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Planning Commissioner Roles & Responsibilities

Just what does it mean to be a planning commissioner? And how can you be more effective in your job as a member of your town, city, or county planning board? That’s a questions we’ve covered extensively in the Planning Commissioners Journal. This selection of articles offer a wide range of ideas and suggestions, many from individuals who have served as commissioners. While these articles will be of especial value for new commissioners, we think “old hands” will benefit as well.

The first article below provides a broad overview of the topic. The second listing is to what may be the single most valuable resource available on the PlannersWeb, our long-time columnist Elaine Cogan’s “Now That You’re on Board” booklet, including 25 tips for planning commissioners on how they can be more effective in their job.

Be sure to also look at our our Planning 101: Ethics & the Planning Commission


Just What Is the Job of a Planning Commissioner? — by PCJ Editor Wayne Senville

Over the past twenty years, the primary goal of the Planning Commissioners Journal (and now the PlannersWeb) has been to help citizen planners — especially members of local planning and zoning boards — do their job better. But just what is the role and what are the responsibilities of a planning commissioner.


Now that You’re On Board: How to Survive … and Thrive … as a Planning Commissioner — by Elaine Cogan

25 practical tips for planning board members, some condensed from Elaine’s past Planning Commissioners Journal columns, others new. Elaine’s insights, gained from years’ of experience working with citizen planners, will help
you not just “survive,” but “thrive” on your planning commission. With illustrations by Marc Hughes.


Being a Planning Commissioner – by Steven Burt

Asking the right question; evaluating information presented; identifying interests; making no excuses. Lessons from nine years as a member of a local planning and zoning commission.


Welcome to the Commission

Advice from six planning commissioners from across the country especially aimed at new planning commissioners. Plus a roundtable discussion moderated by Planning Commissioners Journal editor Wayne Senville.


What Counts Most as a Planning Commissioner? — by Elaine Cogan

PCJ columnist Elaine Cogan takes a look at three valuable traits of an effective planning commissioner: patience, persistence, and passion.


Independent and Informed — by C. Gregory Dale, FAICP

Why it’s critically important that planning commissioners be independent and informed.


Making a Difference — by Otis White

How much of a difference can one planning commissioner make? Quite a bit, as civic consultant Otis White explains in this story about a county planning commissioner from Oregon.


The Planning Commission As Independent Advisor – by Michael Chandler

Ways your commission can advance the cause of good planning, and strengthen its relationship with the governing body.


Meaningful Dialogue With the Public — by Elaine Cogan

By engaging in a true dialogue with the public, you may learn some useful information and actually enjoy the give-and-take.


Town Councils and Planning Boards: A Challenging Relationship — by Pamela Plumb

Planning consultant (and former city councilor) Pamela Plumb explains how local governing bodies and planning commissions can develop a strong, positive relationship.


Commission and Staff: Expectations of Each Other – by Michael Chandler

Focusing on the important, but often overlooked, relationship between commission and staff.


The New Commissioner: Dazed & Confused — by Sharon Wiley Hightower

Some valuable “orientation” advice for new planning commissioners from a California planning consultant and planning commissioner.


Learning to Enjoy Your Service on the Commission — by Elaine Cogan

How can you do a better job as a planning commissioner? Long-time PCJ columnist Elaine Cogan offers some basic principles for your consideration.


Chairing the Planning Commission – by Carol Whitlock

A long-time planning commission chair offers her insights on ways to run fair and effective commission meetings and hearings. Plus a staff planner’s perspective from Lee Krohn.


Learn to Speak So People Will Listen — by Elaine Cogan

Planning commissioners can be of great service in speaking to community groups and organizations. Some tips to help you become a more effective speaker.


Sitting on Both Sides of the Table — by PCJ Editor Wayne Senville

We asked 25 individuals who have served both as professional and citizen planners what they’ve learned from having sat on both sides of the table. We think you’ll find their insights quite interesting.


What Planners Wish Their Planning Commissioners Knew — by Jim Segedy, FAICP, and Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, AICP

Take note planning commissioners! The Segedys (with apologies to David Letterman) offer their own “top 10” list.


What Planners Do –with Carolyn Braun, AICP; Larry Frey, AICP; Glynis Jordan, AICP; and Lee Krohn, AICP

In addition to being familiar with their own responsibilities, it’s helpful for planning board members to have a good understanding of the role of their staff. In this article, four planners discuss the role of the professional planner; planning commission-staff relations; what commission chairs can do; pre-meeting workshops; and new commissioner orientation.


It’s Okay Not to Be A Professional Planner — by Elaine Cogan

Elaine Cogan looks at some of the benefits a citizen planner brings to the planning process.