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Thread: Creating steering committees for plans

  1. #1
    Cyburbian rosierivets's avatar
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    Creating steering committees for plans

    In my community, we are considering whether we will implement a steering committee to diversify viewpoints for comprehensive plan preparation. Our ordinance states that the plan commission is charged with creation and approval of the comp plan. Any ideas on how to diplomatically bring a steering committee into the picture? The intent would be to include some representatives of the commission and ultimately bring the drafts back to the commission for their comment during each step of the way. If anyone has done something similar or has points for or against this approach, do share!
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    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    This is a common practice in this neck of the woods, partially because Planning Boards are so busy with development review that they don't generally have time (or interest) in long range planning. We set up a Comprehensive Plan Committee for our plan and it would not have worked without one. The Planning Board did not care, as far as I can tell.

  3. #3
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    The Planning Commission in my county went beyond a single steering committee. They asked for volunteers in a couple of newspaper articles and set up citizen work groups for economic development, land use, infrastructure, transportation and a couple of others. Over 100 citizens were involved during a 2 year period and submitted final reports to the PC. Those reports were given to the planning consultants who incorporated many of the ideas into the revised plan. The result was a very, very good comp plan which was recently formaly adopted by the Board of Supervisors. I'm not a planner but I was chairman of one of these citizen groups. I looked at a lot of comp plans from around the state and the nation. The plans that stood out to me were the ones where interested citizens were involved in the process.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    These are common approaches. They can be effective. I would have a couple words of caution. First, if your comp plan process is going to take a long time, by which I mean more than a year, it may be hard to maintain the interest of the steering committee. I have been involved in processes that began with 20-person steering committees, and by 18 months or so they never had a quorem. Second, you should be reasonably confident that your plan commission is going to respect the work of the steering committee. In bad situations, the plan commission may try to duplicate everything done by the steering committee, or change all of its work. The steering committee can become disallusioned or confrontational, which sets a bad tone for the planning process.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Steering committees are a necessary evil. They work well to increase the amount of community input into the plan process, but they are generally made up of special interest groups and political wannabes. They often come to the table with an agenda and are resistant to any type of training that differs from their point of view. They can easily extend the timing of the plan process a year or more just to work through the issues with them. I did a plan several years ago where we convinced the city council that a steering committee would only slow down the entire process and that holding a series of day long public training and input session would be a better process. We shaved a year off the process and saved ourselves a lot of nights of frustration.

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