Insecurity strikes again

I know everyone makes mistakes, it’s okay, etc. but I’ve got to beat myself up for these ones just to get it out of my system. I feel utterly useless in some aspects of my job. The Blue Lake Planning Commission met tonight to consider a project that requires a public hearing. I prepare the notices for public hearing, which are sent out to property owners who live within 300 feet of the project site. Well, for tonight’s particular project I was kind of surprised that no neighbors showed up to comment. Halfway through the meeting a woman walked in the door and said that the reason for the lack of public attendance may have been a typo on the notice which gave the wrong address for the project site, so people didn’t know where it was located. At the beginning of the meeting the applicant had noticed the same error on the agenda, but I hadn’t realized it was on the public notice as well. D’oh. As a result, the Commission was legally unable to make a decision tonight and had to continue the discussion to next month so the public can receive proper noticing. Bleh.

I feel like I’m not very good at handling these meetings. My boss has given me free rein because I’ve expressed confidence that I can handle them on my own, so I’m getting good practice. Maybe things will get better. But I am always so nervous speaking in front of everybody that my primary goal becomes, subconsciously, to spit out as few words as possible in the quickest way I can manage. I become so narrowly focused on this that I can’t think of all the issues I should be raising and the points I should be making to help the Commissioners make their decisions. Thank goodness the City Attorney and City Manager are also there to speak on behalf of City staff. My goal for these meetings has been, for the past couple months, to enumerate the important points of each project and give the Commission a clear direction to follow in deciding on projects. If they don’t get direction from staff, they’ll make bad decisions. So far I haven’t been terribly successful.

It didn’t help that they claimed a Tentative Parcel Map for a subdivision approved last month was not drawn to scale. One of them told me bluntly, “Don’t even bother bringing us a map if it’s not to scale.” I’m not so bothered about the Tentative Parcel Map, though, because we’d been dealing with that subdivision for months upon months and even the City Engineer had not mentioned the scale being wrong. Also the Commissioners should have visited the site before they made a decision on the project.

As long as I’m venting (it feels good), I have plenty of other problems with being a planner. I can’t tell people what to do. If they submit an application with crappily drawn maps or insufficient information, I try to make it work. Basically I don’t ask them for anything more because I try to bother them as little as possible, even though the burden really lies with them to get their projects accomplished and I have the power of the law behind me. My knee-jerk reaction is always to try to please the person in front of me at any cost. Only later will I realize that that could be detrimental to the City’s or the public’s interest. So I’m kind of screwed unless I learn to deal with that.

I contend that planning is fun until other people’s interests become involved. I’d probably be better off in England. My British co-worker said that over there, planners act as the main decision-makers (whereas in the U.S. we have Planning Commissions, Design Review boards and City Councils). Over there, planners have the authority because they have the expertise. Of course they may be even more disliked in England than they are here.

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