For Best Printing Results, Use Print Button at Bottom of Article

Special Feature

Young Planning Commissioners, Part 3

Planning commission meeting illustration for PlannersWeb by Paul HoffmanWhat level of interest do younger adults in your community have in planning and development issues?

Has your commission made any special efforts to encourage them to participate in the local planning process?

Jason Cowles:

At the local level, we have experienced a bit of a youth movement, with several younger adults recently voted onto the Town's Board of Trustees. I'm excited about the enthusiasm and willingness from my peers to get involved in order to continue to develop and grow our town by focusing on its recreational assets.

Carla Hansen:

There are a few young folks who are interested in planning and development, but they're few and far between. We're holding more study sessions and workshops to listen and learn from the community to encourage folks to lend their voice to the process.

Many younger adults find the days of 7 pm public meetings, where you are allowed 4 or 5 minutes and have to speak in front of crowds, less appealing and antiquated. I think it takes away from the goal of getting public input ...

Josh Long:

Our city has made no specific efforts to attract any age group over the next. However, efforts to use the internet more in reaching the public has led the way for younger adults to get involved.

Overall, I find that many younger adults find the days of 7 pm public meetings, where you are allowed 4 or 5 minutes and have to speak in front of crowds, less appealing and antiquated. I think it takes away from the goal of getting public input, and many just choose to not get involved.

Jamie Tate:

I do not feel that there are a lot of younger adults involved in planning and development issues in my community. The commission has not made any special efforts to encourage them to participate in the local planning process. This is probably something we can improve on.

Nick Sershen:

I don't see much of an interest in planning and development issues from younger adults in Sioux Falls. This is mostly because they are busy with other aspects of their lives -- new jobs, new marriages, new kids, etc -- and don't have the time to focus on much else. I also think that they don't have the experiences that would lead them to look into the planning issues.

We have not made any specific outreach to younger adults in the community, although there are two members on the commission under 33 years old.

My experience is that unless you are a developer or have had a direct impact from a planning/zoning issue (had something contentious in your neighborhood) you don't pay any attention to it. I don't think that is an age related question, but more of an experience related question. We have not made any specific outreach to younger adults in the community, although there are two members on the commission under 33 years old.

John Morgan:

There is definitely an interest in development issues among young professionals in my community. Unfortunately, our commission narrowly defines its role to simply reviewing rezoning requests, subdivision plans, and land development plans. There is no appetite to plan or engage the community outside of that role.


Is there any advice you would give to younger adults who might be interested in serving on their planning board?


Zach Jacob:

If you are at all interested in how your city develops and what makes sense, get involved on the Planning Commission or other local boards. It's worth it!

Josh Long:

Have time to research each topic, as I said before. This issues you are voting on financially and emotionally impact others.

I would encourage other young adults to get involved, maintain patience, even when you think the public is being disrespectful to you, and it will happen. It's important to our future, and remember it is OUR future, not yours alone. We all have to learn to live together in what is becoming a more close knit community with each year that passes.

Nick Sershen:

Take the time to go to meetings (or view them online, if possible) to get a sense of what goes on at them. Read whatever statutes or laws your community has to get yourself familiar with what the policies are.

Do your homework on each issue -- this means driving and viewing the locations that are part of the agenda for each meeting -- and trying to learn the history of what has been going on around your town.

A commission is only as involved and effective as the elected body that empowers them.

John Morgan:

I would recommend that they first become engaged in local politics. They should get to know the attitudes, relationships, and goals of their local elected officials. A commission is only as involved and effective as the elected body that empowers them. If you believe that the mayor, council members, or township supervisors share your vision for your community and believe that there is a robust role for the commission in shaping that vision, then you will find your time serving to be intellectually stimulating and personally fulfilling.

However, if you find that town hall is anti-progress and pro-business as usual, then you would better serve your community by running for office yourself or finding a candidate to support.

Jamie Tate:

I think that serving on a local planning board as a younger adult is an excellent way to have a say and stake in your community, whether or not you are a professional planner. As a professional planner, it’s a great idea as well because you can really understand what it feels like to sit on the other side of the table. Editor's Note: See our article, "Sitting on Both Sides of the Table" for the views of xxxx individuals who have served as both citizen and professional planners.

Know that your don't have to know it all, listen more than you speak, be prepared for every meeting ...

Carla Hansen:

Know what your core values are, know that your don't have to know it all, listen more than you speak, be prepared for every meeting, know Roberts Rules, use the perspectives of your fellow commissioners to help make your decisions, and visit every site on the agenda before the meeting.

Jason Cowles: ​

Don't be afraid to serve! The opportunity to serve on the Planning & Zoning board has been a fantastic and rewarding experience for me that I hope leads to continued opportunities for me to serve my community and have a positive impact on it's future.


Summing Up:

by Daniel Rosenblum

For our young planning commissioners, some trends stick out more so than others in terms of shared experiences, interests, and challenges. For a few, it seems the key to getting involved is simply asking. Local governments are often looking for engaged community members as representatives and volunteers, so it's a good idea to ask your local officials what there is a need for.

While age does not necessarily define the issues and concerns of young planning commissioners, it certainly impacts the day-to-day logistics of being part of a commission. Whether it is a growing, young family or conflicts with a full-time work schedule, young planning commissioners tend to have a lot to juggle in making an effort to serve.

Lastly, all participants recognized the virtues of having young members active in local government, including in planning. While some cities and towns are unsure of how to attract the interests of young residents, one thing they are certain of is the importance of this young voice.

As a way to have a positive impact on one’s community, planning boards top the list. Those who wish to have a greater role in their community in order to improve it for the future should definitely consider joining on their local planning commission or board. But many of you reading this already know that!

Headshot of Dan RosenblumDaniel Rosenblum is an intern at PlannersWeb.com. He authored "Can Citizen Planning Academies Work in Your Community?" (posted on PlannersWeb in April 2014) and co-authored, "Why Have Students Serve on Planning Boards?" (posted on PlannersWeb in October 2013).

Dan is a recent graduate of the University of Vermont, where he studied Anthropology, Global Studies, and Spanish. He is especially interested in global urban development and its ties to socioeconomic change. You can read about his recent research in India (pdf).

Dan will be leaving us soon. He recently received a Fulbright Scholarship and will be returning to India to do more research during the year ahead.