By Steve Troskey
In a recent study, 93% of City Administrators in smaller Iowa communities said they were tasked with planning, zoning, and code enforcement. 73% of these Administrators felt hey did not have enough expertise to do an adequate job based on a lack of planning education and experience[i].
To help, a third-party planner can work with your community to provide day-to-day planning and zoning administration, which can free the City Administrator to work on managing the operations of the city. It is better to be prepared and proactive when development or redevelopment occurs rather than scramble at the last second to change codes to fit the potential project. “Good planning” is hard to pinpoint because it reflects personal values. It may be difficult for staff to not get overwhelmed with contrasting opinions from multiple segments of the community. Since code must be equally applied to all, a third-party administrator may be an effective solution to remove personal bias. A third-party planner allows Administrators/other staff to focus on their areas of expertise while allowing an unbiased professional to take a comprehensive view of planning and enforcement issues.
The planner can evaluate the consequences of a decision in a larger context than local politics. The planner allows the administrator to be an impartial professional focused on overall direction and management while the planner works the day-to-day administration of the Zoning Ordinance. Iowa Code 414.1 outlines the role of Planning in your community if you have a zoning ordinance. It mandates the need for a Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance; however, it does not indicate what administration of these documents should look like. This vagueness is where many communities find themselves seeking direction.
Common reasons for a smaller community to need planning include:
- Enforce the Comprehensive Plan
- Promote quality development
- Separate conflicting land uses
[i] Bland, R. A. (2007). The role of the city administrator and small town planning. Ames, IA: Iowa State University.