Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Making a new plan for local planning

Recent budget cuts by Gov. Bill Haslam and legislators will mean the closing of state-run local planning offices in several areas of the state, including the Tri-Cities.
Jonesborough will be among the municipalities to feel the pinch, no longer receiving help with its growth planning from state planner Chuck Alley.
Alley worked with the town for nearly three decades as a state planner and will retire this month in conjunction with the shutdown of the office.
While the news sounds dire, fellow state planner Rhonda Sawyer said the town may not be left without help.
At a recent Jonesborough Planning Commission meeting, Sawyer recognized the government has decided to do away with local planning offices, noting that her last day will be July 20.
However, Sawyer said the First Tennessee Development District will soon take on a planning program to fill the void left by the budget cuts.
“They will be hiring one director and two planning positions,” Sawyer said. “And we have applied for those jobs.”
According to Sawyer, state planners could start with the FTDD as soon as July 21.
Jonesborough would be required to sign a contract and likely pay some kind of fee to receive the services.
“There was a small fee involved with the state planning office and I would assume they’d want at least that much at the Development District,” said Bob Browning, Jonesborough’s town administrator. “I think we would consider doing it. It would just depend on how it was going to work.”
Meanwhile, leaders at East Tennessee State University also seem to recognize the important role planners play in small and rural communities such as Jonesborough and Washington County.
“Without these state offices, smaller municipalities may need to hire a professional planner or contract for various planning services; however, either option could be financially prohibitive for some,” said Dr. Michael Marchioni, professor of Political Science, International Affairs and Public Administration.
ETSU is now exploring the possibility of launching a new University Planning Services program.
“With this proposal, we would provide basic planning services at an affordable cost,” said Marchioni, who developed the proposal.
Marchioni’s goal is for second-year graduate students in ETSU’s Master of Public Administration program to manage the program, working with municipalities on different planning initiatives, such as parking studies, revitalization projects, demographic profiles, and site facility plans.
“This would be a wonderful educational opportunity for our students, providing them valuable practical experience, particularly in seeing how politics and economics influence planning decisions,” he said. “So it’s a true ‘win-win’ for everyone.”
Marchioni is currently talking with local leaders to gauge interest in the proposal and to discuss possible partnership ventures.