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The Planning Commission at Work

Making Planning Accountable

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The duties and responsibilities borne by planning commissioners are remarkably similar across the country. Chief among them are improving the public health, safety, convenience, and welfare of the citizens who live in the community by planning for the future development of the community.

In many instances the enabling authority will also specify the types of planning studies to be performed. Indeed, virtually every state mandates that local comprehensive planning take into account transportation systems; community facilities; residential, commercial and industrial development; and agriculture, forest, and open space uses. Also common to most enabling statutes is a listing of the tools localities can use to implement community plans, such as zoning, subdivision regulation, and capital improvement programs.

The authority to plan, while important, says little about the impact of planning. In like fashion, the authority to use zoning does not, on its face, guarantee that planning will be a success. Making a planning difference is something each locality must do for itself.

During training sessions, I like to ask participants to respond to this question: how do you define success for your planning commission or department? The answers I receive run a wide gamut, and include remarks like: We handled thirty-two rezoning requests. We finished the plan. We completed three special target studies. We met forty-six times as a commission. Our budget was not cut. No one sued us. Sound familiar? For many of us success is a function of quantification. Numbers, however, only tell part of the story. ...

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