“Planning should be aspirational.” Those four words sum up in a nutshell what the planning profession should be all about. They were stated by a friend of mine recently at a meeting and no truer statement was ever said about the intended nature of our work. In fact, the very first section of the American Institute of Certified Planner’s Code of Ethics identifies those principles that we planners should aspire to.
Far too often, for whatever reason(s), planning is/has become reactive. The problem is, reacting to proposals is not real planning, it is responding to a set of inputs. The formal act of planning inherently requires forethought and preparation. As a result, those of us who react to proposals are not really planners in the truest sense of the word, we are simply reactors. Is it any wonder that so many of our communities start to look alike? Boilerplate has replaced innovate. Prototype has replaced unique. Typical has replaced distinct. Conventional has replaced eccentric. All the best qualities start fading from view amid a sea of utter schlock.
It is those communities that remain resolute and steadfast about their planning principles and community development objectives that will be the ones which remain vibrant and continue to succeed over time. Meanwhile, those communities that are no more than basic conduits for development proposals will gradually lose those innate qualities that made them special in the first place. As professional planners, it is our responsibility, no it is our duty, to do our utmost to make sure that does not happen.