Planning professionals must have faith in the process

Good codes define many of the processes that planning officials must follow. When conducting compliance reviews, the goal should be to follow the defined processes.

Any planning official who has worked long enough will face the ultimate test—they will be asked to approve a project that does not comply with the local ordinance. 

The request may appear in the form a variety of variances requested for no other reason than the developer’s unwillingness to comply with the code.  Sometimes the developer is not complying simply because they want to be difficult, but usually it is because they are attempting to develop a project consistent with their development priorities. Unfortunately their priorities may be inconsistent with the local municipality’s code.   

Effective planners seek solutions to development conflicts within the parameters of the existing code, knowing that the more exceptions that are made, the more difficult the future enforcement of the code becomes. 

Planners have faith in their processes when they know that their code is supported by a good community master plan with a strong community engagement process. They also know that as situations change, processes are thoughtfully amended to address such changes. Consistent implementation and interpretation is critical to effective code enforcement.  In some instances, the code requirements may not allow an activity at all within a specific district. And in those instances, the appropriate answer to a proposed project may be “use not allowed.”  

Good planning staffs understand the need for communities to develop and redevelop. They understand the important role developers play in a community’s long-term economic growth. These committed staff members strive to maintain a positive balance between the need of the development community with the vision of the local municipality. And they maintain the balance by working to orient and organize development so as to create positive projects   that both the developer and the community can be excited about.  But, they do this within the confines of the local ordinance, knowing that there may be times to revisit and amend ordinance processes and requirements.

Michigan State University Extension has many planning educators available to help professional planners ensure that the process in place is followed for the benefit of the entire community.

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