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mgreven

Planning Commisions

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So from time to time we complain about the people on various planning commisions, I've been curious how they get chosen. Are they elected or hired or what? Just curious...maybe this is a dumb question, but I've wondered more recently. Maybe they are always on the ballots when I vote but I kind of look past it like when you have to vote for the Trustees of U of M or something.

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Hmm... that makes me curious as well. I don't think I've seen them on the ballot, but then again I live in Allegan County.

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Planning Commissioners are appointed

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Planning Commissioners are appointed

By whom?

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By whom?

By the Commissioners of that city/twp/village. Usually they'll post that they are accepting applications for an open position. They then interview interested people, and "appoint" someone that they feel is most quailified/shares same vision.

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By the Commissioners of that city/twp/village. Usually they'll post that they are accepting applications for an open position. They then interview interested people, and "appoint" someone that they feel is most quailified/shares same vision.

Sometimes your commissioners are local retired practitioners. (What's Suzanne Schultz gonna do in 30 years, take up knitting?) Sometimes they are local "experts" or folks with some area of expertise in development, building, landscaping et al. Usually the jurisdiction honchos try for some semblance of diversity: the senior citizen, the stay-at-home mom, the professional, the imbecile...

[slightly kidding; I once went up before a PC where one commissioner voted "the other way" merely to be ornery. The rest rolled their eyes and moved the agenda.]

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Does anyone know how long a person needs to reside in the City before they can be appointed to the Planning Commission? :whistling:

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Does anyone know how long a person needs to reside in the City before they can be appointed to the Planning Commission? :whistling:

Which city?

Slots in GR come up once in a blue moon, and there are many candidates for each one (partly because it can be used as a springboard to, say, city commission). Twps and smaller jurisdictions are more frequent. Residency reqs might be on the city's website.

FWIW, GR's PC meets in the early afternoons, starting with a noon lunch. (There's a reason I know this.) Nothing like making your commute to Portage a little worse...

ETA: Today I asked, and someone not on the PC but familiar with 'em said, "suck up to the mayor." Seriously. Tell George you'd like to be on a board or commission, and you could get appointed.

HTH

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I always thought that they just stole some chimps from John Ball Zoo and gave them a corner office.

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I always thought that they just stole some chimps from John Ball Zoo and gave them a corner office.

Easy now. They're not actually employees, they don't have offices. They're appointed citizens. Unfortunately, many of them don't take the positions seriously.

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As a Planning Commissioner myself, I'd like to clarify a few things written in this thread.

First, all Planning Commissions are (as stated in other posts) APPOINTED. The role of a PC is to serve in an ADVISORY capacity to the ELECTED officials of the local government unit (Township, Village, City, etc). The ELECTED officials are responsible for ALL the duties of the local government - and as such do not have time to ponder all the details of every facet of their responsibilities. Hence there are often MANY advisory panels within a local government: Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Library Comission, Parks Commission, Election Commissions, Fire Dept Advisory Boards, Historical Commisssions, etc. Many people would be very surprised to know how many of these panels are out there seeking interested people to serve. Many would also be surprised to learn how many outlying Townships actually have many of these boards. There are literally hundreds of "needs" out there for people to serve (and thus hundreds of opportuntities).

Again, these panels serve an ADVISORY role to the elected officials who ultimately make any final decisions regarding an issue. I know some will probably try to argue otherwise, but representative governance (elected people making the decisions) is the process in all of this. A quick review: appointed panels advise elected officials who then make decisions and direct the efforts of hired/paid government staff.

That being said, the process of appointment varies from township to township and city to city.

In many cities, it is indeed a slightly more difficult or seemingly closed process. However, it is rare that diversity isn't considered in the process. If you look at the demographics of nearly any PC, there is almost always a pretty broad range of interests, backgrounds and geography represented. Quite often this diversity is written into the governmental unit's constitution.

Diversity is also a primary goal in most Townships. However in most Townships the predominant challenge is simply finding well-informed people who are willing to serve.

In both cases, Planning Commissions and Boards often discover good candidates in the course of their deliberations. Often times citizens will attend a PC meeting for the first time due to an issue on the agenda - and then find themselves interested in other issues in the community. They attend more mtgs, perhaps express some views in public hearings - and ultimately they become noticed for their experience, expertise or perspective on a given issue. This is exactly how I was RECRUITED to serve as a Planning Commissioner - and it is how I know many others were similarly pursued. And, again, diversity is the model for my commission: a real estate expert, an architect/college instructor, an attorney, a retired corporate development professional, a teacher, an IT professional and myself - - equal parts female and male and a broad range of ages and stages within family life from all geographic parts of the township.

As for other comments written above, I find it very hard not to be disgusted when people "bash" commissions or boards. Remember, these are volunteers who take time away from work, family and friends to serve. In many cases these people did not actively seek the position - they were recruited and chose to serve when asked. The truth is these people (myself included) rarely receive the quantity or quality of citizen input we so desperately need in the course of our deliberations. Too often the only folks that show up at a public hearing are misinformed or disgruntled residents who merely want to complain. Rarely does anyone show up to speak in favor of those issues that are clearly beneficial to everyone. Again, this is representative government - that means the public needs to step up and serve itself. If you don't like what is going on, get informed and take action! If you like something, show up and speak in favor of it!! I'll say it again: the people serving on commissions and boards are almost desperate to hear more input from a much broader cross-section of their constituency. In its simplest terms: there are those who complain - and those who decide to take action.

Finally, the process of local governance (planning commissions, etc) often seems painfully slow and cumbersome. I know I have often found myself frustrated by this notion. But I have also learned over the years that this, indeed, does serve a very useful purpose. Because decisions made by local governments usually have impacts lasting decades (or longer), these decisions cannot and should not be made hastily or impulsively. Multi-step deliberations and multiple public hearings are intentionally designed to insure that the public has ample opportunity to direct the efforts of their local government. Furthermore, this process is designed to help prevent a clan of special interests or cronies from temporarily hi-jacking the government and implementing inappropriate decisions. Again: this is another reason to step up and serve.

I'll stop writing and simply reiterate my mantra of late: we need more people representing more diverse interests to step up and serve on these commissions. Specifically, more young people, more young people with young children and more people who wish to serve simply because it is the right thing to do - not because they expect to somehow gain personally from the exercise.

And we do NOT need any more people standing on the sidelines doing nothing but complaining. There are thousands of people already doing that.

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As a Planning Commissioner myself, I'd like to clarify a few things written in this thread.

First, all Planning Commissions are (as stated in other posts) APPOINTED. The role of a PC is to serve in an ADVISORY capacity to the ELECTED officials of the local government unit (Township, Village, City, etc). The ELECTED officials are responsible for ALL the duties of the local government - and as such do not have time to ponder all the details of every facet of their responsibilities. Hence there are often MANY advisory panels within a local government: Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Library Comission, Parks Commission, Election Commissions, Fire Dept Advisory Boards, Historical Commisssions, etc. Many people would be very surprised to know how many of these panels are out there seeking interested people to serve. Many would also be surprised to learn how many outlying Townships actually have many of these boards. There are literally hundreds of "needs" out there for people to serve (and thus hundreds of opportuntities).

I completely agree with Filmmaker, as a former planning commissioner in Holland, I served with a great number of dedicated folks from all walks of life, and would encourage anyone to get involved in some form with their local government. As a minor aside, have served on a Zoning Board of Appeals, these are generally not advisory, when you have been denied by a ZBA, typically your only recourse is to sue.

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Thanks for speaking up FilmMaker. As a former student member of the Commission, I will also vouch on the dedicated service of the Commissoners. For very little recognition and zero compensation, they do this city and its government a great favor.

...although, every once in a while, a Commissioner may find himself/herself rather unflatteringly quoted in the Press. :D

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Thanks for speaking up FilmMaker. As a former student member of the Commission, I will also vouch on the dedicated service of the Commissoners. For very little recognition and zero compensation, they do this city and its government a great favor.

...although, every once in a while, a Commissioner may find himself/herself rather unflatteringly quoted in the Press. :D

Sometimes there's a form of compensation. IIRC the GRPC gets lunch. At my old township (Algonac area), the folks who lived on Harsen's Island were provided ferry vouchers. And I believe there was some paltry sum paid to commissioners for either each meeting, or perhaps just the special ones. (We had a citizen with an irrevocable deadline --stork-- who needed a variance for her home addition. Her special meeting fee included the amount provided to the BZA members. This might have been $10 each.)

I was impressed with the GRPC last week. No glaring examples of orneryness or "good grief why were you ever appointed/accepted to this board?" Everyone seemed to be paying attention, asking intelligent questions, adding sensible comments.

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...although, every once in a while, a Commissioner may find himself/herself rather unflatteringly quoted in the Press. :D

:rofl:

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Sometimes there's a form of compensation. IIRC the GRPC gets lunch.

I know they used to. When I was there, however, lunch fell victim to the budget cuts ax. I'm not sure what they have now.

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the PC still gets lunch.

So does the BZA, and they also get paid ($10/meeting).

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As a Planning Commissioner myself, I'd like to clarify a few things written in this thread.

First, all Planning Commissions are (as stated in other posts) APPOINTED. The role of a PC is to serve in an ADVISORY capacity to the ELECTED officials of the local government unit (Township, Village, City, etc). The ELECTED officials are responsible for ALL the duties of the local government - and as such do not have time to ponder all the details of every facet of their responsibilities. Hence there are often MANY advisory panels within a local government: Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Library Comission, Parks Commission, Election Commissions, Fire Dept Advisory Boards, Historical Commisssions, etc. Many people would be very surprised to know how many of these panels are out there seeking interested people to serve. Many would also be surprised to learn how many outlying Townships actually have many of these boards. There are literally hundreds of "needs" out there for people to serve (and thus hundreds of opportuntities).

Again, these panels serve an ADVISORY role to the elected officials who ultimately make any final decisions regarding an issue. I know some will probably try to argue otherwise, but representative governance (elected people making the decisions) is the process in all of this. A quick review: appointed panels advise elected officials who then make decisions and direct the efforts of hired/paid government staff.

That being said, the process of appointment varies from township to township and city to city.

In many cities, it is indeed a slightly more difficult or seemingly closed process. However, it is rare that diversity isn't considered in the process. If you look at the demographics of nearly any PC, there is almost always a pretty broad range of interests, backgrounds and geography represented. Quite often this diversity is written into the governmental unit's constitution.

Diversity is also a primary goal in most Townships. However in most Townships the predominant challenge is simply finding well-informed people who are willing to serve.

In both cases, Planning Commissions and Boards often discover good candidates in the course of their deliberations. Often times citizens will attend a PC meeting for the first time due to an issue on the agenda - and then find themselves interested in other issues in the community. They attend more mtgs, perhaps express some views in public hearings - and ultimately they become noticed for their experience, expertise or perspective on a given issue. This is exactly how I was RECRUITED to serve as a Planning Commissioner - and it is how I know many others were similarly pursued. And, again, diversity is the model for my commission: a real estate expert, an architect/college instructor, an attorney, a retired corporate development professional, a teacher, an IT professional and myself - - equal parts female and male and a broad range of ages and stages within family life from all geographic parts of the township.

As for other comments written above, I find it very hard not to be disgusted when people "bash" commissions or boards. Remember, these are volunteers who take time away from work, family and friends to serve. In many cases these people did not actively seek the position - they were recruited and chose to serve when asked. The truth is these people (myself included) rarely receive the quantity or quality of citizen input we so desperately need in the course of our deliberations. Too often the only folks that show up at a public hearing are misinformed or disgruntled residents who merely want to complain. Rarely does anyone show up to speak in favor of those issues that are clearly beneficial to everyone. Again, this is representative government - that means the public needs to step up and serve itself. If you don't like what is going on, get informed and take action! If you like something, show up and speak in favor of it!! I'll say it again: the people serving on commissions and boards are almost desperate to hear more input from a much broader cross-section of their constituency. In its simplest terms: there are those who complain - and those who decide to take action.

Finally, the process of local governance (planning commissions, etc) often seems painfully slow and cumbersome. I know I have often found myself frustrated by this notion. But I have also learned over the years that this, indeed, does serve a very useful purpose. Because decisions made by local governments usually have impacts lasting decades (or longer), these decisions cannot and should not be made hastily or impulsively. Multi-step deliberations and multiple public hearings are intentionally designed to insure that the public has ample opportunity to direct the efforts of their local government. Furthermore, this process is designed to help prevent a clan of special interests or cronies from temporarily hi-jacking the government and implementing inappropriate decisions. Again: this is another reason to step up and serve.

I'll stop writing and simply reiterate my mantra of late: we need more people representing more diverse interests to step up and serve on these commissions. Specifically, more young people, more young people with young children and more people who wish to serve simply because it is the right thing to do - not because they expect to somehow gain personally from the exercise.

And we do NOT need any more people standing on the sidelines doing nothing but complaining. There are thousands of people already doing that.

Please tell me that the PC takes seriously the problems that citizens are experiencing. I have to be honest. I met with someone who is on the Downtown Development Authority, and I was very, very disappointed with the cavalier way in which this person responded to my legitimate concern. Maybe a lot of people have the PC all wrong, but it's the few bad apples that ruin it for the rest of you.

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Please tell me that the PC takes seriously the problems that citizens are experiencing. I have to be honest. I met with someone who is on the Downtown Development Authority, and I was very, very disappointed with the cavalier way in which this person responded to my legitimate concern. Maybe a lot of people have the PC all wrong, but it's the few bad apples that ruin it for the rest of you.

Much depends on the particular nature of your issue. (N.B. I am not currently affiliated with any jurisdiction, PC, or DDA, though I have been in the past, and clearly have not sworn off it.)

PC deliberates proposals submitted a month in advance. There's a substantial filing fee. Various submission requirements include a site plan, description of the proposal, other details that are pertinent. PC makes sure that proposals comply with zoning: setbacks, height, density, transparency, parking, bicycle parking, whatever else pertains; anything related to the physical structure and design. Usually a case comes up when a new proposal, change in use (factory --> adult Cab D), or major construction is proposed. Some jurisdictions issue special or conditional use permits which expire after a few years, so the applicant comes back up for a renewal hearing. PC tends to not hear from citizens unless there's an issue happening nearby (the city notifies property owners & residents within a certain distance).

DDA is more about promoting the DT and local business/community. They can do things such as decide to install bicycle parking throughout DT, without regards to what individual landowners or tenants want or are willing to pay for. Colorful banners on light poles, turning the RPC steam feature off or on, installing & paying for snow-melt sidewalks, steering developers towards designing their buildings to have ground-level retail and parking decks rather than surface parking lots...that's the DDA. Less about engineering and more about amorphous ambiguities.

You might want to write up your legitimate concern and submit it for consideration to a DDA meeting so that all their folks can discuss it. (Keep in mind that a casual conversation is a snapshot of someone's day and not necessarily a "final answer.")

HTH

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In most cases the Planning Commission is an advisory body, however in a few cases, the PC has been given decision authority to give final approval for projects.

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In most cases the Planning Commission is an advisory body, however in a few cases, the PC has been given decision authority to give final approval for projects.

The PC can have final authority only on matters that are in conformance with the zoning ordinance (site plan approvals, uses that are "permitted with approval" and minor deviations to previously approved plans when allowed by the ordinance).

They have absolutely no authority to rezone land from on use to another, approve Planned Unit Developments, make changes to the zoning ordinance or map, or do anything else that is a legislative act. Only elected officials are able to change the law, and a zoning change falls into that category.

In the case of a legislative matter, the planning commission will review the request, hold public hearings, etc. and make a recommendation to the elected body (city commission, township board). They can recommend to approve the request, to deny the request, or to approved the request with changes.

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The PC can have final authority only on matters that are in conformance with the zoning ordinance (site plan approvals, uses that are "permitted with approval" and minor deviations to previously approved plans when allowed by the ordinance).

They have absolutely no authority to rezone land from on use to another, approve Planned Unit Developments, make changes to the zoning ordinance or map, or do anything else that is a legislative act. Only elected officials are able to change the law, and a zoning change falls into that category.

In the case of a legislative matter, the planning commission will review the request, hold public hearings, etc. and make a recommendation to the elected body (city commission, township board). They can recommend to approve the request, to deny the request, or to approved the request with changes.

In other states, including PA, the PC, if permitted by the cities charter, can give granted athority to do zoning changes, and such.

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In other states, including PA, the PC, if permitted by the cities charter, can give granted athority to do zoning changes, and such.

Wow. In a democracy we hold our elected officials responsible for legislative decisions. We choose them to represent us in those decisions. I think zoning ordinances are considered law in all states, therefore any change in zoning is a change in the law. I didn't think elected officials could delegate the power to change laws to a non-elected body.

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