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Thread: Article about planner ethics

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Article about planner ethics

    HEADLINE: City planner who moonlights as developer reassigned after community complains of conflict
    http://www.ottawacitizen.com/busines...081/story.html

    HIGHLIGHT:
    “The assignment of planning files is a management function and such files are assigned with the full acknowledgment of the principles and guidelines set out in the City of Ottawa’s Employee Code of Conduct,"

    It’s not clear whether (Planner) was assigned to deal with the condo building because her bosses didn’t know what she was doing at 433 Dawson Ave. or because they didn’t consider it a conflict of interest.
    Is the burden on the planner first instead of waiting for the community to question it ?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    “There is the question, which I think is very important, that we have to be able to freely criticize a planner without concerns that our comments on files she’s handling will be held against us,” Cutler said. The association worried that it couldn’t oppose the zoning variances for Edwards’s own property without risking affecting her judgment on other projects in the neighbourhood.
    I think that this is kind of ridiculous. Under the community association's reasoning, if a city planner owns property in a jurisdiction they cannot work in said jurisdiction, as the planner is going to be jaded into attempting to protect or enhance their own investment over the best interest of the jurisdiction. Would the planner even be able to exist within the jurisdiction? Basically, the implication becomes the notion that planners have no ethics, ever.

    Having typed that, the planner should have probably initiated the ethics review in some fashion. Of course who is to say she didn't?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    A planner should never be a moon lighting developer in his/her jurisdiction. Also, there should be severe sanctions for creating such an atrocious structure.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    A planner should never be a moon lighting developer in his/her jurisdiction. Also, there should be severe sanctions for creating such an atrocious structure.
    This is too loose for me. What's a developer? Think about jurisdictions that require employees to have residence within the jurisdiction. Would a planner be able to buy their own house? They or their estate will eventually sell or transfer the property to another party. What about roommates? If you live somewhere there is some form of property management occurring. I think a blanket no discounts the nature of real property and exchange and use value of such property.

    I should note that I recognize the wisdom of don't crap where you eat, or even better, don't even engage in the activity. The real case isn't as cloudy, and the planner isn't doing herself any favors.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I would never even own rental property within my jurisdiction. Perhaps it is just me.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I would assume she is deemed the developer as she has turned this standard home into a multi-unit home for rental. A butt-ugly one at that, what is this 1970?

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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I think it's safest for planners not to develop in their own community, but a little disclosure goes a long way. How hard would it be to say, hey boss, I have a rental house or own a lot or even live in this area, can you give the project to someone else? It's harder for small communities, but it's a start.

    For me, I'll take the safe way and not own rental or development property in my jurisdiction. I have had other planners who would try to influence the general plan or zoning because they felt it didn't belong in their neighborhood, even when all the signs point to something like commercial zoning or trying to tank a cell tower because it's at their kids school.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Well it would seem to be against the AICP ethics, but I've worked with planners who have been developers in the jurisdiction (owning a property and subdividing it). AICP aside, I don't think it is inherently wrong as long as the planner stays hands off and clearly discloses and doesn't let future development goals guide policy proposals. That is the important thing, planners should never let invstments, personal beliefs or political beliefs impact their planning.

    To think its inherently wrong is to think development and planning are completely opposed to each other. Developers often sit on planning commissions making planning policy. I've heard some people argue that planners shouldn't own property either because its an investment in a community that can be affected by the planners work. We need to be reasonable about these things.
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  9. #9
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    Well it would seem to be against the AICP ethics, but I've worked with planners who have been developers in the jurisdiction (owning a property and subdividing it). AICP aside, I don't think it is inherently wrong as long as the planner stays hands off and clearly discloses and doesn't let future development goals guide policy proposals. That is the important thing, planners should never let invstments, personal beliefs or political beliefs impact their planning.

    To think its inherently wrong is to think development and planning are completely opposed to each other. Developers often sit on planning commissions making planning policy. I've heard some people argue that planners shouldn't own property either because its an investment in a community that can be affected by the planners work. We need to be reasonable about these things.
    100% agree with you. If asked, I would tell the staff planner that it is a bad idea to play developer in the town you're a planner for and comes dangerously close to crossing an ethical line. For the AICP Code of Ethics, I tend to think it does cross the line even with disclosure. Some of this depends on the size of the jurisdiction as well and whether you really can clearly & definitively separate yourself from the approval process. Regardless, playing developer in your own city is going to create a perception of inpropriety... and perception is reality. This is much different for a planning commissioner of course, but I'm speaking to a staff planner position.

    B25: We shall neither deliberately, nor with reckless indifference, commit any wrongful act, whether or not specified in the Rules of Conduct, that reflects adversely on our professional fitness.
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 08 Oct 2013 at 11:45 AM.

    "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)

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    I'm going to go the opposite route and say I wish more planners were developers in their communities. We allow developers and RE agents on planning commission and those people may generally drag down the standards; not raise them up.

    We complain all the time on this site that developers' goals are to squeeze out every penny they can without regard to long term community impact. At the same time we stand up on our pedestals and say how caring we are and want to do "things the right way", regardless of cost. So let's put our money where our mouth is. In smaller towns planners may know the market and needs better than anyone. You'd be hard pressed to find a planner that wants metal buildings on Main Street so I doubt they'd advocate for them yet "developers" (more likely business owners) frequently want the cheapest option available. Maybe I'll get criticized for this but we want the best for our communities. Who else does?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    I've heard some people argue that planners shouldn't own property either because its an investment in a community that can be affected by the planners work. We need to be reasonable about these things.
    I've heard the opposite argued as well. Depending on the community, people either want employees that live there and therefore has a stake in the city's future or they think that you are in a position to where you can abuse your role.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  12. #12
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    I'm going to go the opposite route and say I wish more planners were developers in their communities. We allow developers and RE agents on planning commission and those people may generally drag down the standards; not raise them up.

    We complain all the time on this site that developers' goals are to squeeze out every penny they can without regard to long term community impact. At the same time we stand up on our pedestals and say how caring we are and want to do "things the right way", regardless of cost. So let's put our money where our mouth is. In smaller towns planners may know the market and needs better than anyone. You'd be hard pressed to find a planner that wants metal buildings on Main Street so I doubt they'd advocate for them yet "developers" (more likely business owners) frequently want the cheapest option available. Maybe I'll get criticized for this but we want the best for our communities. Who else does?

    As a "planner" I'd agree with you. As a "public administrator" I'd probably argue the other way.

    Side note: I often get upset with how many developers are placed on PC's
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  13. #13
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    Follow up article:

    Column: A clear conflict of interest for city planner
    http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion...666/story.html


    Trouble is, she made the zoning application under a different name, raising suspicion that she was trying to hide her involvement. (She rejects this, explaining that she used another name to prevent departmental colleagues dealing with the application from knowing it came from her, and perhaps being influenced by it.
    She was wrong and so was the Planning committee chair.

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