Why is land use planning important for a community? – Katie Myers-Griffith

I am often asked to speak to audiences about comprehensive land use planning and how to incorporate agriculture, local food or sustainability into a plan.  Audiences are all so different.  Last week, I presented with Steve Stolte – a former county engineer in Union County, and a land trust, farmland preservation advocate, at the Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit.  This, by far, was one of my best and favorite audiences.  The audience members were intelligent, engaged, and thoughtful.  They asked difficult questions, laughed at my corny jokes, and most importantly offered additional solutions to planning issues.

One audience member, however, asked the most difficult, and simply “complex” question, to date…”Why should a community have a land use plan?”

My Initial Thought: Duh! Planners need job security!

My Actual Response and Analogy:  Unplanned Communities are like Hoarders.

How many of you have ever seen the show Hoarders, or something of the like?  Hoarding, according to ocd-hoarding.com is one form of an obsessive compulsive disorder behavior.  Individual hoarders will buy and buy and buy or collect and collect and collect, and have piles of ‘stuff’ all over.  They are unable to sit down to a family meal because the table is piled high with papers.  They are unable to enjoy a family game of monopoly, because the floor space is covered with stuff.  They rarely invite over company – as guests would not have a place to socialize.  We watch this and wonder…how can anyone live like that?

Let’s take this vision that we have in our mind of a 1200 square foot home busting at the seams with stuff, and convert it to 1200 square miles of a township or village.  When we don’t plan, when we don’t have a “place” for stuff…we ultimately have a disorganized mess.  Just as a home would not have room for monopoly, without planning we will not have room for recreation or natural resources.

Let’s look at this in another way.  In your home, every room has a purpose.  The bedroom is for sleeping, the bathroom for bathing, and the kitchen for cooking.  Would you ever think your bedroom is a good place for the grill?  Would you ever think to keep your garbage cans in the family room?  Or that a suitable place for the toilet is in the dining room?   I highly doubt it!  First of all, it’s gross, and secondly the proper infrastructure isn’t there.  You don’t have plumbing in the dining room  for a toilet.  You could re-plumb the house, but that would be very costly.  So, why in a community, do we think it is okay to let the chips fall where they will?  Why is it acceptable to put industry in farmland? -even when the infrastructure is not there to support it?

Much like the arrangement of a home, community plans are fluid and re-arrangeable.  Think of it as a home though, even when you rearrange you keep bedroom furniture in the bedroom, and bathroom facilities in the bathroom.  Communities should be treated the same.  Farmland deserves farming facilities, and residential developments deserve amenities like parks, schools, and shops nearby. So next time I am asked, “Why should a community have a plan?”  My answer will be simple… Do you have a toilet in your dining room?

 As I stated earlier, the question was one of the best, and the answer is not simple.  This audience had more great answers to that questions:

  1. If you don’t plan for yourself – someone bigger will do it for you (it may be the County or a Regional agencies, and they won’t care as much as the local people)
  2. The government likes to give grant money to planned communities
  3. A plan – is just that, a plan.  Better to have some vision than no vision.
  4. It gives elected officials a framework for making decisions based on the constituents wants and desires.
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2 thoughts on “Why is land use planning important for a community? – Katie Myers-Griffith

  1. Pingback: Understanding North Park – Community Plan Update « eat.drink.give.go

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