What Planners Do

Professional planners help public officials, businesses, and citizens make wiser (or more efficient) decisions about how our communities should grow and develop. They are educated and trained to study growth trends and patterns, identify and assess public needs, manage scarce and sensitive natural resources, think creatively about future needs, guide development activity, and formulate appropriate public policy recommendations.

Specialists & Generalists
Some planners specialize in certain critical or complex issues, such as transportation, housing, economic development, or environmental resource management. Others are “generalists” with a wide range of skills and experiences to address broader growth and development issues. To be successful, all planners must have a basic understanding of the law, statistical analysis techniques, government operations, mapping concepts, and land development practices.
Technical Skills
The list of technical skills a planner needs to understand is so large that it is difficult to be an expert in any 1 area. However, a planner’s value is not always determined as much by the depth of his / her expertise in any 1 technical area as it is by the special way he / she thinks about problems and issues. Where most people are focused on short-term needs and issues, planners are trained to think about long range needs that affect future generations. They not only work to solve specific problems, they also consider the consequences of optional solutions on other related issues and on future residents.

Planners study and consider the interrelationships and interdependencies between issues. Planners are also trained to balance public needs and individual interests when advising decision makers on important public policy issues. Finally, planners work to engage citizens in the planning process, since the public will be impacted by the conclusions they reach.

Working With Government
City & County Planners
Planners work at all levels of government. City and county planners work for individual communities and focus primarily on neighborhood and city or county-wide issues. They often work directly with citizens and developers who are seeking approval to build within the community. Although local development decisions are made by volunteer Planning Commission members, the local planner helps them review complex development applications, write zoning and subdivision regulations, and conduct special planning studies for the community.

Regional Planners
Regional planners work for public or semi­public agencies that serve several counties and cities with similar characteristics or that share an historic working relationship. They help their member cities and towns write plans and ordinances like a city planner, but they also help communities work to address shared problems or issues. They prepare special regional studies and plans and offer a wide range of shared services to their local governments.

Planners also work for state and federal governments, where they study issues that affect entire states and the nation. Many planners also work as private consultants, offering specialized planning services to cities, towns, states, and private developers.

Cumberland Planning Duties
In the City of Cumberland, the City Planner works closely with Engineering, Community Development, and Economic Development staffs to help coordinate the implementation of civic projects and improvements, expand and strengthen the City's economy, process annexations, manage development to achieve the city's long-range goals, and prepare plans and studies to guide the future growth of the City. The City Planner also advises the Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Mayor and City Council on development, zoning, subdivision, and general planning issues.

Finally, the Planner works with citizens and prospective developers to determine how they can use or develop their properties in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations.