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When Information Is In Question

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During your service as a planning commissioner you will often confront the question of what to do when you believe (or know) that information being presented to the commission is untrue. Let us begin by considering a hypothetical situation.

An applicant appears before your commission requesting site plan approval. Your ordinance contains standards that site plans must meet. One of those standards relates to documenting and mitigating, if necessary, the impact of any stormwater runoff on downstream properties. The developer, as part of his presentation, submits a civil engineer's report that demonstrates that the development will satisfy the city's requirements, in part because the city's existing stormwater facilities have adequate capacity. On the other hand, a nearby homeowner opposed to the development argues that the existing stormwater facilities are inadequate, and states that his basement has frequently been flooded.

How do you handle this situation?

You and your fellow commissioners hear testimony, some of which may be contradictory. It is your job to determine what information is relevant, and what appears to be believable.

In a sense, your role is like that of a judge. You and your fellow commissioners hear testimony, some of which may be contradictory. It is your job to determine what information is relevant, and what appears to be believable. Obviously, you do not have to believe everything you hear. For example, if someone argues that, in their opinion, a development will result in
stormwater runoff problems, but offers no evidence in support of their opinion, you will likely give little weight to that opinion in making your decision.

In the hypothetical situation described, you may well want to get more detailed information from all parties. Can the neighbor document or back up his assertions? What is the city engineer's position on the adequacy of the stormwater facilities? What response does the applicant's engineer have? ...

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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