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Thread: Warning: Planning Board Rant

  1. #1
          Downtown's avatar
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    Warning: Planning Board Rant

    I just need to vent, sorry, but I am feeling pretty frustrated and ineffective this week.

    This week we have a pretty decent sized cluster subdivision up to P.B. for concept approval. Located on the adjacent lot is another big cluster subdivision that just received concept approval (still have to go through final approval process). Anyway, when discussing our Planning Dep't recommendations, I remarked that we would strongly recommend sidewalks, in addition to connecting the two proposals through their roadways and greenspace. Then made the usual arguements for why sidewalks are our friends. And then I got the text book oldtimer's argument from our chairman: I've lived in this town since 1956 and I think we've gotten along quite nicely without sidewalks so far, Thank you.

    Argh! These developments are located off of a residential street that has turned into a major collector street with none of the improvements, where the posted speed limit is 30, but people are regularly clocked at 60 because it is a direct connector to two big commercial thoroughfares and residents have been screaming about their poor children having no where to ride bikes or walk and begging us for sidewalks and now, because the median age of our planning board is 73 we don't want to incorporate new ideas. Christ, sidewalks aren't even a new idea, but i live and work in the middle of suburban hell where people like their residential neighborhood roads 36 feet wide for easier plowing!

    ok. i just realized i haven't taken a breath in about two minutes. sorry for my tirade. i'm just so sad and angry about my board's unwillingness to require anything but the bare minimum in design quality from developers. I've got the support of my Planning Director, but this is the complaint of planners everywhere I guess: all we have is the power to recommend.

    alright. thanks for listening to me. sorry to be so negative.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Upstate New York? Sounds like western Kansas...or eastern KY.

    Take it slow and methodical. Put the issue of sidewalks in the comprehensive plan, backed up by the residents' desires. Then proceed to requiring it in the sub regs. hopefully by that time there will be a change in the PB composition. Or go around them to the governing body.

    A planner's recommendation goes much further with a room full of citizen-voters who agree with you.

  3. #3
          Downtown's avatar
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    Comprehensive plan? Don't have one. Fortunately, there have been rumblings in the community regarding the lack of a comp plan, so hopefully in the next year we can start drafting.

    But you're right. Slow and steady wins the race. And I'm lucky to at least have resident support. However, once it becomes known that sidewalks will be carved from their front lawns (not really, the town has the ROW, but these people still have their lawn in the ROW and believe they own it), I wonder how strong support will be then.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    South Milwaukee
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    been there done that

    Here's what I've done in the past : When you start your comp planning process include a few word-smithed survey questions on the topic. Ask about desireability of sidewalks in plain and simple terms. Ask if people prefer to walk in the street or prefer to walk in places separated from traffic. Ask them if the prefer to have their children ride bicycles amongst traffic in the same context. Ask about the desireability of recreation trails. Use other friendly terms like 'pedestrian paths'. The real problem in cases like yours is that perception becomes reality. If you can change the perception, well... you get it.

  5. #5
    maudit anglais
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    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh - that was good.

    It's been awhile since there's been a good rant posted we can all commiserate with...

    So far, I'd have to say I agree with the responses - as slow and painful as it can be, you have to take it one step at a time. That sucks in the sense that the developments being approved NOW will not benefit, but I guess unless you can be truly persuasive with you board, that's the best you can do.

    I guess one problem would be convincing your PB to make some revisions to the comprehensive plan - doesn't sound like they are too interested.

  6. #6
          Downtown's avatar
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    The problem with my planning board is that they're complacent. The majority of members on the board have been there for at least 20 years, many have more than 30. Only one, the youngest in his late 40's, has any planning training at all. Since coming on board I've made subtle efforts in the education arena, providing the board with planning related articles that relate to issues in our community that people are dealing with elsewhere, reminding them of local planners luncheons and meetings, but they fall on deaf (no pun intended because two are almost entirely deaf, do not use hearing aids and can not hear you unless you are speaking directly to them from a few feet away and miss the majority of what goes on in the meetings) ears.

    Anyway, thanks for the words of advice guys. I normally love my job, but this week has just been so tense, especially with election day next week, which I imagine is a topic for a whole new thread.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian GeogPlanner's avatar
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    that's good ol' hometown Upstate NY fer ya!

    will they ever learn? no...but someday they'll retire (we hope)!
    Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after and only after the design is complete. (Often called the 'Now They Tell Us' Law) - Fyfe's First Law of Revision

    We don't believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans. -- George W. Bush , Scranton, PA -- 09/06/2000

  8. #8
          Downtown's avatar
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    Well, I don't know about that.... they already are all retired. Well, 6 of the 7. The Planning Board provides a weekly source of social interaction as well as the ever important source of income. They may go deaf, have heart attacks or strokes, but I am beginning to think that the only way off our Planning Board is through a Pine Box.

  9. #9
         
    Registered
    Feb 2002
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    BC, Canada
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    sidewalks

    With regard to sidewalks, here is one tact that has worked for me. Refer to the amount of traffic and the clear need to get people from A to B. Next is the clincher! I indicate that to get sidewalks now is an upfront cost to the developer. To get them after the development is complete it will require a tax on the individual property owner and the work of the local government.

    So essentially, by not having sidewalks built initially you are burying or hiding the cost from the property purchaser and deferrring the responsibility to local government. The developer is downloading the cost of a normal development requirement onto the individual property owners and the local government. It becomes a problem for local government to deal with in the future rather than one that initial construction would avoid.

    ...or maybe I have too much faith that logic will prevail. I also see pigs fly and buy lottery tickets.

    I haven't been to this site in a long time. Its kind of nice to be back.

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