Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: Posting staff reports on-line

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Rural Midwest
    Posts
    139

    Posting staff reports on-line

    For some time I have contemplated the idea of posting staff reports for rezone and subdivision petitions on the County’s website. While I see a number of pluses to this practice such as better visibility for planning, a way to (indirectly) teach the public how plans are used in decision making, more open government, ease and cost efficient information distribution, etc, etc…. I really don’t see any negatives other than the occasional complaint from folks who are internet inept or who have dial-up.

    Anyone else post staff reports on-line? Any thoughts from anyone as to why this would not be good practice? Or a good practice?

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 1996
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    7,596
    Started doing it in January.

    Sample from a past agenda.

    Been very well received from the Board, the press, and some members of the public.
    "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

  3. #3
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Machesney Park, IL
    Posts
    1,437
    We don't do it here. But I have often thought it would be a good thing to do. I don't see any downside. People could always still show up in person to see a staff report, if they wanted.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2005
    Location
    In the Peach State
    Posts
    921
    Absolutley! We used to have to print 50 extra copies of our zoning analysis (which can run upwards of 200 pages) book every month for various civic and neighborhood associations. Now we place them on-line so they can view the data. It has saved us considerable time and money.

    We just convert the analysis to a .pdf file and post each individual case on the agenda as a seperte item in a folder for the meeting (by month). It iis really easy and will save you LOTS of time in the long run.

    The only problem now is that if we are even 6 hours late in posting it, we get calls from the "citizen planners" asking why it is not available yet.

    If you want to view the website PM me and I will get you the info.
    Satellite City Enabler

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Apr 2007
    Location
    the Mountains
    Posts
    78
    slightly on-topic: do you save staff reports with your final physical files? i find that when i need to look up a file, i never consult the staff report, i only look at the final result including conditions.

    if you do, do you save the planning commission staff reports and those for elected officials or just the final report?

    for the past couple of years, tons of documentation is saved with every file (print outs of email correspondence, etc.) I am trying to pare this down to the extent possible, but I realize there could be possible legal issues down the road.

  6. #6
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Jukin' City
    Posts
    16,525
    Our Board memos are on-line but our planning commission reports are not. Because my office just leased a new Xerox copier with scanning capability, I'll get my lazy ass admin to start posting the pc reports this month!!

    I don't see any downside.

  7. #7
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    at the neighboring pub
    Posts
    5,284
    We are preparing to start doing this in late-May early-June. All of our Boards and Commissions are preparing to go completely paperless this year as part of the city's sustainability policy.

    Along this same line, we are planning to create a log-in system for developers to check status on subdivision projects, zoning changes, variances, commercial/MU/Ind/multifamily building permits, etc. It would include all correspondence between us and any of their consultants & contractors. It should reveal that delays are rarely because of our response, but because of contractors and consultants. We might turn something around in five days, but it takes the consultant 45 days to respond.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
    Registered
    Sep 1999
    Location
    400 miles from Orlando
    Posts
    13,747
    At my last place of employment from 1995-2007, every public meeting or hearing staff report was online. Everything that was sent to the boards or committees, including maps, surveys, letters received, etc. It was cumbersome but it saved planners' time by reducing the number of phone calls from citizens/reporters about the projects. The only downside was the insane time it took the support staff to post everything.

    It's hard to believe anyone isn't doing this yet!

    Quote Originally posted by progmac
    slightly on-topic: do you save staff reports with your final physical files? i find that when i need to look up a file, i never consult the staff report, i only look at the final result including conditions.

    if you do, do you save the planning commission staff reports and those for elected officials or just the final report?
    We saved everything. Full report for P&Z, BCC, Board of Adjustment, whatever. Full copies of two transmittals to the state. Oftentimes, the planner's hearing notes are on those reports, and when they leave and the new guy comes in, he/she has to be able to figure out what happened and why.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Planning Fool's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Northern, VA
    Posts
    242
    We post all of the staff reports for our rezoning application online once they've been distributed to the Planning Commission and Board members. I think it's a great tool as it allows citizens, especially adjacent property owners & nearby neighbors to find the answers to many of their questions and reduces the number of phone calls we get our cases.
    Prediction is difficult, especially about the future. :-o
    - Yogi Berra

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Rural Midwest
    Posts
    139
    Good feedback. I suggested the idea to other staff and got a positive response as well, so I suspect we will have our reports online in the next couple of months. In the next couple of months we will also have a separate website dedicated to our comprehensive planning process, complete with blog capabilities. Hmm… I wonder if we can expand that idea to allow people to post and respond to proposed rezones and subdivisions, using the staff report as a summery of the proposal. That way, the public can say their peace and not guber up public hearings with hour after hour of the same or similar testimony. Especially in NIMBY situations.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Akron
    Posts
    2,255

    web

    We have been putting our staff reports, PC minutes and other stuff on our web site for quite a while. http://www.planning.co.medina.oh.us/ A lot of interested parties (Local govts., applicants etc.) love it. The only down side has been that I have inherited the job of web jockey, and as you can tell from the site, it is a position for which I am no way qualified.
    WALSTIB

  12. #12
    Cyburbian chasqui's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2003
    Location
    DFW Metroplex, TX
    Posts
    87

    Same issue with "citizen planners"!

    Quote Originally posted by Plan-it View post
    ...
    The only problem now is that if we are even 6 hours late in posting it, we get calls from the "citizen planners" asking why it is not available yet.
    Where I used to work we experienced the same exact thing. We transitioned to placing all staff reports online. This cut down on people coming in and asking for copies or calling about cases because it was more convenient for them to see it online. Of course we had an "official" date when reports would be available, and of course, if they weren't online that second... That was the only problem we had. And truly, it wasn't a huge problem. We just felt like saying "give me a minute!" In the end they loved having the files online, and it was a lot easier saying "do you have access to the internet" than "do you have a fax machine" or "let me print a copy for you"

  13. #13
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 1998
    Location
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Posts
    2,954
    But if you post reports, the public will know what we are up to.
    "Recommendations should not be made public until the city commission has had a chance to review them." At least according to a mayor from 3 jobs ago.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2003
    Location
    "Somewhere in the middle"
    Posts
    3,160
    There is not enough of me to add any more steps to the notification process. I am doing well to get the required information out.
    Although I do think it is a good idea.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    NSW, Australia
    Posts
    1,530
    More transparency means more acccountability - it is a good first step but you should go further and include all submissions, internal reference reports, agency comments, letters to applicants and objectors etc. We do it (all the way) with development applications and are working on a scheme to achieve it for planning instrument amendments. There were misgivings at the start about this service, but it has proven valuable in ensuring people think about what they wtie and make sure what they write is defensible.

    If you would like to see our system click here. Click "I Agree" and then search on an older application to see the extent of disclosure that is possible.

  16. #16
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Jukin' City
    Posts
    16,525

    I was furious this morning...

    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Our Board memos are on-line but our planning commission reports are not. Because my office just leased a new Xerox copier with scanning capability, I'll get my lazy ass admin to start posting the pc reports this month!!
    I should have badgered my lazy ass admin. I checked our web site this morning. No agenda and no staff reports after I was assured it would happen. A couple of my staff sensed that I was pissed off. The material was posted within 30 minutes.

    And tomorrow is our planning commission meeting.

    I work with brain-dead morons.

  17. #17
    Everything in our office is public record and thus would only increase accesibility at our own cost. We are a bunch of cheap asses so I don't imagine expanding our website capability in order to host reports. It took me one year to get enough bandwith to provide info on Regional DRI's

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Staff reports and media
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 6
    Last post: 14 Jul 2011, 4:12 PM
  2. Replies: 18
    Last post: 27 Apr 2011, 10:32 AM
  3. Staff reports
    Land Use and Zoning
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 04 Feb 2009, 2:38 PM
  4. Staff reports
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 40
    Last post: 18 Feb 2005, 4:31 PM
  5. Replies: 15
    Last post: 07 Sep 2003, 7:36 PM