18-Year-Old Appointed to Planning Commission

Megan Lavalley may be the youngest planning commissioner ever, appointed to serve in Manchester, Vermont beginning Oct. 22nd.

18 year old Manchester student Megan Lavalley has worked with the Planning Commission since 2007, serving as a high youth representative to the board.

The Manchester Journal asked Megan why she decided to serve on the Planning Commission in the first place:

""It just sounded really interesting," she said. "It sounded like one of the boards where you could make the most influence and leave your mark the most because it's rules about footprint and building sizes and stuff that will stay here in the town for, you know, a hundred years. I thought it was a good place to learn a lot and kind of contribute a lot at the same time.""

Thanks to Rebecca Sanborn Stone

Full Story: BBA student to become full voting member of town's Planning Board



Berkeley did it younger first...

I hate raining on others' parades. Berkeley City Council memebers have had several high school age appointments (full voting rights) on both their Zoning Adjustments Board AND their Planning Commission over the years. Most recently, there was a 15 year old voting member on the Zoning Adjustments Board this year.

Mark Rhoades
former City Planning Manager
City of Berkeley, CA

Younger in Berkeley cont...

By the way, I didn't say I thought it was a good idea for teenagers to actually be voting on the important issues of land use and development for any community. I am sure there are some exceptional youngsters out there, I'm just saying...

Mark Rhoades

Good for Berkeley!

I don't think it's about raining on anyone's parade, Mark. It's great that Berkeley appointed youth before now, and they're not alone. Many California cities have youth on their boards, as does Hampton, VA; Mankato, MN; Burlington, VT; Portland, OR, just to name a few. I read more about Manchester, VT and they've had two high school students on each of the town boards for awhile, most as voting members.

What's disappointing to me is that so many people think teens (whether over or under 18) aren't qualified to serve on planning commissions or make decisions. It sounds from BuildingPlace's comment that Michigan's great program to broaden public participation may specifically limit young people for that very reason. I'm curious why you don't think it's a good idea for teens to be voting on important issues. Are they lower class citizens? Is it because they don't know enough? Because they're not serious enough? At what age DO people magically become ready to make important decisions?

I've served on boards in the past and I've worked with high school students for years, and I can definitely attest to the fact that many of the teenagers are more thoughtful, dedicated, and interested in public service than many of the adults in local government. Some aren't, but many are. Teens may not be experts in planning issues when they start, but neither are half the adults when they're first appointed. That's what training is for, and as long as they care enough to learn, they'll do fine. Many students want the opportunity to participate, and it's their future, so why shouldn't they have a say in what happens to their towns?

Randy in NH

Youth and Local Government

Michigan's one-year experiment in allowing people under-18 to be appointed as full Planning Commission members may be coming to an abrupt end - not because of any problems but rather because the state senator who wrote the law to broaden opportunities for "non-electors" to serve says she never intended to allow the under-18 crowd to participate!

Direct link to the article: http://www.buildingplace.net/archives/1086.

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