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grandrollerz

Planning Commission Member

5 posts in this topic

I've expressed interest in doing this for my local township but have no formal training other than reading UP for the last 2 years :P and a general interest in the goings-on of my township. If I were to throw my name in the ring, what kind of qualifications does it really take?

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Lots of lookers but no reply? OK, I'll bite.

Helps to know the appointing official(s) or have some track record/contact at the jurisdiction (other than a thick stack of code violation notices in the files). Make friends with your Twp board member or supervisor prior to sending your letter of interest.

Most PCs want some sort of demographic balance (genders, races, incomes from various categories, ZIP codes, census tracts)

Presumably you do not have a special interest or personal goal/vendetta. For instance, if you are in the abbatoir business, and really want to run one in your backyard...

Similarly, if you are involved in a specialty land use (real estate, development, materials, liquor) likely you would need to recuse yourself from pertinent decisions. (At the Twp where I worked, the clerk ran a used car lot. A neighbor came up with complaints about someone selling cars out front of their house -- inventory seemed to change weekly -- and the clerk would not express an opinion due to his conflict of interest.)

Helps to not have classes/choir practice scheduled the same night as the PC meetings.

Good luck!

[have never sat on a PC nor BZA, only presented to them as a staffer or applicant]

Hey, is this for Acme Twp???

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I'll save you a repeat of Veloise's comments above and simply add that other helpful prerequisites would be:

Thick skin: as you'll be subjected to the occasional vitriol of angered residents who may not completely understand the planning process, and who are rarely familiar with much of what we ponder here at UP. As a PC, you don't very often make the final decision - you merely advise the elected officials as to what they should decide. Nonetheless, you'll still receive the scrutiny of residents who are simply looking for people to blame for what they don't like.

Tolerance of the media: you'll find yourself often misquoted and otherwise misrepresented every time the local media attempts to report on your activities. It has become a bit of a running joke in my household and among my circle of friends.

A willingness to invest time beyond the scheduled mtgs: to appropriately fulfill your civic duty, you'll need to spend an equal and additional amount of time visiting proposed sites, evaluating proposed plans and often times trudging through rain, snow or mud to appraise the full impact of a proposed project on a site.

A good tactic might be to attend several planning commission mtgs and simply watch the process. In some ways it's like making sausage - you don't really want to know how it happens - but at other times it is rewarding to realize that you really can have an impact on the quality of life in your community (even if it is very small).

Veloise is correct in that township boards desire diversity and some reasonable perspective in the people they appoint to the PC. Be prepared to discuss ways in which your contribution might complement what others bring to the commission.

Finally, it isn't a short term commitment. Often times it is a minimum 3 yr term, often renewable to 2-4 terms. I really didn't realize going in that it could result in a 9yr period of service.

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I've appointed dozens of citizens to boards and commissions over the years and rarely knew any of them. It just takes a desire to serve and perhaps some specialized knowledge. A balance is desired whereby members might come from the building trades, banking, real estate, etc. Not everyone needs to be an expert in a certain area, but some need to be. It also helps to be able to read and assess a blueprint or plot plan.

I second the notion that doing your homework (drive-bys, etc) is critical. You can pick out unprepared zoning board or planning commission members in about two minutes!

Common sense is a real plus, and no axe to grind is a must!

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Whoops, I forgot. Sometimes (usually?) there's a stipend. Won't save your mortgage from foreclosure, but it would be more interesting than clocking in at T-Ho's. At my former Twp the commissioners got something like $12/meeting (2001), and a ferry ticket when needed.

I mentioned connections because I applied for inclusion on a neighborhood study committee (someplace in the 313) and was turned away...selected were the usual suspects, some of whom did not even live in the subject district.

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