The Effective Planning Commissioner

Can a Planning Board Be Too Organized?

June 19th, 2013

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Readers of previous columns may have noticed my emphasis on developing and following an orderly agenda for all commission meetings. At the least, this consists of deciding beforehand what items will be discussed, assigning each one a time to begin and end and monitoring the flow so you keep to the schedule. Given all that, sometimes over organization can stifle important deliberation and should take a back seat to flexibility.

Consider these situations:

Each commission agenda follows a rigid format, often in an order somewhat like this: correspondence, staff reports, old business, new business and public comments. By the time the board gets to what most people have been waiting for … new business and public comment … people are worn out, tired, and possibly bored.

To deal with this and get the work done, experiment by turning around the order and starting on issues with which people are most interested: new business.

This may entail public comment. Then, give ample time for the commission and the public to delve into the issue. Some boards go so far as to have what they call a “consent agenda” so that pro forma matters can be disposed of by a simple voice vote without discussion. The commission meeting, though still organized, has a meaningful way to deal with the most and the least important matters. This, not a rigid format, dictates the order.

End of excerpt

photo of Elaine CoganElaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.

Cogan’s 52-page booklet, Now that You’re on Board: How to Survive … and Thrive … as a Planning Commissioner is available to PlannersWeb members to download at no extra charge (sorry, but it is not currently available in print).

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