On Demand: 21st Century Planning Commission

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Planning commissioners help drive the future of their communities. Need help getting up to speed? Turn to this daylong training program from APA’s 2013 National Planning Conference. Part one looks at what planning commissioners do and the ethics of how they do it. Part two maps out vital issues on the planning landscape. A panel of presenters — including the authors of the new Planning Commissioners Guide — gives diverse perspectives and practical pointers for new commissioners and veterans alike.

Co-sponsor: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy


1. Overview of the Planning Process
An overview of roles and responsibilities and an introduction to the documents, tools, and procedures that planning commissioners use in carrying out their responsibilities.

Topics include: 1. Roles and responsibilities of a planning commissioner • Long-range planning • Development review • Planning commission authority • Staff roles and responsibilities 2. Long-range planning – Imagining the Future • Why do we plan? • What is a comprehensive plan? • How a plan is prepared • Other types of plans • Planning commissioners role in plan-making 3. Development Review • How the process works • Role of the planning commission • Role of staff and other participants • Unraveling the development application 4. Tools and Building Blocks of Planning • Plans • Zoning ordinance • Subdivision regulations • Design standards 5. Engaging the Community • Role of the public in the planning process 6. Putting the Pieces Together
Ben A. Herman. FAICP, Clarion Associates 
Anne McBride, FAICP, McBride Dale Clarion

2. Defensible, Ethical Decision Making
Defensible and ethical decisions do not occur simply by the way a commission votes on a particular application. Learn how to ensure you have a framework in place to guide your actions and decisions in a manner that leads to fair and reasonable actions. Examine how appropriate rules, regulations and procedures can shape your final decisions. Review the significance of meeting conduct, the creation of the record and the importance of findings of fact.

Gain knowledge from experienced planning commissioners and planners on key points that will assist commissioners to write and vote on clear, fair and defensible decisions. This includes criteria that should be included in your zoning regulations and commissioner rules and regulations, consideration of appropriate conditions to impose in the decision and writing tips for the decision itself.
Robert P. Mitchell, FAICP
W. Shedrick Coleman, Chatham County-Savannah MPC

3. How to Conduct a Planning Commission Meeting
Learn the nuts and bolts of the decision-making process. This session focuses on how commissions and boards can better make fair, reasonable, and defensible decisions. It discusses decision-making practices for planning and zoning commissions and covers the ways in which large and contentious crowds can be managed in a public hearing environment, the legal principles underlying decision making, how to encourage appropriate testimony, how to deliberate fairly, how to make motions, and tips for running meetings. The speaker provides perspectives from both a planning and legal perspective. Practical application of legal due process is emphasized.
C. Gregory Dale, FAICP, McBride Dale Clarion

4. Legal Framework for the Planning Commission
The planning commission conducts its work within the framework of state law and specific federal statutes. It makes decisions within the context of local plans, codes and guidelines. Learn what the framework is and how it applies to your community and commission. You will also explore pertinent case law that has influenced the way planning is implemented. It is critical for all commissioners to understand their authority and responsibility and to know how the landscape of planning and land-use changes over time.
David Therique

5. Current Issues in Planning for Commissioners
This session provides a series of short overviews of critical and current issues in planning. It is ideal for new planning commissioners as it introduces them to terms and concepts such as sustainability. The session begins with an overview on the economy and how it affects and will continue to affect community planning. Planning commissioners will become familiar with concepts that are in current use in planning, such as sustainability, smart growth, and health impact assessments. They will learn what they are, how they relate to planning, and the role the planning commission may play in furthering these programs.
Robert W. Burchell, Rutgers University

Group Viewing: Training products for planning commissioners and the public may be used for group viewing.

This is a commission and board training product.

About the Speakers

Benjamin Herman
Benjamin A. Herman, FAICP, is a Senior Consultant for Clarion Associates. He has been a practicing planner for more than 35 years, with extensive national and international experience in all aspects of planning. He is a skilled facilitator, and widely regarded for his ability to take a big picture, integrative approach to planning. He served as a member of the American Planning Association Task Force that prepared the Planning Advisory Service Report titled “Sustaining Places: The Role of the Comprehensive Plan”. He serves on the faculty of APA’s Planners Training Workshop for Sustaining Places Plans.

Anne McBride
Anne F. McBride is a founding Principal with McBride Dale Clarion in Cincinnati. A planner since 1981, Ms. McBride is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. She has extensive experience in working with national retailers and developers throughout the country in the site selection and navigating the approval process for developments. Ms. McBride has established a reputation for being able to obtain required approvals through negotiations that allow development to move forward in a manner that works for all parties. Some of the clients that Ms. McBride has represented include Kroger, Brixmor Property Group, Panera, Walgreen’s, Anchor Properties, Carespring Health Care, Lowe’s, and Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Ms. McBride has also been responsible for the preparation of comprehensive plans, zoning codes, and urban renewal plans for numerous communities. Having served as the city planner for Springdale, Ohio, since 1995, she is well versed in municipal issues. She has also provided expert testimony on a variety of land use issues in both Ohio and Kentucky. Ms. McBride has served on the Anderson Township Zoning Commission since 1996 and is a past president of the Ohio Chapter of the American Planning Association. She is the co-author of The Planning Commissioners Guide and is a regular speaker at state and national conferences.

Robert Mitchell
Robert P. Mitchell, FAICP is the Principal of his planning consulting business in Boston MA and a Fellow of AICP. Planning. With over 30 years experience at the state, regional and local governments and non-profit organizations, he specializes in land use issues; comprehensive & strategic planning; innovative zoning tools and techniques; and sustainable development. Additionally he provides training programs to public officials and professionals on land use, strategic planning, ethics, and meeting management topics. He was the Planning Director in Amherst MA for 19 years and previously the Planning Director in Burlington VT and Amherst MA He was the former Special Assistant for Sustainable Development for the State of Massachusetts. In addition he was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Massachusetts Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning for 20 years. He was a Council member on the Boston region Metropolitan Area Planning Council for 12 years. He is co-author of the Guidebook to Massachusetts Land Planning & Zoning. In his work he has led planning teams in creating award winning work on strategic plans, a Smart Growth and Smart Energy tool kit, a Comprehensive Regional Land Use and Economic Development Plan, creation of innovate zoning codes, and was co-creator of the Massachusetts Citizen Planner Training Collaborative a statewide training organization for planners and planning officials. He has been trainer for CPTC for 20+ years. He has been a speaker at more than 200 conferences, workshops, public meetings and webinars on a wide variety of topics, including ethics, zoning, successful meetings, planning topics, roles and responsibilities of planning commissions and zoning boards of appeals, development review processes and more. He is a past AICP Commissioner from Region I and Past President of the Massachusetts Chapter of APA. He is the Chair of the Sustainable Development Committee of the APA-MA Chapter. He has received the Distinguished Service Award from the APA-MA Chapter three times; the Outstanding Professional Planner award from the Massachusetts Association of Planning Directors; the Charles Downe Memorial Award for Outstanding Service to the Planning Profession; and the Distinguished alumni Award from the University of Massachusetts Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.

W. Shedrick Coleman
W. Shedrick Coleman, AIA is Principal of SHEDDarchitecture and practices architecture, land planning, and interior design. He is registered in Georgia and Texas. Shedrick has served two terms as chairman of the Chatham County–Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) in Georgia and is in his 11th year of service to the community as a commissioner. The planning commission is the joint city-county planning agency responsible for comprehensive planning and zoning recommendations to the member governments and for historic and natural preservation, community, transportation, and land use planning. He is currently serving in his second term on the APA National Board of Directors and serves on the APA Foundation Board of Directors. Shedrick has chaired the APA Design Awards in 2015, 2016, and 2017 , the APA Fellowship Committee, and the APA Planning Commissioners Committee. Shedrick has been an active presenter at the National Planning Conference since 2011 in Boston.

C. Gregory Dale
Greg Dale is a founding Principal with McBride Dale Clarion. Mr. Dale is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, having been active in the planning profession since 1981. He has managed planning projects throughout the country and has expertise in regional plans, comprehensive plans, growth management plans, land use regulations, citizen outreach programs, planning for historic areas and expert testimony on planning, zoning and land use development issues. Mr. Dale has drafted or assisted with award-winning plans for Charleston County, South Carolina; Beaufort County, South Carolina; Williamson County, Tennessee; Will County, Illinois; City of Franklin, Tennessee; and the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Commission. Mr. Dale drafted an innovative sustainability chapter in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, plan and is a co-author of an update to The Citizen’s Guide to Planning and The Planning Commissioners Guide. He has also managed or assisted with significant planning projects in Bradley County, Tennessee; Henrico County, Virginia; Hanover County, Virginia; Suffolk, Virginia; Beaufort County, South Carolina; Williamson County, Tennessee; and North Las Vegas, Nevada.

Robert Burchell
ROBERT W. BURCHELL is the former chair of the Program of Planning and Policy Development in the Edward J. Bloustein School at Rutgers University. He is also a distinguished professor and co-director of the Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University. He is the author of 30 books and more than 50 peer-reviewed articles. Professor Burchell is an expert on fiscal impact analysis, land-use development and regulation, and housing policy. Dr. Burchell co-authored the Development Impact Assessment Handbook for ULI-The Urban Land Institute. His major publications include The Fiscal Impact Handbook, The New Practitioner's Guide to Fiscal Impact Analysis, The Adaptive Reuse Handbook, and the Environmental Impact Handbook. Dr. Burchell's seminal work in the area of development patterns and infrastructure costs is a nationally recognized research project for the National Academy of Sciences and the Transportation Cooperative Research Program resulting in The Costs of Sprawl Revisited and The Costs of Sprawl-2000. He has completed a work on the Transportation Costs of New Development for the National Academy of Sciences and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (2010) and just finished the Seven50 Plan for Economic Prosperity for the seven Southeast Florida counties. Dr. Burchell is currently involved with the Third Round, Mt. Laurel affordable housing numbers in New Jersey.