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Rescuing people who didn't ask for it.

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Michele Zone said:
...And am one of those dumb Americans with the bad habit of trying to rescue people who didn't ask for it. ;)
Many times planners (myself included) tend to “know what’s best” for people despite the fact that the group being “rescued” does not want our help. I think Michele Zone’s comment was based on “foreign affairs” but this happens quite a bit at home as well. (Correct me if I am wrong MZ, I don’t want to put words in your mouth ).

The question for this tread is when should planning intervene? When should gov’t “help”. Sometimes I visit a certain bar that attracts the construction/developer crowd and get to hear people discuss property rights over and over. They don’t complain about their developments, but their personal homes. Small issues such as fences, or not being able to cut down trees with out a permit, garage additions and things of that nature. (I have other populous examples but just chose to use this one since I was most recently there).

At first I would just think, “these regs are the best thing for the people”, but now I tend to question. Lets say science knows something is best, every textbook will say its best, every professor would say its best, every planner would say its best, but nobody in the community wants it? You try education, but nothing works to get them on your side.

What do you do? Planning at a local level (focus on the word local here) should be a service to the community citizens, right? So should they be given what they want (i.e. total property rights) if that is what the majority wants? Or given what is “best” for them?

Where is the line? When does a service become a disservice? Or is this post entirely wrong and off the wall?

Should the "beneficial" rules be enforced against majority desire?

I am not sure where the line is. I am still trying to figure that one out. I think I would be better off if everyone would just succumb and give me complete power already ;)
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,853
Points
39
I have a bad tendency to tell people how to get around the (little) zoning rules, or how to play the "variance game" to win. I have been known to butt in on total strangers' conversations with "Hi, I work in zoning, and here's what you need to do...". I do not give hints to developers, just the mom and pop types.
 

Michele Zone

BANNED
Messages
7,657
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29
No, not exactly based on ‘foreign affairs’. I am really not into politics. I have a multicultural background and grew up in a home with a foreign mother. She loves the U.S. but is also not ‘blindly’ devoted and has plenty of criticism for the way things get done here, since she has some objectivity based on growing up elsewhere. I also have friends all over the world and have lived a bunch of different places. (etc)

I, personally, think it is extremely important to try to not cram anything down anyone’s throat, if you can help it. Think of it this way: if you have the girl’s agreement, it is sex. If you have her enthusiastic cooperation, it is making love. If she says ‘no’ and you do it anyway, it is rape.

Your description sounds like maybe you spend an awful lot of time trying to ‘educate’ folks about the merits of your solution without trying to understand what they like about this other solution. That a) tends to communicate that you think they are all stupid and b) it is pretty well guaranteed that if you don’t understand what the people need, your solution will be wrong in some big way.

When my kids were little, my mom taught me to get down on the floor where they play and see if it is too hot or too cold or whatever from the perspective of the child. Adults may be sitting on the couch and perfectly comfortable and they assume the child must be comfortable because they are. Not so!

I think it can be really hard to understand where someone is coming from if they have a very different situation from your own. A lot of planning (and a zillion other things!) seems to be done with little understanding of the needs and circumstances of those being ‘helped’.
 

Michele Zone

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Zoning Goddess said:
I have a bad tendency to tell people how to get around the (little) zoning rules, or how to play the "variance game" to win. I have been known to butt in on total strangers' conversations with "Hi, I work in zoning, and here's what you need to do...". I do not give hints to developers, just the mom and pop types.
Oh, I love it. It makes me think of how you haver to deal with the military when the bureaucratic bs seems to be just strangling things. There is a rule for everything -- and if you know them well enough, there is usually a rule or protocol for how to get around it.

The other thing that comes to mind is a 'work to rule' strike: they 'strike' by doing exactly what the rule book says they are supposed to and not one iota more or less. This almost always succeeds in practically bringing operations to a halt. You have to deal with that 'human element' in order to get anything to really work.

Zoning Goddess: aka "Rebel with a cause".
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Michele Zone said:
Your description sounds like maybe you spend an awful lot of time trying to ‘educate’ folks about the merits of your solution without trying to understand what they like about this other solution. That a) tends to communicate that you think they are all stupid and b) it is pretty well guaranteed that if you don’t understand what the people need, your solution will be wrong in some big way.
I don’t understand how you got this at all. I have no solution. I was saying just the opposite. I totally get what they like about their desire; freedom and property rights. I just have one question, how did you get this from what I wrote? I said nothing of the sort. I was making generalizations about what some communities wants vs. planning as a whole, in general, in theory.

I think maybe the sarcasm is not coming through sometimes(like now). That is why I try and use ;) and :) a lot. ;) When I do ;), it means funny like ha ha and when I do :) it means I might agree or disagree, but in a friendly way. I think this is standard code? Someone let me know if I am using these incorrect. I don’t want everyone to think that I really want people to succumb and give me complete power. Heaven forbid that would happen! ;) :)

I think it can be really hard to understand where someone is coming from if they have a very different situation from your own. A lot of planning (and a zillion other things!) seems to be done with little understanding of the needs and circumstances of those being ‘helped’.
I do, however, agree with this statement.:)
 
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Michele Zone

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Huston said:
I don’t understand how you got this at all. I have no solution. I was saying just the opposite. I totally get what they like about their desire; freedom and property rights. I just have one question, how did you get this from what I wrote? I said nothing of the sort. I was making generalizations about what some communities wants vs. planning as a whole, in general, in theory.

I do, however, agree with this statement.:)
Oh, picky, picky,picky: did you get that I said "sounds like MAYBE..." you do x, y, and z? Hmm, did ya? Hmm? :)

Partly 'experience' on my part: It is something that A) Americans have a bad habit of doing (since I am American, I have definitely BTDT), B) something a lot of men tend to do -- be 'prescriptive' rather than have suggestions or whatever. In other words, male culture is prone to 'giving orders' and that sometimes doesn't fly. C) Human nature is also highly prone to advocating for their own point of view and not spending sufficient time really listening. I know a lot of my fights with my husband over the years were endless because neither one of us wanted to back down until we felt like we had been 'heard'. Which is, of course, a 'no win' situation. sigh. (We don't do that anymore. We got married really young!)

Anyway, I have done a lot of working on understanding how a problem appears from the other person's perspective. I sometimes 'forget' to do that, get full of myself and start figuring I am SOOO brilliant and they should just listen to ME. Naturally, at that point, I start sounding like an idiot (among other things). When I return to the practice of trying to 'walk a mile in their shoes', my 'answers' improve tremendously.

I don't know how to suggest that a planner 'walk a mile in their shoes'. I guess it depends in part on the group of folks involved.
 

Habanero

Cyburbian
Messages
3,241
Points
27
Hm, it depends.. on some days I'm more of a "learn how to swim on your own" type, other days I may throw them some floaties. It also depends on the person asking for help, I don't like helping the rotten ones.
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
Points
25
Huston said:

What do you do? Planning at a local level (focus on the word local here) should be a service to the community citizens, right? So should they be given what they want (i.e. total property rights) if that is what the majority wants? Or given what is “best” for them?
The eternal question in planning ethics.

I have a strong libertarian streak and have struggled my ideas of personal freedom vs. public good. My (limited) experience has taught me that people say they want total property rights, but like you said, typically only when they have a personal steak. Other times they have no problem trying to dictate how their neighbors should have used their property. The problem is that most persons aren't fully aware of all the issues in development and land use and we as planners are there to not only look out for the public good but to also sometimes save these persons from themselves. Although they often get what they deserve if we can't. Does that sound elitist and paternalistic enough?

A good example is the (now famous) Lucas vs. South Carolina takings case. Lucas wanted to build beachfront homes on Isle of Palms, SC property he owned, part of which had previously been underwater. The state informed him that his property was unsuitable for building and (then current) regulations kept him from building. Lucas sued the state and eventually won buy claiming that the state land use regs constituted an ecomomic taking of his land. He built his homes and went on to make money giving speaches on how others could stick it to the man and beat those damn planners.

That's been a few years ago and last I heard his houses are now being reclaimed by the Atlantic, and he and the property owners are furious that that the state won't do something to keep them from falling into the sea...Saving them from themselves.
 
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Repo Man

Cyburbian
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2,550
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25
I definitly think that there are times when government oversteps its authority. I think that the interpretation of "health, safety, and welfare" has gone overboard in some cases, same with the use of eminent domain.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Huston said:
Where is the line? When does a service become a disservice? Or is this post entirely wrong and off the wall?

Should the "beneficial" rules be enforced against majority desire?

I am not sure where the line is. I am still trying to figure that one out. I think I would be better off if everyone would just succumb and give me complete power already ;)
Ahhh... memories of John Stuart Mill... "your rights stop where my nose begins." How do we balance the rights of an individual against those of another individual, or of a larger group? Socrates (Plato?) argued that the best solution is the autocratic rule of (wise) philosopher-kings. But then, what wise person would accept the responsibility? Other than Huston. ;)

I think, when you talk of "cramming something down somebody's throat," that you have to appreciate the setting in which planners work. On the one hand, our relationship to our boards and to elected officials is as an advisor. We may influence, but we do not make the rules. To the public, we serve as interpretors and enforcers. While we may appreciate their point of view, we can simply attempt to explain the reasoning behind a decision. Ultimately, we have to enforce the codes.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
Flexibility

Careful about saying you don't want to much control, you will be accused of being immoral :)

We ALL have a GOD COMPLEX in this field, and truly believe that we could make a perfect utiopian society if we were just given enough control :)

Much of the problem is systemic. Most of us can all agree that code in planning and zoning is a MUST when dealing with developers.

comon sense is the victum of a rigid system of codes used to deal with existing conditions.

Time becomes a problem. Cities existed and worked fine without planners for thousands of years. When we retire they will continue to work just fine. This perpetual existence makes dealing with a rigid code system difficult. Past decisions on plating and cultural use do not always mesh with present "best practices".

In Green Bay, you have multiple methods of actually plating land. The French long lot system, lots created by the Catholic church, and the English system. This leaves the need for a flexible variance system to develop.

As with many cities and towns today, the housing stock is aged at close to 100 years or older. Building methods were not standardized and each house was a custom house in todays standards. These home by and large are not ADA accessable, are very difficult to make ADA accessible. They have many features which are "outdated". This leaves the need for a flexible variance system to develop.

Cultural methods of operating cause conflicts with planners who are often from out of the area and have a holier than thou attitude in dealing with the public. Find a system in which you work with residents to fix problems rather than place barriers in the way of achieving goals.

Our methods are designed for controling developers and this creates issues in how we deal with everyone. Sort of like stuffing a police officer in a black and white box, everyone outside of that box is a purpetraitor of a crime or a potential purp rather than a citezen to be protected.

Flexibility to achieved goals is the key rather than rigid compliance or indifference to ends.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Duke Of Dystopia, that was well put. I only wish I could say it as good. :)
 

otterpop

Cyburbian
Messages
6,655
Points
28
Rescuing people who don't think they need rescuing is an issue that comes up all the time at my job. I work in a primarily rural county. Planning staff gets criticism from developers, neighbors and sometimes our Commissioners for recommending denial of subdivisions or restrictive conditions of approval of subdivisions.

Typically these recommendations fall into these categories: 1) requiring fencing along the r-o-w of irrigation ditches; 2) requiring that no food be stored outside and no pets be allowed to roam freely in wildlife-friendly areas, and 3) prohibiting or restricting development in the wildland/residential interface.

We are told that fencing irrigation ditch rights-of-way is too expensive and no fence will keep all kids out. It is true that fencing is expensive. That is why real estate development is speculative. It is also true that no fence can be built that will keep out all kids. But a properly designed and constructed barrier fence will stop a two or three year old. Save one and it is money well spent. Even if you save a dog, it is money well spent. The irrigation ditch companies fish a lot of dogs out of their ditch infrastructure. We recommend this requirement because we are entrusted with public health and safety, and not financial viability.

Food and pets are a strong attractant to predators. Even a healthy lawn and exotic plants attract deer, which can attract bears, mountain lions and wolves. The mom and pop developer says "if little Sparky get eaten, it is my problem." Not entirely. It is also the problem of your neighbor and his small children, who may be mauled or killed by the lion you attract. It is the problem of the predator who is attracted to an area it should be avoiding. It is a problem for my conscience because I don't want little Jason or Jennifer getting eaten on my watch.

I recently carried the day and stopped a subdivision the developer wanted on land that is steep, highly erosive and a high fire risk. This property met the criteria of being a "fire chimney" A very dangerous situation for potential land owners, and the volunteer firemen who would have been called in to protect the homes. I did so through a Powerpoint presentation, photographs, expert testimony from fire officials and hard work. I felt good about that. Stopping a five-lot subdivision isn't one of the Labors of Hercules, but I went away convinced that I did the right thing for the people of the area, the potential purchasers of those lots, the County, the fire department and the wildlife. Every time I go by that property I feel good about what I did.

Developers are looking at the bottom line. Requirements like fencing, restrictive covenants mitigating attracting wildlife, building adequate roads and escape routes cost them money and they argue that these costs, which they feel are unnecessary, may make or break their proposal. I am sorry, but my job is to protect public health and safety. If the developer cannot develop his property without those safeguards, he needs to rethink his proposal or develop elsewhere.

Why do we need to regulate people's activities. Partly because some people and corporations cannot be trusted to act in the best interest of others. Partly because what you do on your land affects others and their land. And partly, unfortunately, because some people are really, really, and I do mean really STUPID.

Mod Note: Post merged. Otterpop - hit reply instead of new post when replying.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
OT

Otterpop - I find it fascinating to hear your issues with rural/western development. Things like planning in the event of forest fires, dealing with irrigation channels, and addressing wild animal threats are completely alien in this area.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
Michael Stumpf said:
OT

Otterpop - I find it fascinating to hear your issues with rural/western development. Things like planning in the event of forest fires, dealing with irrigation channels, and addressing wild animal threats are completely alien in this area.
Not really, there are bears and soon we will have to understand how to deal with the successful reintroduction of wolves into our state.

I have read some reports of farmers having lost cattle to wolves already in the state and now we have to listen to them whine. I believe this is in the best interest of the state and the ecosystem, some people could be put in some additional danger due to this goal. I have read and watched programs that deal with a bear, m-lion, and wolf dangers to humans. It may be impossible to stop humans from living in the interface area of such large predetors.

So another good question is how to balance two or more lofty goals that may be mutually incompatible. Public safety and the reintroduction of large human dangerous predators as one such clash of lofty aspirations.
 

Rem

Cyburbian
Messages
1,524
Points
23
otterpop said:
We are told that fencing irrigation ditch rights-of-way is too expensive and no fence will keep all kids out. It is true that fencing is expensive.... a properly designed and constructed barrier fence will stop a two or three year old. Save one and it is money well spent.
OT
Otterpop (or other posters) - I see in US Television shows and movies that backyard pools are never fenced. We have mandatory, 'child proof' barrier fencing for pools in Australia. Are the shows I'm seeing removing the fences for cinematic affect or are such controls not required?

Barrier fencing of agricultural dams, channels etc is rarely required as the psychologists advise they are less attractive to children. If they are located in close proximity to dwellings or in rural residential areas, fencing is required. Design is also important with 'walk out' batters required adjacent to banks.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
Re: Re: Rescuing people who didn't ask for it.

Rem said:
OT
Otterpop (or other posters) - I see in US Television shows and movies that backyard pools are never fenced. We have mandatory, 'child proof' barrier fencing for pools in Australia. Are the shows I'm seeing removing the fences for cinematic affect or are such controls not required?
Cimematic effect. Around here, fences are required for pools of less than 42" above grade. Decks and stairs are required to have locking gates.
 
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