Okay, here's my situation. I just began working for a municipality in the metro NYC area as a planner. I moved here from Massachusetts for the position and my background is in nonprofits & community development. The other planner (the municipality's only planner until I arrived) is now out on maternity leave for the next two months, leaving me to more or less run the department in her absence. She will be checking in on a regular basis, but the day-to-day stuff will all be handled by the zoning clerk and I.
So here are my questions:
-I'm finding that this work is very political. I've had to be careful what I say and whom I say it to, because everyone here seems to know everyone else. There are more agendas and egos floating around than you can shake a stick at. In general, what kind of advice can you give me in navigating this new world? It seems like it is very much a balancing act of keeping the applicants, the zoning & planning boards, and the local residents all happy. I don't want to become someone that is two-faced in order to make everyone happy, because I know that it impossible. Someone warned me that residents in this area could be a bit difficult at times, and, well... I'm finding that to be true. I've had people get pretty angry over the phone and have had to de-escalate many situations. Everyone is your best friend until you tell them something that they don't want to hear.
-Learning local rules and regs: this is something that I can't seem to do fast enough. There is just SO MUCH to know: state environmental regs, the local zoning code, the neighborhoods, the various quirks of the municipality (like the endless layers of government in New York State, which amazes me), the "who's who" in residents and local power players, and the new comp plan and form-based zoning regs we're working on; is this just the kind of thing that takes time, or is there anything I can do to speed the process of getting acclimated along?
-Consultants: We've got consultants helping us with our comp plan and zoning code changes. I do have some experience managing consultants from my time developing affordable housing, but that was in the context of development teams for housing projects, not municipal policy documents and such. There's no question here per se, but I could use some guidance as to the "dos and don'ts" of working with consultants. I know there are plenty of you here.
-I've got a lot more questions, but this is a start.
Thanks for your help... this new planner appreciates it.