• Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, the built environment, planning adjacent topics, and anything else that comes to mind. No ads, no spam, and it's free. It's easy to join!

Contract planners or consulting firms?

Hello, Forum,

What are the drawbacks to utilizing contract planners?

I’m a member of the joint city-county planning commission at Savannah, Georgia.

We are faced with the two to three year (no longer, I hope, but could run considerably longer) task of rewriting both the city and county zoning ordinances.

My “bright” idea is to hire good, experienced contract planners, for a finite period. Not a “consulting firm” per se, but contract planners, to be integrated into and work with existing staff.

The pay would be greater than that which a planner would expect in a tenured position. A contribution to a personal retirement plan would be made. The upside is a chance to work on creating and instituting new ordinances (and life in Savannah ain’t half bad!) The downside is that the employment would be finite, or even shorter, should a planner not produce as expected.

Please, what are the negatives to this approach to ordinance rewriting?

Neill F. McDonald, MAI
Savannah, GA


Dear Leader
Staff member
This is just one planner's opinion -- take it for what it's worth.

A planner that has enough experience to write a good, clean development code (you are going to integrate subdivision regulations and design standards into the new code, aren't you?) probably has a few years under their belt, and they're at a point in their career where they want to settle down -- they're beyond the two- years-here-two-years-there-until-my-resume-looks-good point.

When a full-time planner writes a zoning code, they've got a greater stake in the outcome of the regulations than a contract planner, since they live (or near) the community, and they can "champion the plan" as it's being implemented. They're less likely to make concessions merely to make the rewrite process easier.
"You are going to integrate subdivision regulations and design standards into the new code, aren't you?" Yes

Sorry, Dan, I really meant to ask for a contrast between "contract" planners and "consulting firm" planners. Neill

mike gurnee

There are consultants who will do pretty much what you want: talk with a few in your area informally to see what they can offer.