countywide impact. In cases where we do have something to say at the county level, our decision can be overturned. This really only comes into play in a disapproval or where we tell a community that we will approve the referred case if certain conditions are attached. A majority plus one of the referring body puts our decision out of play. We really become the vehicle for larger studies and programs such as stormwater management or riverfront planning. One more role we are asserting is one as a trainer for local planning and zoning boards. That's a new development I'm pursuing as a result of a state mandate that all planning and zoning boards receive a prescribed number of training hours per year.
    Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after and only after the design is complete. (Often called the 'Now They Tell Us' Law) - Fyfe's First Law of Revision

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  14. #14
         
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    When I worked for a large county it was possible to get away from the desk more often. Sometimes it took half the day to do a site visit. I even did some site visits via a small airplane. I took a County Commissioners along for a fly over and his door popped open at about 2,000 feet over a canyon. Projects ranged from a ski area, pit mines, natural gas transmission lines, private air strips, private hunting estates, wineries and water treatment plants. We also had a lot of typical suburban land uses. I am working at a city now so site visits are alot quicker and there is less variety in the projects.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Nailed It

    Quote Originally posted by Trail Nazi View post
    In the cities/towns that I have worked for, the town/city manager thinks that s/he is a god and that s/he only knows what is best.
    YOU NAILED THIS POINT!!! SWEET CALL.......in the dictionary under CITY MANAGER, this should be the definition. I would have also accepted TYRANT, Dictator and Czar comparisons......
    Skilled Adoxographer

  16. #16
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    I've worked for three counties that had/have a mixture of urban, suburban and rural patterns of development (including my current county). We get to mix it up with everything.

    But the defining issue, in my experiences:

    City planning public hearings = evening meetings.
    County planning public hearings = morning and afternoon meetings.

    Hands down, county work wins out. Work hours should not cut into cocktail hour, ya know.
    Ive worked for 2 counties and 2 cities. One county had night meetings and one city had night meetings. One county had day meetings and one city had day meetings.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Otis View post
    For those Cyburbians who have experience with both county and city planning, I would be interested in learning about what you think the differences and similarities between the two are.
    I think you can appreciate this huge difference: Measure 37.

    I have experience in both city & county planning and prefer the detailed nature of city planning work over the rural stuff. I can certainly appreciate vaughn's comments about working on projects in the county that you don't believe in. Welcome to my M37-dominated world. I have only worked in small, growing, cities (~5000 pop.). Contrary to most others in this thread, my work as a county planner is less varied than being the "one person show" in a small city planning office.

    That being said, I agree 100% with RJ's comments about daytime PC & Board meetings at the county level. I probably work 10 hours fewer per week as a county planner than as a city planner and with two small children, that's a huge factor for me.

    I know I'll return to city planning someday but maybe not 'til little league is over.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    YOU NAILED THIS POINT!!! SWEET CALL.......in the dictionary under CITY MANAGER, this should be the definition. I would have also accepted TYRANT, Dictator and Czar comparisons......
    For once, I was trying to be nice. TYRANT, Dictator and Czar are fantastic words to describe them.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Trail Nazi View post
    For once, I was trying to be nice. TYRANT, Dictator and Czar are fantastic words to describe them.
    Except that they don't know a thing about planning

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Dashboard's avatar
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    County planning is weak in Michigan as well, except for the few remaining counties that still have county zoning. Very rarely do the county planners see site plans and they only have an advisory role when it comes to reveiwing rezoning requests. Most of the projects at this level are broader in nature - transportation, economic development, housing programs, and other state-fueled programs. It just depends on what county you are in...some are quite innovative and progressive when it comes to planning...others not so much.

    In my experience, some meetings are during the day and some are at night, especially County Board meetings...not to mention if you have to go to township/city meetings.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    I've worked for three counties that had/have a mixture of urban, suburban and rural patterns of development (including my current county). We get to mix it up with everything.

    But the defining issue, in my experiences:

    City planning public hearings = evening meetings.
    County planning public hearings = morning and afternoon meetings.

    Hands down, county work wins out. Work hours should not cut into cocktail hour, ya know.
    I like the way you think.
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    ~ Otterpop ~

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Around these parts, the counties don't even all exist anymore (about half of them have been abolished) and the ones that do generally function on a public safety/real estate records/probate level. A couple of exceptions are also in charge of the local Regional Planning Agency (Berkshire, Franklin, Barnstable) so they may also staff the MPO and do some other planning.

    In general, though, much of the action in Massachusetts is in local government. One exception is the Cape Cod Commission, part of Barnstable Country government. Barnstable County has home rule, very unusual around here, and actually functions as a bit of a government with legislation and such. The Cape Cod Commission has regulatory authority over large developments on the Cape so it functions as a larger Planning Board/Board of Appeals.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    first... it depends what state you are working in. As above...it really varies.
    And even then... geography still plays a major role. Downstate counties in NY play a much different role than upstate NY counties.

    I have worked for both county and city planning. I find at the county level I am a little more buffered from politicians..
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

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  24. #24
    Cyburbian Planning Fool's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    I've worked for three counties that had/have a mixture of urban, suburban and rural patterns of development (including my current county). We get to mix it up with everything.

    But the defining issue, in my experiences:

    City planning public hearings = evening meetings.
    County planning public hearings = morning and afternoon meetings.

    Hands down, county work wins out. Work hours should not cut into cocktail hour, ya know.

    Unfortunately some of us County planners do miss out on the occasional happy hour. Our Planning Commission public hearings begin at 8:30 p.m.

    In my opinion, you get experience in a more diverse range of work/projects/issues in County government, than you do with a City.
    Prediction is difficult, especially about the future. :-o
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