Elements of an Effective Planning Commission Agenda (+ Free Template)

  • By: Tara Astbury
  • May 22, 2023
people in an planning commission meeting, reading a document together

An effective planning commission agenda proves foundational to the success of any meeting the planning commission holds. A well-designed agenda ensures you cover all the necessary topics and that the meeting stays on track and on time. 

For your meeting to be successful, the agenda should allocate enough time for each topic, propose a process for addressing each item, and identify who is responsible for leading each part of the agenda.

Creating such an agenda requires careful planning and consideration. To streamline the process, software solutions for local government include meeting management features that optimize the creation of agendas, minutes, and more.

But even when using these tools, you must know how to plan a commission agenda effectively. This blog post explores the key elements of a practical planning commission agenda and provides tips on designing one to help ensure a successful meeting. 

What is a Planning Commission?

A planning commission is an advisory board that guides local government elected officials on the development of their community. These commissions play a vital role in how communities plan for their future. They consist of a three to nine-member board comprised of citizens who volunteer their time because they are interested in their community’s future.

Through regular meetings, planning commissions work with the governing body to develop a vision that follows the will of the residents and the growth of their community. They often implement civic engagement strategies to gather public input. 

The planning commission’s position in the local government structure is essential. Its benefits include:

  • Acting as an advisory board to the local legislative body
  • Making recommendations on land use decisions, such as rezoning and annexation
  • Establishing regulations for the use of land and some standards for development within identified zoning district boundaries
  • Guiding the growth of municipal services and public infrastructure for maintaining a high quality of life within the community
  • Ensuring that the land use decisions are made in the community’s best interest while considering environmental impact, economic development, and social equity 

Holding public meetings and hearings is a core function of planning commissions. These meetings allow public members to express their opinions about proposed projects or plans. 

Elements of an Effective Planning Commission Agenda

A practical planning commission agenda should include the following elements:

1. Purpose of the Meeting

A clear purpose statement ensures the participants understand what is happening in the meeting and what they are expected to accomplish by the end. It helps to keep everyone focused on the agenda items and prevents discussions from going off topic. 

2. Date, Time, and Location

When planning a commission agenda, ensure you provide the date, time, and location of the meeting in advance so that members can plan their schedules accordingly and make arrangements to attend the meeting. Include this information on the agenda.  

3. Discussion Topics

Discussion topics provide a clear focus for the meeting and ensure the commission addresses all necessary business. The topics should be relevant to the community’s needs and should be prioritized based on their importance, with the most critical items discussed first. 

4. Efficient Meeting Format

An efficient meeting format for a planning commission agenda ensures that meetings are productive, well-organized, and focused on the most critical issues. An efficient meeting format should include the basic elements of Robert’s Rules of Order.

5. Appropriate Allocation of Time

Meetings typically take two to three hours, and the agenda should be a planning tool that facilitates time management. Appropriate time allocation ensures that the commission covers all items on the agenda and that everyone can participate in the discussion before making decisions.

Planning Commission Agenda Template

Format your planning commission agenda using this free template.


I. Call to Order (Marks the formal beginning of the meeting.)
II. Approval of the Agenda (A motion made by a member of the commission to approve the proposed agenda for the meeting.)
III. Approval of the Minutes (A motion made by a member of the commission to approve the minutes of the previous meeting.)
IV. Reports (Presentation of reports from commission members, staff, or other officials regarding ongoing initiatives related to the commission’s mission and responsibilities.)
V. Old Business (Discussion and action on items previously addressed by the commission that require follow-up or further discussion.)
VI. New Business (Discussion and action on new items that require the commission’s attention and decision-making.)
VII. Public Comment (A period during the meeting when members of the public can voice their opinions or concerns regarding any issues or items on the agenda.)
VIII. Adjournment (Marks the official end of the meeting.)

eScribe Powers Effective Planning Commission Meetings

Technology improves the effectiveness of planning commission meetings through meeting management software like eScribe. eScribe streamlines the planning process, improves collaboration, and ensures meetings are transparent and accessible to the public.

The platform is a comprehensive meeting management software solution that offers the following features.

  • Meeting Manager: Create, share, modify, and collaborate on meeting materials without printing anything or chasing anyone down.
  • Meeting Minutes: Streamlines the capturing of accurate meeting minutes, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring all critical points are noted.
  • Reporting and Workflows: Manage deadlines, track statuses, save time, and handle reports and approvals with ease.
  • Collaboration Tools: Make it easy for planning commission members to work together, regardless of their physical location by providing secure access for searching for and reviewing content, downloading meeting materials, and keeping track of comments, notes, and action items. 

If you’re interested in seeing how eScribe’s features help improve the effectiveness of planning commission meetings, check out the City of Greensboro case study or request a quote for your organization.