Monday, April 2, 2012

Planning = Remodeling

Ms. Dover Planner and I have been trying to figure out how to make our kitchen more functional and useful for us. This weekend we did some investigation - looking at cabinets and light fixtures, thinking about flooring, marveling at costs. In the end I realized that community planning and home remodeling are very similar activities.

How you ask? Well, for one thing with planning you are working with an environment you most likely didn't create. Dover has had many planners before me. I certainly wasn't here in 1623 (birth), 1855 (adolescence), 1973 (post college), nor will I be here in middle age (2123)? That said, others were here and did what they thought was good planning for the community. They reacted to the world around them, trends, ideas, functions, and they made changes to Dover as they saw fit.

My house was born in 1928. It has been lived in ever since, and has grown and evolved beyond the depression era it was constructed. The kitchen has changed somewhat (apparently a lot in the 80s - according to the style of cabinets we have), as flooring styles have come and gone (we have hard wood covered by linoleum, covered by plywood, covered again by linoleum). By pealing back the levels of flooring, paint and wall paper, my wife and I are learning about our house.

This effort of learning about our house is similar to the work I do with the City. I love to peal back the layers and learn about why traffic flows where it does. Why setbacks were developed the way they were and why lot sizes are what they are. These things are like learning about my house. The roadways locations are analogous to where the stairways and halls are in my house. Home improvement show's always talk about the way rooms flow together. The same thing happens in planning discussions. The utilities are obviously the utilities in my house. The setbacks and clearances are analogous to safety requirements in a house. Certainly both home projects and community planning projects have plans.

Just as we need to make changes in Dover from time to time, so do we need to make changes in our homes from time to time. Who hasn't wanted to see the garden in their back yard move or put a workshop in their garage or basement. This is the same as promoting agriculture and industry in the community. We learn from what the previous owner of our house did, just as we learn from the previous stewards of planning have accomplished.

We even have public participation in our home remodeling efforts. Who hasn't talk with friends and family about changes to their house? We run ideas by them, and we seek advice. We ask our children how they want to grow in the house. This is similar to how we seek input from the community in our Master Planning.

We seek experts in both realms as well. I am by no means an expert on economic analysis or traffic generation. So, from time to time I need to contact a consultant to get advice at work. Same thing at home. I understand plumbing, but for many reasons, I'll hire a plumber to relocate pipes. I'll ask an electrician to help with a new ceiling fan. We need these experts to help us make the right improvements to the house (did some say there might be another analogy between home remodeling and the capital improvement's program?).

It was a fun moment to come up with this analogy, because I find that 90 percent of the time people can't relate to city planning as a function. Most people can relate or appreciate what a police function is or what a public works function is, but planning? That seems weird. I like this home remodeling analogy because it helps make planning tangible.

Interactive time: does this analogy make sense to you? If not what's a better analogy? Also, first person to ID the significance, for the City of Dover, of the three years I mentioned above wins a prize.

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