Why Planning Is Necessary.


To: City Council of Fieldsville, Virginia
From: Christina Futrell, Planning Consultant
Date: February 4, 2000
Re: Adding a Town Planner to Your Staff

Planning in any town is an important part of the growth, development and sustainability of the citizens and businesses in that town. I believe that your town council could greatly benefit from adding a planner to your staff.

Planning suggests a systematic attempt to shape the future. It attempts to link scientific and technical knowledge to actions in the public domain, and processes of societal guidance and of social transformation. Planning entails making decisions and informing actions in ways that are socially rational. Planning serves a public or general purpose, such as ensuring the stability and growth of the economy; undertaking selected public investments and, in the absence of private sector interest, inducing desired actions on part of the private sector through various forms of subsidy; restraining private sector actions to safeguard the well-being of the population at large; redistributing income on grounds of equity; protecting individuals and businesses against the uncertainties of the market; and so forth. The planning process must continuously pursue and faithfully serve the public interest.

Why is planning necessary?
1. To guide the overall economic stability and growth in a community
- achieve a sensible and attractive land-use pattern
- preserving or improving that which all ready exists
- encourage economic development
2. To provide public services to meet the general needs of the community
- location of public facilities
- make sure that all are served with adequate toads, water, and sewer facilities
- protect the general public health; minimizing threats to human health and life
3. To protect the environment
- guide and manage development to minimize environmental damage
- acquiring or developing land for parks or open space; achieving aesthetic and
recreational goals
- preserving resources for future use
- saving nonrenewable energy sources

The Origins of Planning
Before the American Revolution municipalities appointed strong powers to control land use, thus shaping their own forms of “planning.” These powers came out of a European tradition that treated the town or village as an independent corporation, which might own, control, or dispose of most of the land within its boundaries. Many U.S. communities started as grants to individuals or groups, which then, by virtue of the grant, had the power to dispose of land within their borders. Thus colonial towns had formidable powers to shape their pattern of development.

Quite obviously, the Revolution ended the practice of creating municipalities through the mechanism of royal grants to individuals. More important, it placed the bulk of political power in the hands of the states. Municipalities grew rapidly, with little public control over the pattern of growth. Planning often focused on the commercial heart of the city and ignored residential areas, particularly the less than prosperous ones. The rectangular “gridiron” pattern of street development became commonplace so that they facilitated land subdivision and speculation. The force of growth ran rampant over the pre-Revolutionary period.

As urban populations and the density of urban development increased, pressures for reform escalated. U.S. planning history and tradition arose with the concern of problems arising from urban growth. Over the years these problems have included sanitation and public health, the disappearance of urban open space, housing quality and overcrowding, the ugliness and grimness of the nineteenth-century industrial city, traffic congestion, and the problem of providing urban populations with adequate mobility. In recent years planning effort has also been directed to problems of urban unemployment, to urban fiscal problems, to a variety of social justice issues, and to issues of environmental preservation and quality.

How does a planner benefit a town council?
Planners can better help a town council serve “the public interest.” A planner helps by anticipating and developing responses to problems that have not yet presented themselves, help formulate solutions, and make sure those solutions are implemented to the greatest extent. They also respond to problems that are present and demand solutions. Planners advise the council on making decisions for the future, the consequences and benefits of those decisions, and what could happen if a decision is not made or a problem is ignored. The planner mediates knowledge and action, always holding an attitude of efficiency.

Planners should recognize the rights