CRITICAL SHORTCOMINGS OF MANY PLANNING COMMISSIONS
Most town officials have zero experience in land use planning or innovative subdivision design. Most officials are not educated in good land use planning.
Most planning commissions and town councils, while well meaning, receive no training to help them understand how current regulations could be improved, or how to make decisions about development proposals in your community. The sad fact is that most municipal officials are appointed without having the benefit of training seminars or even reading materials to prepare them for the very serious job they are given to perform, and have little or no experience in innovative subdivision design.
Most volunteer members of planning commissions, while very well meaning and well intentioned, have never even been offered training in land use planning or neighborhood design. Even more worrying, many staff planners have graduated from planning courses where design has not been part of the curriculum. That’s why we are happy to provide our FREE Planning Commission Boot Camp for all these dedicated and hard working volunteers and paid staff.
Poster Child for Awful Planning Commissions
The poster child for awful planning commissions is the Commerce Township (MI) Planning Commission who, along with past township supervisor Tom Zoner, made the awful decision to place the new Commerce Township Library on Dodge Park V and wipe out many tall, beautiful pine trees and forever destroy the rural character of the park. Learn more here.
“WHY ARE TREES ILLEGAL?”
“We have a design problem in America due to outdated ordinances,” says Larry Collins, a North Carolina planner and developer. “If you show people a slide show, the places they don’t want to live (conventional “cookie-cutter subdivisions) are legal, and the places they’d like to live (conservation subdivisions) are illegal. Why are trees illegal?”
Collins commented on the planning industry, suggesting we hit planners who resist change “in the forehead with a 2″ x 4″. “Sometimes it takes just one gadfly advocate to change things. It’s instructive to note that the professional planners and engineers proposed to (a) remove many of Savannah’s famous squares in order to ‘improve’ traffic flow, and (b) turn the San Antonio River into a giant storm sewer with parking above. It took Savannah’s ‘little old ladies in tennis shoes’ and San Antonio’s business and civic leaders to stop the madness. We can thank them for Forrest Gump and the Riverwalk,” said Collins.
Collins wrote an excellent op-ed, “Good Intentions Pave Road to Zoning Hell”. In the article Collins said, “Well, besides experience showing most comprehensive plans aren’t worth squat, ours is just another generic document produced by the traveling road show of zoning zealots who’ve left their trail of destruction across the country. …What to do? A real town planner (someone like a Randall Arendt, author of Rural By Design), would conduct a one-week, all-day-every-day intensive workshop… And instead of endless one-acre-lot subdivisions that spoil our rural countryside and our environment, we’ll have pictures showing a mixture of intense village development within rolling open countryside.”
In the video above, Ed Noonan, architect and developer of Tryon Farm, a conservation neighborhood in Michigan City, Indiana that protects 120 of the 170 total acres, talks about what planning departments and planners should do to bring better neighborhoods to their communities.
QUICK AND EASY ACTIONABLE STEPS: READ
Books that Rock
These books should be read by EVERY planner, planning commission member, and resident who cares about the value of their community. Sadly, most planning commission members have never read or even heard of these.