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Considering the Regional Impacts of Local Actions

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

We’re all familiar with concerns about conflicts of interest and ex-parte contacts in local planning decision-making. In fact, over the years, I’ve devoted several columns in the Planning Commissioners Journal to various ethical dimensions of these issues.

But do ethical considerations also come into play in other aspects of decision-making? Some years ago, I discussed whether planners and planning commissioners have an ethical obligation to consider the impacts their actions may have on the provision of affordable housing within their community. Sidebar, Choice & Opportunity. In this column, I want to discuss a related question: whether there’s an ethical obligation for planners and planning commissioners to take into account the regional impacts (or impacts on neighboring communities) of their actions.

Planners have long recognized that communities should be planned within the context of the regions in which they are located, not as isolated islands.

Suppose your community is updating its comprehensive plan. Your planning commission is being diligent in considering a wide range of issues and elements, including land use, housing, natural resources, transportation, and others.

As part of the planning process, you expected to hear from a diverse group of local citizens, but you are surprised to hear from individuals and organizations from outside your community. These include environmental groups urging you to consider certain water management policies, transportation groups urging you to plan for regional transit, and regional housing advocates urging more affordable housing.

How do you weigh these demands relative to local planning issues? More to the point, what are the ethical considerations, if any, of whether your plans are consistent with regional goals?

Planners have long recognized that communities should be planned within the context of the regions in which they are located, not as isolated islands. This is an easy concept in theory, but what does it mean for planning commissions?

This column explores the ethical dimensions involved in considering the impacts of your decisions as planning commissioners on adjacent communities or the larger region.  …

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photo of Greg DaleC. Gregory Dale, FAICP, is a founding Principal with McBride Dale Clarion, the Cincinnati affiliate office of Clarion Associates. He has managed planning projects throughout the country, and is also a frequent speaker at planning and zoning workshops and conferences.

Between 1991 and 2009, Dale authored 31 articles for the Planning Commissioners Journal, including 21 for our Ethics & the Planning Commission series, and others on a variety of transportation and zoning topics. Dale is also a co-author of The Planning Commissioners Guide (American Planning Association, 2013).

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