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Thread: Code of conduct for planners

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MM1648's avatar
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    Code of conduct for planners

    What are the most important ethical considerations for planners?

    Thanks for your input!
    Today's classic was yesterday's innovation. -Landry

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    for me, riding the tightrope walk of serving the Board, the applicant and the abutters...

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    for me, riding the tightrope walk of serving the Board, the applicant and the abutters...
    Same here. For me it's the give and take between the Planning Commission and elected officials. If the Planning Commission makes a recommendation that I don't agree with, should I support their recommendation before the elected officials, or should I tell the elected officials my opinion. I suppose I could do both, but then what will my ultimate recommendation be?

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well.....

    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    Same here. For me it's the give and take between the Planning Commission and elected officials. If the Planning Commission makes a recommendation that I don't agree with, should I support their recommendation before the elected officials, or should I tell the elected officials my opinion. I suppose I could do both, but then what will my ultimate recommendation be?
    I've gotten past this dilemma by presenting the Planning Commission Recommendation and showing a departmental recommendation on the staff report....then being ready to defend/explain the reason we can't all just get along If you can't convince the Planning Commission to join you......they should/will trump you every time....assuming they have any support from the Board.
    Last edited by The One; 29 Aug 2007 at 12:04 PM. Reason: Ask GOD, you'll have a better chance of getting an answer
    Skilled Adoxographer

  5. #5
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    This is the AICP Code of Ethics. Of course, you don't need to be certified or even like the APA to recognize that this provides a good guideline for ethical concerns.

    Check it out at: http://www.planning.org/ethics/conduct.html
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    Of course it may not be 100% relevant to our american cousins but the first page of RTPI's code of conduct is interesting (erm, 'interesting' given all things being relative).

    The Chartered Object of the Royal Town Planning Institute is to advance the science and art of
    town planning for the benefit of the public. It is the purpose of this Code to ensure that in all
    their professional activities members of the Royal Town Planning Institute:
    http://www.rtpi.org.uk/download/155/codecond.pdf

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    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    Same here. For me it's the give and take between the Planning Commission and elected officials. If the Planning Commission makes a recommendation that I don't agree with, should I support their recommendation before the elected officials, or should I tell the elected officials my opinion. I suppose I could do both, but then what will my ultimate recommendation be?
    Hey LP,

    I have been in the exact same position with the PC recommendations with which I may not totally agree and it became a big issue with a developer recently that took exception to my "usurping" (his words) the Planning Commission's recommendation. Actually, what happened was that the Planning Commission modified several of my recommendations, which I then explained to the City Council. My opinion is that the Planning Commission's recommendation does not necessarily become my (Planning Director's) recommendation. Oddly enough, I think all of the Planning Commission agrees with me. But what I do is make it clear to the City Council what the Planning Commission recommendations are and what my recommendations are, if there are differences. My responsibility is to ensure the protection of the general health, safety and welfare of the general public. Just last night we had a major traffic safety issue with a new development, which the Planning Commission chose to ignore by not requiring modifications to a highway intersection. But I still made the same argument to the City Council, who also chose to ignore it.

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Remember, in the public sector, a planner is paid to enforce the zoning code and the comprehensive plan of the city in which they are employed. This does NOT include expressing personal opinion.
    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

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    Remember, in the public sector, a planner is paid to enforce the zoning code and the comprehensive plan of the city in which they are employed. This does NOT include expressing personal opinion.
    It depends on the comp plan. If it is vague or silent on an issue, then there very well may be a personal opinion involved in a recommendation. Albeit with some sound planning theory involved (whatever that may be ).

    This also speaks to having a thorough comp plan so that there are no vague area.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    Remember, in the public sector, a planner is paid to enforce the zoning code and the comprehensive plan of the city in which they are employed. This does NOT include expressing personal opinion.
    You are either very inexperienced or very narrow minded, otherwise you would realize that 99% of the time, the Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinances and Subdivision Regulations do not cover every issue that may arise during the review of a major development plan.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vagaplanner View post
    You are either very inexperienced or very narrow minded, otherwise you would realize that 99% of the time, the Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinances and Subdivision Regulations do not cover every issue that may arise during the review of a major development plan.
    Thanks for calling me out! I appreciate how much you know about me!
    Inexperienced? No
    Narrow-minded? Maybe
    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

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    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vagaplanner View post
    You are either very inexperienced or very narrow minded, otherwise you would realize that 99% of the time, the Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinances and Subdivision Regulations do not cover every issue that may arise during the review of a major development plan.

    Your personal opinions should never come into play when reviewing a plan. Does it meet the ordinance in question? yes or no? Its not up for discussion, and frankly the developer doesnt give a rats a$$ what you recommend or think, if it isnt backed up by a section of the Zoning Ordinance.

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff View post
    Your personal opinions should never come into play when reviewing a plan. Does it meet the ordinance in question? yes or no? Its not up for discussion, and frankly the developer doesnt give a rats a$$ what you recommend or think, if it isnt backed up by a section of the Zoning Ordinance.
    Got to have the recommendation backed by applicable code regs-- especially out west.

    The rest is just negotiation.
    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

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    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff View post
    Your personal opinions should never come into play when reviewing a plan. Does it meet the ordinance in question? yes or no? Its not up for discussion, and frankly the developer doesnt give a rats a$$ what you recommend or think, if it isnt backed up by a section of the Zoning Ordinance.

    You're right, my personal opinion is not relevant, but my professional opinion is. Most of the developer's I've worked with respect my opinion and will work with us for the betterment of the city.

  15. #15
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vagaplanner View post
    You're right, my personal opinion is not relevant, but my professional opinion is. Most of the developer's I've worked with respect my opinion and will work with us for the betterment of the city.
    Well said. Further, it's my view that my employer is paying me to provide my professional opinion. After all, a moron can regurgitate development standards (sorry morons).

  16. #16
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Well then...

    I wish I could work someplace else then...


    Forcing "professional planning opinion" here will not really be tolerated (unless you want to spend your entire day/week in a pissing match). However, we do bring about professional opinion in the way of negotiation with developers to find a common ground.
    I think where Planners get put down is when they cite professional opinion and APA rhetoric as gospel and do not allow a meeting point between local government ideals and development desires. In order to sustain business (especially small business) in the community Planners must meet in the middle on some items.
    Last edited by zman; 20 Sep 2007 at 10:32 AM.
    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

  17. #17
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Staff Reports

    I'd like to know how those of you in the public sector prepare your staff reports. We have a recommendation from the Planning Commission and staff, and sometimes they are at odds. If the Planning Commission hears a staff recommendation then decides to go the other direction, obviously staff didn't convince them. A lot of this depends on your Commission and their understanding of the Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Regulations and law in general. If there is a health, safety or potential violation of legal rights involved, staff should stand firm with their recommendation. If the issues are more touchy-feely, you need to know when to pick your battles.

    It takes a certain level of arrogance to presume that staff should or thinks they could "trump" a Planning Commission decision and continue pushing for a staff recommendation.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  18. #18
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    It takes a certain level of arrogance to presume that staff should or thinks they could "trump" a Planning Commission decision and continue pushing for a staff recommendation.
    I can live with being called "arrogant". If I may provide a scenario of what I'm talking about:

    We just had development plans for a grocery store approved. This grocery store is part of a larger development that is adjacent to two highway intersections; both are fully directional, but only one is signalized. Therefore, the unsignalized intersection is of more of a safety concern because the grocery store - and the entire development - will force more traffic into the both intersections and encourage left turns onto the highway at an intersection that is already unsafe. So unless we modify the unsignalized intersection to restrict left turns onto the highway, we are simply making an unsafe situation even more unsafe. Therefore, I recommended that we require a median to be constructed at the unsignalized intersection so that "unprotected" left turns onto the highway would not be possible at that location. The Planning Commission chose to ignore that recommendation, but that doesn't mean that all of a sudden the safety issue goes away just because the PC ignored it. So, I presented the City Council with two recommedations; one from the Planning Commission and one from me (the Planning Director).

    To ignore the safety issue just because the Planning Commission ignored it would not have been serving the best interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the public and therefore, NOT DOING MY JOB.

    Grow some backbone people!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vagaplanner View post
    To ignore the safety issue just because the Planning Commission ignored it would not have been serving the best interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the public and therefore, NOT DOING MY JOB.

    Grow some backbone people!
    What is a Planner doing making recommendations for traffic safety anyways. Sounds like your Planning Commission needs to be retrained or establish a new mission statement.

    If a median (or other traffic devise) was going to be an issue, the project would NOT be going to Planning Commission in the first place.

    Off-topic:
    As for growing backbone, you're getting mighty close to a personal attack on people here... just thought you should know.
    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

  20. #20
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    I think we all need to remember that there are distinct regional (and even state to state and locality to locality) differences in how the development review process works, what the job responsibilities of planners are in those different locations, and who has review authority.

    For example, in my situation, all development review is done and approved by the Planning Board. The governing body has no authority in development review (they only have authority over the zoning ordinance). So in this scenario, there isn't the possibility of a split staff/board recommendation going to the governing body for development proposals.

    Secondly, I am expected to review and make recommendations (along with our engineering staff) on ALL aspects of the development proposal. So traffic safety is absolutely something I would consider, and regularly do, in my recommendations.

    So changing hats...

    Moderator note:
    Play nice, and stay away from personal attacks. It's getting a bit too heated in here.
    "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

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    Interpretation

    I think we're all missing a keyword here--Interpretation. I don't think the word opinion should play into the situation at all. Even development codes leave room for interpretation by the professionals to some degree, and surely most to all comp plans do. This is why we go to school, to gain the background with which to make recommendations based upon our interpretations of the intent of applicable guidance documents and regulations. In current planning, anyway.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yup....

    Quote Originally posted by NotMinnesota View post
    I think we're all missing a keyword here--Interpretation. I don't think the word opinion should play into the situation at all. Even development codes leave room for interpretation by the professionals to some degree, and surely most to all comp plans do. This is why we go to school, to gain the background with which to make recommendations based upon our interpretations of the intent of applicable guidance documents and regulations. In current planning, anyway.
    Nice point NotMinnesota
    Interpretations lead to recommendations.......you can all feel free to quote The One on this......he he he
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    Actually

    I have actually served on a Conservation Board and a Preservation Board (Town and City) where the staff was asked not for opinions but for a matching of the proposal against the existing code. The Boards did their own decision making with input as required. Hmmmm

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    This is the AICP Code of Ethics. Of course, you don't need to be certified or even like the APA to recognize that this provides a good guideline for ethical concerns.

    Check it out at: http://www.planning.org/ethics/conduct.html
    From the AICP Certification Maintenance Program Details -
    1.2 Achieving CM Credit Requirements
    A minimum of 1.5 credits will be on the topic of ethics. These credits cannot be carried over to the next reporting cycle.
    A minimum of 1.5 credits will be on the topic of current planning law. These credits cannot be carried over to the next two-year reporting cycle.
    From the AICP Certification Maintenance Program Frequently Asked Questions -

    1.12 Must the required (and any other) ethics credits be specifically related to the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct?
    Our code is specific to our professional conduct. Therefore all qualifying ethics courses must be related to the AICP Code.
    Just in case anyone has not read the requirements that closely.
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  25. #25
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    Not necessarily

    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    Remember, in the public sector, a planner is paid to enforce the zoning code and the comprehensive plan of the city in which they are employed. This does NOT include expressing personal opinion.
    A planner is paid to provide their educated, professional opinion on what is best for the jurisdiction that employs them to the policymakers who make the decisions.

    When a planner, in the context of making a recommendation, finds a flaw in the zoning code (in most jurisdictions based on 1960s-era thinking) or the comprehensive plan (often enacted during a previous legislative term), they are obligated to point this out and to provide potential fixes/changes/solutions to the identified shortcoming.

    I have no problem in my job pointing out areas where the comp plan or the zoning ordinance is flawed; the comp plan is a living, breathing document, and the zoning ordinance can be amended if necessary to react to changes in the market and trends over time in the preferred pattern of built development.

    Planners MUST be advocates for good planning at all times, even if that means trotting out APA doctrine as gospel. A planner worth their salt should have at the ready several solid reasons why their recommendation is preferable to an alternative recommendation.

    When planners start relying on "it's our job to enforce the zoning ordinance and comp plan," they've given up. Of course it's our job to enforce the zoning ordinance and comp plan, but it's also our job to write them, and amend them, or at least recommend that the policymakers do so.

    Does that entail a little arrogance? Yes, maybe it does, and how one mitigates that is largely a function of their social skills. You go to a dentist to get your teeth fixed, a mechanic to get your car fixed, a plumber to get your pipes fixed, and you go to a planner to get your community planned. It's why they hired us, we might as well do it.

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