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Winning a Community Over to New Ideas

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photo of Thomas Hylton
Thomas Hylton with downtown Pottstown, Pennsylvania behind him.

Not many people join a planning commission with a headful of ideas about  improving zoning, but Thomas Hylton did. More surprising, in a few years’ time, Hylton had talked his community, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, into rewriting its entire zoning code and instituting a whole new way of judging proposed developments.

He did this in three ways: by presenting his ideas so convincingly that it calmed what might otherwise have been a furious opposition; by bringing a unique set of resources to his cause; and by spending an extraordinary amount of time and attention in winning over citizens and elected officials. In doing so, Hylton offers a textbook case of how planning commissioners – and others with little or no formal power – can be change agents in their communities.

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