The Planning Commissioners Guide

Processes for Reasoning Together

By David Allor, FAICP

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David Allor shows commissioners how to make group decisions in a reasonable and effective way. He first interviewed commission members. Then he listened to staff presentations, questions and comments of commissioners, and testimony of applicants and witnesses. He uses this information to show how commissioners can work together to direct a community's development.

Essential reading for anyone serving on a publicly appointed board or commission.

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Page Count
Date Published
Oct. 1, 1993
APA Planners Press

Table of Contents



Part One: Being a decision maker and member of a public body
Introduction • Properties of decision-making • Decision-making in urban planning • Selected profiles of planning commission members • The role of a planning commission member • The planning commission as a public body • Coalition and division among members • Consensus and dissensus among members • Collective good judgment

Part Two: Substantive aspects of decision making
Introduction • Kinds of information • Public knowledge and private knowledge • Facts • Adequacy and reliability of facts • Values • Continuity and saliency of values • Specific substantive aspects • Character and intentions of applicants • Assertions of need • Assertions of want and preference • Assertions of desert and right • Assertions of interest • The public interest • The goals of the community

Part Three: Formal aspects of decision-making
Introduction • Modes of rationality • Common sense • Reasoning from particulars • Reasoning from rules • Persuasion • Legal rationality
Reasonable, nonarbitrary, and noncapricious decisions • Due process • Performatory language • Official instruments of the commission • Specific formal aspects • Jurisdiction • Representation • Continuity and change in commission appointment • Conflict of office • Conflict of interest • Ex Parte Contacts • Access to the arena of decision-making • Order of presentation before the commission • Deferral of commission decisions • Reconsideration of commission decision • Accounting of circumstances • Making and taking of precedent • Policy formulation and amendment • Plan formulation and amendment

Part Four: Functional aspects of decision-making
Introduction • Formal position of the commission • Informal position of the commission • Planning and politics • Planning as prepolitical • Planning as postpolitical • Specific functional aspects • Advice and recommendation • Cooperation and coordination • Negotiating with an applicant • Regulation and compliance • Granting of incentives • Adequacy of regulatory devices • Relationships to other public commissions • Relationships to agencies of government • Relationships to neighborhood and community organization • Use of consultant • Use and usefulness of the staff • Use and abuse of the commission

Part Five: Making the role of planning commission member
Introduction • Understanding oneself • Understanding others • Deciding for others • Deciding for oneself • Reasoning together

Appendix A: Overview of research strategy

Appendix B: Glossary of terms