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How Does Your Planning Board Know About Planning? NH Planners Association Conference May 11, 2012 June Hammond Rowan, Ed.D. Associate Director, Center.

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Presentation on theme: "How Does Your Planning Board Know About Planning? NH Planners Association Conference May 11, 2012 June Hammond Rowan, Ed.D. Associate Director, Center."— Presentation transcript:

1 How Does Your Planning Board Know About Planning? NH Planners Association Conference May 11, 2012 June Hammond Rowan, Ed.D. Associate Director, Center for the Environment Plymouth State University

2 Questions for Planners… How many planning board meetings have you been to? What really happens at planning board meetings? How do people know what to do at PB meetings?

3 In New Hampshire… 232 planning boards with 5-9 members There are at least 1,160 citizen planners (not counting alternate members) Estimated that < 1/3 of municipalities have professional planners

4 What is Planning? McClendon (2003) suggested that planning is “the production, administration, and implementation of comprehensive plans” (p. 226), thereby putting the plan itself as the core mission of planning as a profession. Creation of a master plan: – A comprehensive, forward looking statement of public policy that serves to guide the overall character, physical form, growth, and development of a community. It serves as a blueprint and guide to the future for a community

5 Planning Theory – Rational Theory Rational Theory: – Designed to “use the methods and tools of science toward social ends in order to ensure that public decision-making [is] based on facts rather than hunch” (Allmendinger, 2009, p. 66). Involves: – Defining goals, identifying problems, finding alternative solutions to identified problems, then comparing alternatives to determine best solutions to implement in order to achieve desired goals (Hoch, Dalton, & So, 2000).

6 Planning Theory – Communicative Planning Collaborative, consensus building process where many voices are engaged (Thompson, 2000). The context of planning, the interactions between people, the power of the people involved, and how communication occurs are all important (Forester, 1989; Healey, 2003; Kudva, 2008). Communicative planning theorists find out about planning by finding out what [professional] planners do (Innes, 1995).

7 Plans Plans are central to planning In NH, master plans: – Two required parts: vision & land use plan – Adopted by PB Evaluation of plans: – Why do NH planning boards make decisions that contribute to a sprawl? Lack of citizen involvement, punctuated planning, resources misallocated (Mitchell, 2008).

8 The Problem “…local land use decisions are in the hands of thousands of individuals who lack formal training in planning” (Kaplan, Kaplan, & Austin, 2008, p.46) “…most local land-use decisions lie in the hands of citizen volunteers, who often come from disparate backgrounds yet are asked to make critical decisions affecting the long-term health of communities and quality of life of current and future residents” (Hamin, Geigis, & Silda, 2007, p. 2)

9 Key Questions What do NH’s planning boards do? What land use planning theories do New Hampshire’s planning boards use? What practices do these planning boards follow? Where and how do planning board members learn about land use planning and planning board practice? What information sources do planning board members use in their practice?

10 Methods Qualitative Research Site Selection: – Purposeful sample – 4 towns, 2 with planner Data Collection: – Documents – meeting minutes – Meeting observation – Interviews – in person, semi-structured Data Analysis: – Coding, descriptions, themes developed – Theories developed inductively from the data – grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006)

11 Interview Questions Interviewee’s background: – Years on PB, profession, age Interviewee’s basic knowledge of planning and the planning board: – Purpose & role of PB; use of Master Plan How interviewees learned about planning & sources of planning information they use.

12 Interviewees Years on PB: 3 to 32 years; collectively they have ~90 years on PB (90 x 12 meetings/year = 1,080 PB meetings) Age: 40s (1); 50s (1); 60s (5); 70s (1) Background: Engineering, attorney, construction, sales, teacher

13 Planning Board Role Interviewees describe PB role as: – Oversee master plan – Construct and maintain regulations – Protect town, maintain character of town But… Observations & minutes: – PBs focus is on regulatory role

14 Master Plan Observations & minutes: – Only two references of the master plan in 16 months of minutes – When used, it supports or follows regulations and is not used to guide regulations

15 Master Plan “….When we have proposed changes to the zoning ordinance we’ll [draft it] and look in the master plan to see that it fits with wording somewhere in the master plan….So it isn’t like we go through the master plan and say, “Okay, we’ve got to do this because the master plan suggested it…”

16 Master Plan Interviewees said: Big picture, vision Developers use it Do not fully understand purpose Do not use it regularly, if at all “[The master plan] is [the developers’] permission to apply” “…I can’t even tell you the last time I actually looked at the master plan.” “…I’ve never seen [the master plan].”

17 What are Planning Boards Doing? If planning boards are not using the Master Plan, then are they planning? What are they doing? Planning is “ the production, administration, and implementation of comprehensive plans… (McClendon, 2003, p. 226)”

18 Planning Boards Review Applications Subdivision, site plan review RSAs & local regulations guide: – What needs to be submitted – Standards for applications Step by step process Pre-application ReviewApplication: Notice to Public PB Meeting: Complete/Incomplete, Presentation/Discussion/Q&A Hearing/Public Input Discussion/Q&A Decision

19 Planning Board Process Observations & Minutes: – PBs most always approve the applications – In 16 months, 80 applications in 4 towns 3 pending 3 no record 1 not accepted 2 denied

20 Planning Board Process Observations & Minutes: – PBs adjust the process in multiple ways – Hearings: opening & closing – Completeness, standards of review, & timeline – Temporary approvals (for 7 years) – Voting on ZBA matters

21 Planning Board Process “…we don’t even accept the application until we’re ready to approve the subdivision in most cases.” “And, in some cases, the intent is there and they haven’t met the [the regulations] but, you know, we can make a decision anyway.”

22 Planning Board Process: Why do they change it? “…legally you ought to have a site plan, but all we’re looking at is just a 15’ x 15’ extension to your garage….It seems meaningless to make them…pay to have a whole site review for something that is not going to help us make a decision.” “The money that these people have to put out for these things….all of a sudden they haven’t put a stick up and they’ve spent thousands in planning money…”

23 Planning Board Process: Why do they change it? “I don’t think it needs to be a bureaucratic process. In fact I think it should absolutely not be a bureaucratic process; that these boards are in place, at least in theory, to help people and that’s what they were intended to do.” “[Our role is] to help the general public or stakeholders, basically, to find their way through [the application process]….We’re here to help you get done what you want to do.…it becomes a question of attitude. “

24 Planning Board Process “…I just hate more and more regulations….you know, this is New Hampshire. Live Free or Die….to a certain extent people should be able to do what they want with their properties.” “…public government has its hands tied now by so many damn statues and regulations….It’s absolutely ridiculous. They’re trying to take the element of fairness out by making everything statutory….laws are guidelines. And I don’t see how you could look at them any other way.”

25 Planning Board Decisions Observations & Minutes: – PBs work to find common ground – Negotiate an acceptable application through discussion and revisions Interviews: – Reach consensus – Collectively move ahead with decision “You can feel that there’s a consensus among us before the vote is taken.”

26 So, what happens at PB meetings? Planning boards’ work primarily involves review & approval of applications for specific sites and parcels of land: – Meetings used to discuss details and ask questions. – Goal is to develop a consensus. – Planning boards work to approve almost all applications.

27 So, what happens at PB meetings? Planning boards are focused on being fair and helping applicants through the applications process: – Adjust the process if needed. – Waive requirements in the regulations, because regulations are just a guideline.

28 So, what happens at PB meetings? No evidence of conducting long-range, town- wide planning: – Planning board members have a sense of the purpose of master plan, but they rarely, if ever, use the plan. – Master plan serves as a resource to support a regulatory change, but does not guide land use policy changes.

29 How do planning boards learn to do what they do? One study (Kaplan, Kaplan, & Austin, 2008): 1.Learn from others (planners, citizens, developers, lawyers); 2.Participating on planning board; 3.Reading information from township; 4.Workshops; 5.General planning books & Internet.

30 Learning the Planning Board Process: Information for Citizen Planners

31 Learning the Planning Board Process Background of members varies Some go to training (OEP conferences, Municipal Law Lectures) “….[I had] never even been to a planning board meeting in my life before [becoming a planning board member].…Honestly? I had no idea what I was even supposed to be doing. I got absolutely no direction. ”

32 Learning the Planning Board Process Do not use many available resources: – State agencies? – Internet? – Books? “God, no.” “[I] surf the Internet all the time, but it’s more on…my general interests. Genealogy. Planning and zoning? No.” “I always like to read, but I haven’t really read any books on planning.”

33 Information Sources Used NH Planning boards rely on people: – Town staff (planner, secretary, DPW, Fire chief) – Town consultants (engineers, attorneys) – Applicants and their representatives (surveyors, engineers) – Abutters and public – Representatives from agencies/organizations (DES, DOT) Documents: – Checklist – Regulations – RSAs Site Visits

34 Learning the Planning Board Process Learn from experience – Watching, doing Learn from other PB members “I think a lot of what I’ve learned had been first of all serving as an alternate for almost two years,…by just absorbing by osmosis.” “…if you had to create an ideal board…you’d want an environmental person and you’d want a realtor person and, I don’t know what else. A lawyer would be good. But it works! I think it works.”

35 Adult Learning Planning board members are adults Andragogy (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005): – Theory of how adults learn – (Pedagogy – how children learn) – View learning as the process of gaining knowledge and/or expertise Formal vs. non-formal learning

36 Andragogy & Adults Need to know: – need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it. Learners’ self-concept: – responsible for their own decisions & lives; capable of self-direction; independent learners Role of the learners’ experience: – have large, diverse, and individualized amount of experience that serves as a vast resource.

37 Andragogy & Adults Readiness to learn: – ready to learn those things they need to know and that will be useful in order to cope effectively with real-life situations. Orientation to learning: – new knowledge, understandings, skills, values, and attitudes are learned more effectively when they are presented in the context of real-life situations Motivation: – responsive to both external motivations as well internal motivators, but internal ones can be more potent

38 How Do Planning Board Members Learn About Planning? Planning board members learn process from experience – they learn from the PB. Consistent with adult learning theory.

39 How Do Planning Board Members Learn About Planning? The process perpetuates itself. PB members learn to do what the planning board already does

40 Conclusions No evidence of PB members using the Master Plan or seeking information about large-scale planning: – Adults require a need to know before learning something. – Since PBs are not doing comprehensive planning, little need for PB members to know about or learn planning theory & techniques. – Providing more information is unlikely to have an impact unless they see use for the information.

41 Summary: Andragogy & Adult Learning Need to know. Learners’ self-concept. Role of the learners’ experience. Readiness to learn. Orientation to learning. Motivation.

42 Summary We need to know more about our planning boards, our citizen planners (the people making the decisions), and how they learn in order to understand & improve planning and land use in New Hampshire. “…local land use decisions are in the hands of thousands of individuals who lack formal training in planning” (Kaplan, Kaplan, & Austin, 2008, p.46)

43 References Allmendinger, P. (2009). Planning theory. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing Grounded Theory. London: Sage Publications. Creswell, J.W. (2009). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc. Forester, J. (1989). Planning in the face of power. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hamin, E.M., Geigis, P., & Silda, L. (Eds). (2007). Preserving and enhancing communities: A guide for citizens, planners, and policymakers. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Healey, P. (2003). Collaborative planning in perspective. Planning Theory. 2(2): Hoch, C.J., Dalton, L.C., & So, F.S. (2000). The practice of local government planning (3 rd ed.). Washington: International City/County Management Association. Innes, J. E. (1995). Planning Theory's Emerging Paradigm: Communicative Action and Interactive Practice. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 14(3), Kaplan, R., Kaplan, S., & Austin, M.E. (2008). Factors shaping local land use decisions: Citizen planners’ perceptions and challenges. Environment and Behavior. 40(1),

44 References Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F. III, & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (6th ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier. Kudva, N. (2008). Teaching Planning, Constructing Theory. Planning theory and practice, 9(3), Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in adulthood: a comprehensive guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Mitchell, C. R. (2008). The local land use process in New Hampshire: Does it contribute to sprawl? Ph.D. dissertation, University of New Hampshire, United States -- New Hampshire. Retrieved May 18, 2009, from Dissertations & Theses: A&I database. (Publication No. AAT ). Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods (3 rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Thompson, R. (2000). Re-defining Planning: The Roles of Theory and Practice. Planning Theory & Practice, 1(1),

45 Discussion World Café format (modified) Approximately 10 min. at three tables with a question at each table Go to a table with a different question Sit with different people at each table Talk, write, draw, enjoy!


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