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Ethics & the Planning Commission

Choice & Opportunity

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Suppose you are on a planning commission that is considering a draft revision to your zoning code. During the course of public hearings on the proposed code, representatives of a low income housing advocacy group appear and argue that the proposed zoning does not allow for the development of affordable housing, and is therefore preventing low income residents who might want to live in your community from being able to. They further argue that other regulations, including your subdivision regulations, have standards that are very expensive to comply with, resulting in even higher housing costs. On the other hand, you know there is a great deal of sentiment within your community opposed to the development of low income housing.

How do you balance these interests? Are there any ethical considerations involved?

The issue of a community's responsibility to provide for affordable housing was at the heart of the Britton v. Tonw of Chester case, decided this past summer. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found that the town's zoning ordinance was "blatantly exclusionary" because it prevented low and moderate income families from being able to live in the community. The Court ruled that under New Hampshire's planning and zoning enabling laws, the town had an obligation to provide its fair share of affordable housing within the region. The Court noted that municipalities are not "isolated enclaves" removed from broader regional concerns.  ...

End of excerpt

photo of Greg DaleC. Gregory Dale, FAICP, is a founding Principal with McBride Dale Clarion, the Cincinnati affiliate office of Clarion Associates. He has managed planning projects throughout the country, and is also a frequent speaker at planning and zoning workshops and conferences.

Between 1991 and 2009, Dale authored 31 articles for the Planning Commissioners Journal, including 21 for our Ethics & the Planning Commission series, and others on a variety of transportation and zoning topics. Dale is also a co-author of The Planning Commissioners Guide (American Planning Association, 2013).

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