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The Planning Commission at Work

Are You Organized For Business?

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This column highlights an exercise used in Virginia’s “certified planning commissioners” training program. The exercise serves several functions. First, it will give your planning commission an indication of how well it is set up to ensure that newly appointed commissioners understand the commission’s basic duties, responsibilities, and relationships.

But the exercise should also be valuable to “veteran” commissioners — and to planning directors as well — because it can quickly identify some of the basics of good commission practice which may have gotten lost in the shuffle of keeping up with the hundred and one more pressing short-term things your commission needs to get done.

The exercise — like most of those I use — is rather simple in design. There are just twenty questions. The possible responses are: true, less true, or false. The questions can be completed as “homework” for commissioners between meetings, or can be addressed by the commission during a work session or retreat, or at the end of a short meeting (assuming you occasionally have short meetings!).

True False choicesIt should take no more than fifteen minutes to answer the questions. Once completed, it is best to engage in a focused discussion of each element featured on the exercise. Allowing an hour for the discussion period is prudent. If the questions are taken home by commissioners to complete, make sure you allocate time at your next meeting for this discussion.

The questions appearing on the exercise are as follows:

1. The role of the Commission is clearly defined. I fully understand what is expected of the Commission — what it should and should not do.
True ___ Less True ___ False ___

2. I know exactly what is expected of me personally on the Commission. My role, responsibilities, and “job description” were fully explained to me upon appointment.
True ___ Less True ___ False ___

3. Upon appointment, each Commissioner receives a copy of the local land use plan and related ordinances (subdivision, zoning).
True ___ Less True ___ False ___

4. Following a reasonable length of time, the Commission’s Chairman determines whether the materials noted in question three have been read.
True ___ Less True ___ False ___

End of excerpt

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