Knowledgeable support staff makes all the difference in planning offices
Good support staffs who understand the planning processes help local offices to run more efficiently.
Many small communities use consultants to provide planning processes and services to their communities. The degree and nature of their role is defined in a scope of services section of the agreed upon contract. However, for those municipalities that are large enough and have the financial resources to maintain their own staff, the first point of contact for those offices is critical for those individuals conducting business with the office. It is important for the counter staff or any staff that has the responsibility to explain applications processes and procedures to be knowledgeable and professional. The first contact sets the tone for the professionalism of the office.
Developers want clearly-defined processes and timetables for those processes. Generally their goal is to get through the processes as quickly as possible so they can start their projects and in most cases get on to the business of making money. Good support staff can explain the various processes and approvals needed to complete the applications and can provide accurate timelines for the completion of such activities. They can explain the site plan review process, rezoning processes and approvals and all the other various processes that planning departments address.
While such staffs are not required to be professional planners, local planning offices should expose such staff to professional development that allows the staff to understand the reasons and rationale behind the requirements and processes. Financial challenges in Michigan municipalities have resulted in the reduction of planning staff in many local offices. Such reductions oftentimes increase workloads for those remaining staff and require that fewer individuals do more work. Knowledgeable staff that understands planning is critical to the continued success of well-run planning offices because they provide accurate, clear support for the clients who use such services.