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Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Planning consultant Denny Puko speaks with planners from Warren County, the Town of Warren and the Borough of Youngsville during a collaborative training Wednesday at the Connewango Club.

Planning commissions should not work to maintain the status quo.

They should be forward looking, promote change and add value.

To help the Town of Warren, the Borough of Youngsville and the County of Warren improve their planning processes, officials held a collaborative planning training meeting on Wednesday. The discussion was chaired by Denny Puko, a planning consultant who spent 15 years with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Planning committees occupy a niche in government. They have a responsibility to look to the future. “No other agency has this as a main function”, Puko said. “Planning is not necessary to maintain the status quo. Promote change. Do different things.

“The status quo is riskier than change” he said.

At the same time, commissions should not propose change for the sake of change, but rather add value. “To the quality and character of the community, to the quality of the development examined and to the decisions of elected officials. “

At Wednesday’s meeting, one of the keys was the value of working together – collaboration between municipalities and the county will add value to each community’s plans.

Planning efforts must “Stronger communication and collaboration with the city, county, borough and townships in the planning process”, Warren Town Planning Director Vince DeJoy said.

“We are all in the same boat. Everyone present felt that this is so important to our future planning successes. “

One of the main tasks assigned to a planning committee is the preparation of a comprehensive plan.

Puko said a planning commission should take a leadership role in creating the plan and continue to act as a champion for the plan’s implementation.

“Focus on real and important community issues, and not on the model of the municipal planning commission”, he said. “Create practical solutions with achievable action plans. Recruit partners to help design and implement solutions. Create community enthusiasm and commitment to implement.

“Denny is the author of the achievable global plan”, said Don Nelson, a member of the Warren Town Planning Commission. “We are delighted to have Denny on the team.

The town planning commissioners are advisory bodies. As such, they must work with the governing body. Planners need to know what elected officials want to make the final decisions. “Connect, deliver, add value”, Puko said.

Getting these officials on board is a key step, but it is not enough. Implementation costs money.

“Keep the recommendations of the plan on the agenda of elected officials, especially at budget time” Puko said.

The Town of Warren is in the early stages of developing a new comprehensive plan. Thanks to Puko and the collaborative spirit, this task is not as daunting as it could be.

“After last night’s training and discussion with the Youngsville County and Borough Planning Commissioners, I am more motivated for the planning process ahead for a new comprehensive plan for the Town of Warren” DeJoy said.

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