EMERGING: Local Government Initiative

Caitlin Ghoshal's picture

On Thursday, May 10, a group of CNU 20 attendees gathered to discuss the topic, “Local Government and New Urbanism.” The group responded to Peter Katz's call for greater congruence between local government planning departments and the New Urbanism. Katz related his own past frustration as a New Urbanist inside local planning departments, which gave lip service to New Urbanism's physically-based approach, but for the most part, defaulted to more abstract, use-based policy recommendations. Katz also observed that, despite much discussion of the public process, government planning staff, in the main, tended to avoid conflict rather than manage it effectively.

The wish list for change in this area is long. At the top would be for local governments to adopt policy frameworks that would be more friendly to New Urbanism and Smart Growth planning approaches. Other issues include achieving greater clarity as to the planner's role: Are staff planners empowered to serve as advocates for specific planning approaches, and make strong recommendations related to development applications? Or are they limited to being neutral facilitators of the review process? Three group members are now chairing the committees to address the projects noted above.The group in attendance was large and diverse, including a mix of consultant urban designers and planners, local government staff, and elected officials. Over 40 people took part in the discussion, which began with a general gripe session about the frustrations of local planning, and then moved on to suggest these three preliminary projects:

  • Performance measures for local government planning departments (What constitutes success? How does one measure it?); 
  • A redesign of development-related processes at the local level to better incorporate NU best practices, and… 
  • Suggestions for the compensation, management, motivation and training of local planners.

You can get involved with this emerging initiative by joining one of these committees, or suggesting another project aimed at addressing issues related to the New Urbanism and Local Government.

For more information on this initiative, please contact Peter Katz at katzoid[at]earthlink[dot]net. To join the listserve contact, please contact Emily Brown at emilyfromwv[at]gmail[dot]com.


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