Reasons To Plan and Not To Plan

Reasons to plan...

"Planning is the mark of good community sense and intelligent thought."1 A community needs planning to ensure its future is the one its residents desire.

But there are a number of other reasons to plan, as well. One important reason is because planning coordinates decisions between diverse interests. These groups may include city agencies and officials, developers, real estate agents, business owners and merchants, hsitoric preservationists, and others. Each of these groups has their own areas of interest--developers are concerned with investment, business owners with commercial vitality, preservationists with historic character. Planners are designated as the group who provides an overview to these various areas of interest, and who develop proposals which best represent them compatibly.

Planning also encourages public input, and is concerned with both providing a means for citizens to have a say in what is happening, typically through public hearings, and also to dispurse information to the community and about the community. In that way, it helps direct efforts toward resolving local problems. Through such information gathering and dispersal, planners encourage a community to think beyond specifics to more general issues of importance.

Planners are also integral members of city government, and are instrumental in framing local codes and ordinances. By drafting master plans, zoning ordinances, capital improvement budgets and other regulations, they help in an important way to establish the rules by which a city lives.

Planning helps prevent wasteful expenditure of public and private funds. Planning enables local governments to anticipate service demands and to plan, locate, and build public service facilities accordingly. Costly mistakes are thus eliminated or at least reduced.

Planning helps to protect property values largely by controlling the impact of one land use on a different use on adjacent or nearby land.

Planning contributes to economic development. It provides information and data to those considering investments in a community. It allows prospective investors to assess the ability of a community to meet its needs for public services as well as provide amenities the company's employees may require.

Reasons not to plan...

It must be understood, however, that planning cannot do all things in all situations. Although planning can provide a general framework for the future, it is typically not involved in specific details.

Developing a downtown revitalization plan, for instance, should not be assumed to mean that specific businesses will come into a downtown. That is a decision left to business owners, not to the city or its planners. Incentives can be created to encourage certain changes and regulations developed to discourage others, but ultimately specific decisions are left to individuals owners and merchants.

Also, it should not be assumed that developing a revitalization plan will produce immediate changes. Such a plan lays out a framework for change. Rather, such a plan says,--when changes are made, they should be in this direction. But the city must wait for others to make such changes, for the downtown is controlled primarily by the private sector. The city can institute public sector work according to its own schedule, but must wait for the private sector to respond only if and when it is ready.

Finally, planning should not be seen as a tool of regulation. A plan is properly a tool which provides ideas, coordination and incentives. Regulations and restrictions on private property rights are administered through zoning and other regulations, not through planning.

Thomas L. Daniels. The Small Town Planning Handbook., American Planning Association Bookstore. p. 3.

Suggested other pages...
Profile of Planning Department5 Tools of Planning
Petition to Planning Dept.The Downtown Master Plan