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A Wake Up Call for Planning Commissioners

Planning commissioners play an essential role in monitoring issues and projects of critical importance to the welfare of entire neighborhoods and cities. Why then, do so many commissioners seem to be sleeping on the job?
November 23, 2015, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Ben Sutherland

Ron Cohn has a recommendation for the Chicago Plan Commission that probably holds true for planning commissions around the country: wake up!

"I attended my first official Chicago public meeting yesterday," writes Cohn, "a Chicago Plan Commission public hearing, and I came away unimpressed. Not with the plans presented, which are glorious. With the Commissioners. If they were any less interested they'd need to have set alarms."

The article reads like a play-by-play of the hearing, much of which isn't only concerned with furthering Cohn's argument about the lack of interest from commissioners. One project in particular, notes Chon, deserved more scrutiny from the commission. "Not one question about a 93-story tower on East Wacker Drive. Open space? No. Traffic flow? No. Impact on schools? No. Timeline? No."

After speculating that maybe these planning commissioners consider it their job to let the pros do their job and let the project "move on down the road," Cohn doesn't mince his words:

"I can only tell you that as a Plan Commissioner for a small suburb on the North Shore I felt an obligation to read the material presented for the meetings, prepare myself as best I could to take part in an intelligent discussion about the project, and to engage architects and developers, to challenge them if necessary to make sure I got the best concessions I could, whatever they may be, no matter how much they had scraped and clawed to make it the best project they could. Because you can always do better. Nothing is perfect. And, as a Plan Commissioner, you usually only get one shot."

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Published on Friday, November 20, 2015 in Chicago Now
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