Special Feature

Young Planning Commissioners, Part 2

May 27th, 2014

Planning commission meeting illustration for PlannersWeb by Paul HoffmanHas there been anything that's particularly surprised you being on the commission -- that you didn't quite expect beforehand?

Carla Hansen:

It takes about six months to a year to really get the hang of it. I had a decent background in planning and I'm still learning new things every meeting. I was also surprised about how difficult small issues can be, e.g., cell phone towers, fences, etc. These type of issues really challenge your interpretations of the general plan and your core values.

Nick Sershen:

I was surprised by the number of local citizens who thought that they should have a say in the personal property of others. There are people that will show up to protest items that seem pretty insignificant and also seem to make a lot of sense as far as the planning and zoning are concerned.

It really takes a few years of being on the commission to get a good handle on what is involved and to have a better sense of the history of developments around town.

I was also surprised by the learning curve. It really takes a few years of being on the commission to get a good handle on what is involved and to have a better sense of the history of developments around town. It helps that, at least in Sioux Falls, there are only one or two really contentious items every year or 18 months. The majority of what is involved is pretty straightforward.

John Morgan:

I was most surprised by the general disregard the board placed on planning and disinterest in learning about it. Granted, most planning commissions are not made up of professionals, and most communities are thankful just to be able to fill volunteer boards. However, it was very surprising to find just how narrow my fellow board members defined their role and how resistant they were to consider a comprehensive view or approach to the issues before them.

Our community has no shortage of opinions. It has taken time over the years to adjust and realize that everyone’s opinions is important.

Josh Long:

The diversity of opinions surprised me. Our community has no shortage of opinions. It has taken time over the years to adjust and realize that everyone’s opinions is important, and for every decision made, someone will agree and someone will not.

Jason Cowles: ​

Before serving as an appointed planning commission member, I was certain that I would never consider running for an elected position on the Town's Board of Trustees. My experience serving on the planning commission has opened my mind to that idea. Once things settle down in my personal life, and I'm ready for the additional workload and responsibility that comes with serving on the Board, I intend to run.


Have you had any challenges with the schedule of your commission meetings or workload?

As a younger commissioner, are there things you've had to juggle in your life in order to serve on your planning commission?


I have had some challenges with the schedule of meetings and workload. I have a young daughter and am expecting another baby and other members have either grown children or no children.

Jamie Tate:

I have had some challenges with the schedule of meetings and workload. I have a young daughter and am expecting another baby and other members have either grown children or no children. Having younger children can be more challenging while dedicating my time outside of working full time.

Zach Jacob:

I miss an occasional soccer game with my kids, but otherwise it's a fairly low-intensity commitment.

Jason Cowles:

Honestly, the level of commitment required is "right sized" for me. Occasionally, there are long, controversial hearings that go late into the night, which cut into time with my family and can be a bit of a drag after a long day at work, but generally, I don't feel that the workload is that hard to accommodate.

We meet on Tuesday evenings twice a month, and receive our packets several days in advance, which allows me plenty of time to review the packets and prepare for hearings.

Josh Long:

Yes, as a younger member, my family is young and so is my career. The Commission is a volunteer role, but requires a lot of time to research the issues we face. City staff provides a lot of information for us, but we have to juggle our time away from our families and career, to ensure that issues the commission faces are well researched.

This is a volunteer role to us, but the decisions we make affect people’s lives and businesses, both financially and emotionally.

Our commission meetings are held at 7 pm. This gives me plenty of time to get home from work, have dinner with the family, and get to the meeting.

John Morgan:

Not at all. Our commission meetings are held on a monthly basis at 7 pm. This gives me plenty of time to get home from work, have dinner with the family, and get to the meeting.

Nick Sershen:

Our original meeting time was 7 pm and about two years ago we switched it to 6 pm. That has been a bit of an issue for me as I have two young children. The 7 meeting made it easier to get the kids fed, in the bath and ready for bed before having to leave to get to the meeting. Now, I barely have time to help with getting supper ready before I have to leave to get to the meeting. The majority of the older people on the committee like the new time better so they can get done with the meeting earlier.