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Keeping Things in Order: Planning Commission Model By-Laws

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Come to Order illustration by Paul Hoffman for
illustration by Paul Hoffman for PlannersWeb

During my training sessions for planning commissioners, I am often asked procedural questions. Seeking to stimulate discussion, my initial response has always been “What do your by-laws say?” I reluctantly report that in many cases my inquiry has been unanswered. There are some planning commissions whose by-laws are silent on important matters. Other planning commissions simply cannot find their by-laws. A surprising number of planning commissions have never adopted by-laws.

I recognize that members of planning commission are reluctant to undertake so dry and tedious an activity as constructing a set of by-laws. I encourage planning commissions to consider by-laws creation in much the same way as a vaccination: trading short-term discomfort for the increased assurance of long-term security. I hope the outline of a set of planning commission by-laws which is set out on the following pages will help ease any short-term discomfort you might otherwise have.

In addition to addressing the concerns I have already mentioned, the outline deals with four other important issues: (1) that by-laws be consistent with state constitutions, relevant state statutes, state planning enabling legislation, and possible municipal charter provisions; (2) that by-laws be written so as to be comprehensible to members of the planning commission and the public; (3) that gender neutral language be used; and (4) that direct reliance upon Robert’s Rules of Order, Revised be reduced by tailoring procedures to the specific needs of a planning commission. …

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