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The Effective Planning Commissioner

Meeting Formats Should Follow Their Functions

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Associating with planning can often put you on the cutting edge of innovation and creativity in your community. Why, then, are so many Planning Board meetings overly long and boring? From years' of observation, it seems to me that members too often blindly follow precedent, or strict legal construction, without making sure that the format of each meeting serves the functions it performs.

Previous columns have addressed many factors that contribute to having a productive meeting. Today, we are starting at the beginning: the agenda. A poorly thought out and sloppily executed agenda can hinder the smooth operating of your meeting, while a carefully designed one that is followed closely can be a distinct help. Consider the following:

Plan. It may seem like an oxymoron to suggest that planning bodies need to plan their agendas carefully, but the rule is too often violated. Naturally, you have to respond to special circumstances that must be expedited, but you also need to have time for long-range, or more visionary, planning. Setting aside time on your agenda for dealing with vital, though not necessarily urgent, planning concerns will assure that you do not always live for the present. ...

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photo of Elaine CoganElaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.

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