Citizen Involvement of Public Planning in Regards to Land-Use
The modern-day planning process has changed drastically since the start of major urban planning. “In the early years of planning- as noted in connection with the Plan of Chicago- the view was that the plan came solely, or almost solely, from the head of the planner. A more modern view is that good plans spring from the community itself” (Levy 95). The Plan of Chicago, by Daniel Burnham and his associates, is one of the most common, and successful, examples of this old style of planning. In modern planning though, it is more common to see involvement from the community. In some cases, such as federally funded projects, community involvement may even be required. A planner does not have much power on their own as they are more of a governmental advisor, but involvement from the community can change that.
(Burnham original plan of Chicago)
Planners do have power over the decisions of land-use which is granted to them by the legislative branch of government; who can also take this power away. As mentioned before with specific government-funded projects, i.e. highways, national parks, and similar land revitalization projects, community involvement is actually required. Until proof of a set amount of citizen participation requirements is met, money will not be granted to the developers. A planner can use this power of land-use to decide on the zoning which will result in the way a town will develop and function.
Besides the required involvement of citizens in federally funded projects, most planners want and willingly accept input from citizens in the community. A planner has the experience and expertise to devise a well-rounded plan for a community, but unless they themselves are a citizen or familiar with the area they don’t truly know what is needed. A planner could form a plan to revitalize a city in what they think is the best way possible, but without having input from the citizens it may not actually be the best fit.
In an example, my hometown of River Vale, NJ is very family-oriented. If there was going to be a new plan to revitalize the town citizens would most likely want a focus on improved sidewalks and more parks to continue to make it a family-oriented community. However, a planner unfamiliar with the area could see how we only have one main road that gets very congested and focus on a plan that would improve traffic flow instead. Even though that plan would improve the towns overall quality it may not be what the citizens want. “A plan is a vision of the future. A planner moves events to the extent that he or she can cause that vision to be shared” (Levy 95). With input and feedback from citizens on a plan, a planner will be able to capture what a town or city really needs and help create the best possible plan for them which in result will get the most support.
According to the New Brunswick Master Plan, “The City’s revitalization efforts have spanned nearly three decades” with the downtown area, around George Street, being the main focus of revitalization. One main area of improvement that has been extremely controversial in the community is the demolition of the Wolfson Parking Deck.
The plan to demolish the parking garage, the oldest of the 9 in New Brunswick, started back in 2014 and began February 2017, just earlier this year. The plan is to turn the 50,000 square foot lot into a public park. The controversy of the demolition doesn’t stem from what the plan purposes, but the concern of loss of parking. The lack of parking in many areas of New Brunswick, not just downtown, has been a concern to citizens for a long time and is rising due to the loss of the two parking garages this year. New Brunswick has also demolished the Ferren Mall Parking Deck in March of this year.
(Pictured above is the most recent sketch of the purposed park and current progress on the lot)
Levy, John M.. Contemporary Urban Planning. 11th ed., Routledge, 2017.
“Burnham Plan of Chicago.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Sept. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnham_Plan_of_Chicago#/media/File:Burnham_1909_chicago_plan.jpg.
“Master Plan.” Planning and Development, thecityofnewbrunswick.org/planninganddevelopment/master-plan/.
Thomas, Lakeesha L, and Charlie Kratovil. “Uncertainty About What Will Replace Aging Wolfson Parking Deck.” New Brunswick Today, New Brunswick Today, 23 Aug. 2014, newbrunswicktoday.com/article/wolfson-parking-deck-be-demolished-1.
Murtha, Jack. “Demolition Underway as Wolfson Deck Begins Transformation into Public Park.” TAPinto, TAP into New Brunswick, 13 Mar. 2017, http://www.tapinto.net/towns/new-brunswick/articles/demolition-underway-as-wolfson-deck-begins-transf.
Muscavage, Nick. “New Brunswick’s Ferren Mall Parking Deck Being Torn Down.” MY CENTRAL JERSEY, Courier News and Home Tribune, 17 Mar. 2017, http://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/middlesex-county/2017/03/17/new-brunswicks-ferren-mall-parking-deck-being-torn-down/99318250/.