Rural / small town How much rural planning is done in house?

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#1
Last summer I interned with private firm in the Dakotas doing mostly comprehensive plans for small towns. I was surprised to find out that there are almost no planners employed by local city and county governments out there. As it was put to me, rural counties and small towns are pretty much maxed out just doing zoning administration--any actual planning planning work is always farmed out to a private consulting firm.

Has that been your experience, rural planning Cyburbians? Just curious if you guys have had different experiences in other parts of the country.
 

Dan

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#2
Has that been your experience, rural planning Cyburbians? Just curious if you guys have had different experiences in other parts of the country.
It's definitely the case in upstate New York, even in larger suburbs with high five-digit populations. Some smaller communities don't have zoning or comprehensive plans. There's often a much greater emphasis on economic development than traditional planning.

I can't say I work for a community that's entirely rural, but it's certainly not urban either. We have a very large planning staff for a community our size. Why? The planning process takes much longer than in other parts of the country, in large part due to local culture -- academia and Sayre's Lsw, progressive ideals of consensus, and very strong environmental awareness. I'm the only planner on staff without a strong environmental science background.

The smaller communities that have staff planners, in my experience, have some kind of unique quality they want to preserve or enhance. I worked for a very small town in Florida, a place that's a speck on the map, but the powers that be valued the local character enough to place a high value on planning.
 
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#3
Around here the typical city/village needs to reach about 15,000 before you are likely to see a planner on staff. Smaller cities/villages may have a zoning administrator who handles routine issues in house, and may even do some plan review, but is usually not someone who has studied to be a planner. I would also say that you do not see much project planning (ex., comp plans, downtown plans, park plans, etc.) done in house until a city may reach a population of 75,000 or more, and even then the majority of that work is still farmed out to consultants. One reason is that staff are preoccupied with day to day planning needs. The other is that the work is best done by people who have done it often.
 
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#4
I never heard of Sayre's law before. Thanks for the explanation that explains allot of what I have been frustrated with over the last 20 years!
 

dvdneal

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#5
Most countys in Kansas don't bother with zoning. You either need a big enough city in the county for it to become a concern (maybe 10-20k) or have some other driving factors to require planning. I think the towns are more likely to start up planning sooner than the county. There's also a lot of limited resources. Here we focus on roads for harvest time. We have planning to protect farms and keep those odd things from developing outside the city.

If you want to watch one start, Ottawa County, KS is just implementing their zoning codes. There's not much to say, they appointed a planner and hired someone to draft their first code. We'll see how it works over time. I know a lot of people are not happy with the Z word out there.
 

luckless pedestrian

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#6
I am a planner for a small town - 5,000 winter, 15,000 in summer

the comp plan is currently being rewritten by a comittee (it's tough to watch)
 
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#7
Our rural county does in-house planning, but we also farm out work to consultants when it is an area outside of our comfort zone of expertise.
 

kjel

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#8
NJ has 565 municipalities ranging in population from 5 to 280,000 residents. Just because a muni is small does not necessarily mean that it is rural, at least not here. Most munis that are below 20K in population largely outsource planning although nearly all of them have a planning board and a zoning board of adjustment. Most mid and large munis have in house planning and most counties have a planning department. Some portions of the state are covered by special regional planning entities: Meadowlands, Highlands, Pinelands.

I worked for a joint city/county shop in Greenwood, SC. All of their planning is done in house for the City of Greenwood (23K) as well as the 4 smaller towns and unincorporated areas (69K total county population). Much of the county was rural.
 
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