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Thread: Planners - do we really plan?

  1. #1
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    Planners - do we really plan?

    All,

    Hello to all. I am new to the forums as well as new to the planning profession. I have a BS degree in Public Administration and a minor in Planning. I have a huge interest in urban design, and planning in general. Being new to the field (public sector), I've noticed a few things:

    A) Developers/Architects/Engineers all get to design the aspects that we planners "write up". Who really develops these great planning ideals ? Developers or Planners? (Great ideas being 'Smart Growth', 'Green Building' etc...) I'll admit to being low on the totem pole as far as seniority goes (check the user name, ha), but being someone who really wants to make a change, is it all in the words (comp. plan, LDR's?)

    B) Do the extra degree's really matter? All these job openings ask for either a -BS in Planning/Public Administration/Geography and X-amount of years experience, or a Masters in the above mentioned and maybe 6 months experience. Again, being new to the field, and not knowing what they teach MURP students, does a planning professional REALLY need a master's degree, or can they be just as sucessful with years of experience. I'm not trying to downplay anyone with a masters, or the masters degree in general (i would love to get one), but it seems that work experience in this field is very... important.

    C) Are all of the really neat areas of planning in the private sector? Things seem to get really interesting in the private sector as far as planning urban areas go. That is really where my interests lie, but I am not sure having only worked in the public sector since the beginning of May. Anyone?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Jess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlanninTech View post
    All,

    Hello to all. I am new to the forums as well as new to the planning profession. I have a BS degree in Public Administration and a minor in Planning. I have a huge interest in urban design, and planning in general. Being new to the field (public sector), I've noticed a few things:

    A) Developers/Architects/Engineers all get to design the aspects that we planners "write up". Who really develops these great planning ideals ? Developers or Planners? (Great ideas being 'Smart Growth', 'Green Building' etc...) I'll admit to being low on the totem pole as far as seniority goes (check the user name, ha), but being someone who really wants to make a change, is it all in the words (comp. plan, LDR's?)

    B) Do the extra degree's really matter? All these job openings ask for either a -BS in Planning/Public Administration/Geography and X-amount of years experience, or a Masters in the above mentioned and maybe 6 months experience. Again, being new to the field, and not knowing what they teach MURP students, does a planning professional REALLY need a master's degree, or can they be just as sucessful with years of experience. I'm not trying to downplay anyone with a masters, or the masters degree in general (i would love to get one), but it seems that work experience in this field is very... important.

    C) Are all of the really neat areas of planning in the private sector? Things seem to get really interesting in the private sector as far as planning urban areas go. That is really where my interests lie, but I am not sure having only worked in the public sector since the beginning of May. Anyone?

    Thanks!
    A. Most developers hire the services of a planner to do the master plan. In this case, it’s the planner’s output that is developed by the developer.

    B. Having extra degrees and experiences will give more advantage or plus points in the selection process. Of course it’s better if you have MURP and CP certified. But, I’ve also known some of successful planners who have no master’s degree. They just earned their knowledge thru experience. Then set-up and manage his own firm.

    C. Most private jobs are time-constraint and requires fast and efficient outputs. The fastest that you can deliver means you can have as many contracts as you can. There are many Cyburbians here who are in the public sector who can give you some inspirations working in public sector. Ask RJ.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    A) Some planners do plan! But many others just react to political pressures to do what council want or react to architects and developers. It all depends on how the ordinance is written.

    B) Masters can be good, but is not required… real world experience is far more important than book education.

    C) Every part of planning can be amazing, if you get into the right area for you. It all depends on your interests.
    Trusting a DC politician with your money is like trusting a hungry dog with a raw steak.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    A) Some planners do plan! But many others just react to political pressures to do what council want or react to architects and developers. It all depends on how the ordinance is written.
    I would add on that the development review aspect of municipal planning also cuts into the amount of time that can be devoted to actual "planning".

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I would say that it depends on the organization if public and on the client if private
    Some times it is best to just move on to where you can plan, because most of us are doing it out of love for the profession, and we enjoy what we do and definitely not for the money

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I would add on that the development review aspect of municipal planning also cuts into the amount of time that can be devoted to actual "planning".
    I agree, many planners end up in something that more in line with site plan and platting review instead of the big picture. I'm one of them but I'm okay with that for now.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  7. #7
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    I'd estimate that my job is 60% development review, 40% planning and implementation.

    My job description is pretty accurate about my responsibilities and what I actually do on a day to day basis:

    WORK SCHEDULE: Full-time position requiring attendance at meetings and hearings with state and local boards, commissions, organizations, authorities and related groups and organizations.

    JOB SUMMARY / SUPERVISION: Performs routine land and economic development planning functions under the supervision of the Director of Planning & Economic Development. The Town Planner (henceforth “Planner”) is responsible for the review of subdivision and site plan submissions for residential, commercial and industrial development proposals. The Planner is in charge of the development and amendment of zoning ordinances, subdivision, and site plan regulations. The Planner assists the public and developers with questions regarding the Town’s zoning ordinances, subdivision and site plan regulations. The position, when needed, will serve as liaison with the Planning Board, Heritage Commission, Conservation Commission, Zoning Board of Adjustment and other groups, boards and commissions as assigned by the Director of Planning & Economic Development. The Town Planner will also run the department’s internship program and the Capital Improvements Program.

    ACCOUNTABILITY: Reports directly to and is accountable to the Planning & Economic Development Director.

    ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: (The following is illustrative of the duties and responsibilities associated with the position and are not intended to be all-inclusive.)
    • Reviews subdivision and site plan proposals, and manages the Town's Development Review Process.
    • Assists with the development of the annual budget.
    • Assists the Code Enforcement Officer with the Investigation subdivision and site plan violations and coordinate with various departments to resolve matters.
    • Prepares and makes presentations before citizen groups, Planning Board, Historic Commission, Town Manager and Town Council.
    • Develops and prepares amendments to the zoning ordinance, subdivision and site plan regulations and zoning map.
    • Assists with the implementation of the master plan.
    • Develops and prepares the Capital Improvements Plan.
    • Corresponds and coordinates reviews and projects performed by outside consultants hired by the Planning Board or Department.
    • Serves as staff liaison to the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment (as needed), Conservation Commission (as needed), Town Council (as needed) and Historic/Heritage Commission meetings. Attends meeting as needed.
    • Coordinates with the Conservation Commission on the Town’s Land Conservation program.
    • Provides technical assistance on zoning ordinances, procedures, regulations and other town policies to the public, developers, business organizations, contractors, architects, etc.
    • Provide assistance to the general public, developers, appraiser, etc.
    • Assists with the research, preparing and writing of grants.
    • Acts on behalf of the Planning & Economic Development Department in the absence of the Director.
    • Provides supervision of the internship program.
    • Coordinates with GIS Manager/Planner in regards to GIS matters, materials and information.
    • Performs other duties as assigned by the Director of Planning & Economic Development.
    "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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    Role-a revelation!

    I'm beginning to think that the actual day to day role of a (government) planner can be more directly related to the demands of the community than I realized. After many years in private consultant practice as well as in government I now see a "planning" department that spends the bulk of its time flagging enforcement issues, interpreting code-as in restrictions and complaints, and saying "no" rather than projecting to the future.

    As I drive around I see the reasons - growth temporarily stagnated in a County that has many small communities desperately needing to rebuild themselves from the boom years and from basic economic/land use changes e.g. fishing industry to bigboat recreation or population shifts.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    warning: sarchastic response! of course we're planning!

    ...you mean, *sniff* I'm not planning?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I'm more of a project manager and a hired scapegoat than a "Planner"
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  11. #11
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Long Range Planners plan, Current Planners are plan reviewers, and being the on call or counter planner is like being the public's b!tch. I have limited public sector experience because I like the dark side. As for actually planning, no I find loopholes or ways to exploit the code for our clients.

  12. #12
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Not alot of planning from the public sector grunt planner (aka current planner), but I actually like being a development planner primarily, but could go for some limited long range planning.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlanninTech View post
    All,

    Hello to all. I am new to the forums as well as new to the planning profession. I have a BS degree in Public Administration and a minor in Planning. I have a huge interest in urban design, and planning in general. Being new to the field (public sector), I've noticed a few things:

    A) Developers/Architects/Engineers all get to design the aspects that we planners "write up". Who really develops these great planning ideals ? Developers or Planners? .....

    B) Do the extra degree's really matter? ...

    C) Are all of the really neat areas of planning in the private sector? Things seem to get really interesting in the private sector as far as planning urban areas go. That is really where my interests lie, but I am not sure having only worked in the public sector since the beginning of May. Anyone?

    Thanks!

    You are hereby warned...this post being made UTI.

    A) best submittals I've reviewed involved the collaboration of all professionals, including the lawyers.
    B) Maybe. I've advanced thru the ranks with only a BA in planning (with tons of UC Extension courses). But I got got my toes wet and honed my skills in the most regulated county in the most regulated state (Santa Cruz county, California). I think I've done OK and was able to transfer those experiences (most important, IMO), than advanced degrees. But I'm probably the exception rather than the rule.
    C) I've been in the public sector my entire planning career and I wouldn't have it any other way--because I can blow out early for "site visits" (to my pool).
    Annoyingly insensitive

  14. #14

    Are we really planners?

    My two cents:

    a) In my experience, planners present concepts and educate and hopefully will have some positive influence.
    b) Get your AICP - it gives you some credibility.
    c) Private sector is risky business, but can be fun.

    Good luck!

  15. #15
    Cyburbian DrumLineKid's avatar
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    I really like what OS just said.

    I have a BS and a lot of years experience. Add the AICP, and you are considered "professional". That being said, I don't know that just a BS will get you the job. There are so many MCRP's of the corrolaries(sp?) coming out of school now, the Masters may be required to be even looked at for a position.

    Even if you are the current planner for an office, volunteer for things that involve the future. Most offices can't say no to your interests.

    IMHO, there are some states that don't do much for long term planning, like NY. For some communities, HUD has stepped in and forces them to think longer term and strategically. Their inherent attitude is anti-zoning and land use control because of their perception they inhibit fair housing access, but they are making communities think about the next five years. In some places, that is long term planning.


    DLK with my two cents
    "There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed." RFK

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