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The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “relevant” as having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand. As a member of the planning commission, you bring knowledge and passion about your community, and a willingness to invest yourself in its future. But that may not be enough. To avoid being seen as “just part of the system,” or even worse, as a group that simply interferes with progress, we recommend these Top Ten ways to solidify your planning commission’s significant and demonstrable bearing on your community. Again, as with David Letterman, we’ll present them in reverse order!
The planning commission should actively …
10. Help write the plan and keep it current. This task often falls to staff or consultants. Don’t wait till your community’s comprehensive or master plan is in final draft to review it. Be a part of its development (see #9 below). If the plan is over a year old, determine a process for reviewing and updating it. A relevant planning commission is equipped with a plan that is relevant to the community.
9. Attend, lead and/or participate in public meetings. Here we are talking about the public involvement portion of new plans or plan updates. We have both been involved in too many community planning meetings in which members of the planning commission were conspicuously absent. Don’t assume you need to stay away to remain unbiased; planning commissioners need to be a part of the plan development process.
If you, the planning commissioner, aren’t seen in the process, how likely is it that the public will perceive the importance of their involvement and their support of the plan? Moreover, by leading by example and providing input, you will help to craft the plan by which you will measure development proposals for your community.
8. Support the plan in official recommendations. Your community’s plan provides a guide for rational decision-making with respect to how the community changes over time. Your recommendations on development permits, rezoning applications, and other matters should reflect the goals, objectives, and policies established in the plan. If your planning commission recommendations are, over time, becoming less consistent with the plan, then it is time to start preparing plan updates.
7. Submit a written rationale for planning commission recommendations. The work of the planning commission is to provide rational and informed recommendations for changes in your community. A written report of findings on each case should be part of the official record. This provides accountability, which in turn adds to the commission’s credibility and relevance.
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6. Be familiar with the long range plans of other entities.
5. Stay in touch.
4. Dance naked.
3. Stay current.
2. Conduct yourself ethically and professionally.
1. Work the plan.