From the Director, Spring 2022: The Joy of Planning

Chris Campany

I worry sometimes that approaches to the planning process itself can suck the joy out of what can and should be an exhilarating endeavor. Think about it: we live in a state in a nation where we’re supposed to engage with one another to develop a vision with our neighbors of where we want to be in 5-10-15-30-50 years from now, and how to get there. In the span of human history, that’s a pretty amazing thing! To be sure we are still in the process of forming our more perfect union, but we have no king or dictator telling us how things are going to be. We are not at risk of being attacked by a neighboring power to subject us to their will. Planning should be a celebration of our ability to shape our communities’ futures, and bringing all of our neighbors together to have that conversation.

We can help you think through how to make planning a joyful, spirited endeavor for your community. We’ll be doing the same as we update the regional plan over the next year and a half. It’s a chance to reach out to engage with people or groups you maybe don’t hear from often enough. Walk neighborhoods together. Roll out sheets of butcher paper on tables at a community potluck or pizza night and write or draw what makes your town special. Put maps on the wall and use dots to identify the places that are most important to you. Create an electric album of photos that neighbors can share of what makes the place a home. Planning is an opportunity to engage with people who share your same town, but perhaps their experience differs from yours. It’s a chance to convene different generations to share perspectives on life and living and what’s necessary to be able to continue living here. Isn’t that a good thing to know and understand?
That’s not to say that this work is without its challenges. In the moment some conversations and decisions may be downright hard. But the joy comes again and again as you do the work to find the common ground. The final plan is born of these moments. And in the months and years to follow, the larger community can point to the plan and say with confidence, this is what WE agreed to do.
In his book A Long-Legged House, Wendell Berry wrote, “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” This is the essence of planning for me: building and strengthening the condition of community.

Last Updated: 13 January 2023
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