The Nine Circles of Planning Commission Hell

July 31st, 2009
Article #448

Read an excerpt from this article below. You can download the full article by using the link at the end of the excerpt.

“All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” — Dante

Many of our public hearings are … challenging. These “challenging” hearings — or Hearings from Hell — have many origins and there are also as many ways to improve them. The following is a brief guide to the Nine Circles of Planning Commission Hell and suggestions for salvation (with profuse apologies to Dante).


These are the hearings which go round and round without ever leading to a decision. Typical causes are insufficient information and/or continuous application changes resulting in a series of continuances. There are often valid reasons to continue a hearing, but in general, it is the responsibility of the commission to provide leadership in making recommendations, not deferring the issue. For extremely complex or controversial applications, work sessions prior to the hearing are advisable.

The Lustful

image of circles of fireSome (well, most) Hearings from Hell revolve around public versus private interests. Community resources of all types must be wisely administered. The planning commission’s recommendations may have immediate and/or long-term effects on water or air quality, natural open space, esthetics, and many others. The planning commission must retain this long-term community vision while simultaneously respecting individual rights.

The Gluttonous

These hearings are characterized by excessive demands from one or more parties. The most common type is a contest between extremes of growth and no-growth. It is NOT the commission’s responsibility to find a “happy median” or other compromise, but to serve the city by interpreting and applying the comprehensive plan and codes.

End of excerpt 

article continues with Ric Stephens on the other six circles: The Hoarders & Spendthrifts; The Wrathful; The Heretics; The Violent; The Flatterers & Falsifiers; and The Treacherous.

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