Monday, October 31, 2005

New Threat to Local Planning Process?

Sunday's DesNews ran a story on Rep. Wayne Harper and his potential efforts to change state planning enabling laws to "weaken" the ability of local government to carry out planning and zoning. It is essentially the same proposal I blogged about earlier in reference to House Speaker Greg Curtis -- it seems these two legislators have hooked up and batted ideas back and forth on this topic.

Though Wayne is a former Community Development Director (West Jordan City), he is now involved in developing property, and it seems his view of the world has changed some (as has Curtis', who is also a former municipal employee, now working for developers).

Many in local government are concerned about the potential threat these proposals pose to local government planning. But other legislators have told me that they know where these two are coming from and this is probably not the threat it may seem to be.

What this, and such other measures like referenda, say to me is that we need to get back to strengthening the planning process in local government. These types of actions are coming about because, it seems to me, that often local governments are making decisions that seem short-term, not well-thought out, kind of based on who is making the proposal and who shows up at the meetings. Where are the solid community plans and principles that should be guiding the types of development that are to be allowed in given areas of the community?

If we were to get back to a solid process of creating good general plans, with strong public involvement, then many of these decisions may not seem so arbitrary or carried out with little forethought. Developers would know what to expect in a given area, as would the residents. Anyone wanting to change what is planned for, would have to go through a process as thorough as the one that resulted in the initial plan.

Something to think about, gang. In the meantime, we need to tell legislators that there should be no consideration given to ideas like those proposed by Harper and Curtis.

6 Comments:

At 12:29 AM, Blogger Tom said...

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At 9:19 PM, Blogger Lora said...

Wilf,

I agree with your assessment of the potential destructive nature of the planning referenda and the need to strengthen planning.

But another piece of the puzzle (I think) is strengthening the public's confidence in planning and the outcomes (ie. implementation of the plans). What are your thoughts about how we can improve the public's confidence?

 
At 12:49 PM, Blogger Brian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Confidence comes with knowledge.

To me, the key is education. Educating the citizen planners - elected officials, planning commission, etc. - on how planning is supposed to work: the theory, the justification, and the process. Once they're confident in their system, they make fewer seemingly arbitrary decisions, i.e., stick to the plan (assuming it's a plan worth sticking to).

Once the officials make fewer arbitrary decisions, the general public learns what to expect and is more confident in the outcome of planning and development approval.

Once they are more confident that their officials are following process (it would do the general public good to become educated on just what planning process is, IMO), they are less likely to pull stunts like referenda.

A comment on the news last night regarding the Legacy Highway really rankled me. A nice young lady at the gas pump was asked what she thought about the proposed compromise. Her answer was that she felt that the public was left out of the process and needs to be involved before the Governor and legislators can just go around making decisions willy-nilly. She felt it was a matter important enough to put to a popular vote. Yikes!

Let's just put every legislative action on the ballot and take the middle-man out of the picture.

 
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