Planning and Development issues are the primary focus of most local governments and sometimes the biggest challenge for CAO’s and Council alike. Planning issues have a direct impact on our citizens and often bring them in direct contact with Council and staff like nothing else we do.
When the system works it helps to create a strong and vibrant community and a legacy. When the system fails often the opposite is true as planning mistakes are costly and have a lasting impact. Why do some local governments find the balance between creating thriving sustainable communities and supporting economically beneficial development while others seem to flounder?
When things go wrong in my experience three critical areas should be examined, the people involved, the processes they use and the organizational structure they fit into.
Staff, are they experienced, how do they fit into the corporate culture, do they have internal or external support?
Senior Management, do they understand the planning process, how are they managing, coaching or supporting staff?
Council, do they understand their responsibility in the process and the difference between their role and staff’s role?
Are the processes used reviewed for changes in policy and legislation?
Do they balance the need for due diligence with risk management?
Do they produce effective results or are staff just checking boxes?
How does the planner or planning section fit into your overall structure and interact with other departments?
Is the planner, section or department stand alone or within a broader multi-disciplinary unit?
Great planning staff are not easy to recruit and great teams are not easy to develop. When things are going wrong the problem isn’t always the planner or the department, but the system or culture that has evolved in your local government. If people aren’t saying good things about planning in your community maybe it’s time to find out why.
Ron Mattiussi MCIP RPP
R. L. Mattiussi Advisory Services Inc.