A planning commission helps residents, businesses, and property owners achieve a vision for how they want their community to look and function. Generally speaking, a planning commission facilitates various types of civic engagement activities to improve the quality of life in their local community.  Planning commissions make important decisions that directly impact the community, so meetings need to run efficiently.  In the digital age, planning commissions increasingly use meeting management solutions to enhance communication, streamline engagement with the community and other stakeholders,  record meeting minutes, and simplify tasks. 

What is a Planning Commission? 

A planning commission is a legally mandated group who serve the local government, acting in an advisory role to the municipal body, on issues and policies relating to planning, land use regulation,  building and housing codes, and community development. Unlike a standing committee, planning commission members are elected to their roles and may only serve for a limited time. A city planning commission maintains public oversight of a city council or a municipal government’s powers, and provides a public forum to debate issues that impact the community. Planning commissions also give recommendations to influence the approval of developments, infrastructure investment, and land use plans, among other duties.   In most jurisdictions, the planning commission doesn’t have the legal power to approve or deny plans and developments. They also cannot force the governing body to implement plans and development projects—county boards or councils ultimately make the final decision on land use planning and development.  To execute its mandate, the planning commission needs to hold effective meetings. They also need to participate in city council meetings to provide planning and development advice to the council. 

Planning Commission Roles and Responsibilities 

As the advisory arm of the local government, the roles and responsibilities of a planning commission include: Making recommendations to the governing body regarding revisions to maps  New developments often require amendments to local maps. A planning commission conducts public hearings on proposed map amendments to determine the public’s opinion. Based on these opinions and the commission’s review, they suggest map revision to the governing body for approval or rejection.  Administering subdivision and land development plans Land subdivision entails dividing portions of land into multiple plots for development. It can also involve making improvements to a plot of land. A planning commission administers subdivision and land development plans in accordance with the local government’s goals and policies.  Prepare and present revisions to building codes Building codes are regulations governing the design, construction, and modification of buildings. Various factors may necessitate the revision of building codes. The planning committee is responsible for preparing and presenting these revisions to the governing body.  Prepare and present environmental studies, including land and water studies  The commission prepares and presents environmental studies to the governing body, which it uses as a basis for making sound decisions to promote environmental sustainability. The surveys should be consistent with regulations. For instance, a water survey should be consistent with the state and other applicable water resources plans.  Support the goals and interests of the local community  The commission should promote the goals and interests of the community in the planning of development projects. 

Technology’s Impact on Planning Commission Effectiveness 

In today’s digital-first world, software solutions for local governments can improve the effectiveness of planning commissions. By harnessing these technologies, planning commissions can simplify meeting management and enhance collaboration with key stakeholders, including city councils and the general public.  Additionally, these technologies streamline meeting governance by: 
  • Optimizing community engagement 
  • Improving communication with planning commission members and the general public
  • Simplifying processes, such as agenda creation
  • Providing a platform for citizens to submit their views and comments on community issues
Moreover, it helps planning commissions track key tasks and responsibilities, helping to ensure accountability.  eScribe, a meeting management software, is specially designed to help local governments, committees, and commissions minimize the administrative burdens of holding meetings by automating time-consuming manual processes.  Apart from our flexible and affordable pricing, planning commission members will find the following features highly useful:
  • Meeting manager: Allows the commission to seamlessly run planning commission meetings, no matter if they’re in-person or virtual 
  • Meeting minutes: Ditch paper and record meeting proceedings in real-time. 
  • Collaboration tools: Ensure meeting participants can communicate, vote on action items, and more.
  • Reporting and workflows: Track statuses, manage deadlines, save time, and handle reports and approvals with ease. 

Getting Started with eScribe 

A planning commission is essential to the sound planning and implementation of development projects in local governments. The commission also supports the goals and interests of the local community. However, for these commissions to be effective, they should embrace technology like eScribe to optimize and enhance meeting management.  At eScribe, we believe planning commissions play an important role in the healthy growth of local communities. That’s why we developed a software solution to specifically help local governments and the public sector improve meeting management, and make it easier for citizens to voice their opinions.  Want to see a real-life example of how eScribe improves meeting effectiveness for local governments? Take a look at the City of Greensboro Case Study.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the purpose of a planning commission? 

A planning commission acts as an advisory board to the city council on matters pertaining to planning and development. 

What are the Functions of a Planning Commission? 

As its name suggests, the primary role of a planning commission is to plan. The commission takes an advisory role in planning and development processes and maintains citizen oversight of government planning and development powers.