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Let’s Not Plan by Siege

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We've all been there, the neighbors and the developers are before us, each vehemently asserting their positions and we as planning commissioners are supposed to decide which side is right and what is best for the city. These decisions, of course, do not come at 7:00 p.m. when the meeting starts; no, they always come after hours of testimony, conflicting evidence, unnecessary acrimony and personal attacks, in the late hours of the evening. We're all tired after a day at work and now, after listening to angry citizens, we have to make a reasoned decision.

So, we make the ultimate decision. Is it a good one? Does it result in the best solution for the neighborhood, and the community? Possibly. Is there a better way of planning? Yes, but it takes time, re-education and a lot of commitment, not only on the part of the staff and the applicants, but also on the part of the commission and the community at large.

In Ashland, we have begun using new procedures to counter these confrontational hearings. There are two elements to this program; first, early intervention mediation, and second, collaborative neighborhood planning. ...

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