Any attempt to resurrect anything resembling PAAB is bad news

Feb. 9, 2006 12:00 AM

There are stupid ideas, and then there are really stupid ideas.

An example is a silly campaign proposal to hamstring Tempe property owners with a network of so-called Village Planning Committees.

We're told, "These committees can empower our residents to have a voice in development surrounding their neighborhoods and concurrently help developers work out project conflicts with residents early in the development process."

That's nonsense.

For the sake of accuracy, allow me to rephrase that quote to read, "Let's pander to mean-spirited neighborhood activists by creating a bunch of pointless Village Planning Committees. These committees will empower these crackpots to interfere in the private property rights of folks who own land near their neighborhoods. Rather than help developers resolve conflicts, these numbskulls can create problems where none exist. They can slow down and raise the cost of development while inflicting their ignorance and lack of expertise on everything they touch."

How do we know the pretend quote is more accurate than the real quote? Well, we know so because Tiny Town already has dabbled in this kind of planning twaddle.

It was called the Planned Area Advisory Board, otherwise known as the PAAB. It was formed in 2001 and thrown under the bus and dissolved by the then-members of the Tempe City Council in 2002. They were so embarrassed by the board's antics that they decided to summarily kill it.

In all fairness, it should be pointed out that it was the Tempe City Council that caved in to pressure from a small band of self-serving militants and created the PAAB in the first place. The council didn't consider the consequences of its meddling. Happily, every last one of them remained in office long enough to publicly regret their ill-conceived decision. It will be interesting to see if what's left of them learned their lesson should this fraudulent idea rear its brain-dead head again.

Anyway, the members of the board (aka the "PAABers") were dominated by a shrill cadre of self-interested partisans. They practiced an odd blend of fascism and socialism mixed with a tinge of racism. Every time they opened their large mouths and engaged their diminutive brains, unadulterated folly spewed forth. Their behavior was consistent with their humorless know-nothing nature.

The most strident members of the PAAB refused to follow the rules that theoretically govern the conduct of public meetings. For example, they repeatedly conspired, via e-mail, to attempt to fix board decisions behind the scenes. It was called violating the Arizona Open Meeting Law.

Did they care that they got caught? Nope. One PAABer was quoted at the time as saying she "would continue to communicate anything she wanted with anyone she wanted by any means she chose."

For other members, ceaseless interruption was the name of their game. They openly made fun of applicants. They verbally attacked the intentions and integrity of fellow board members.

They and the city were lucky that neither were sued by a brow-beaten applicant. Had such an applicant done so, select PAABers might still be giving depositions.

Nonetheless, applicants and their representatives who appeared before the board were eager to vent their resentments. One stated that, "I always felt an undercurrent of hostility." Another said, "My client and I encountered insidious remarks at the beginning of our project presentation." A third said, "The behavior of the PAAB is not only despicable, but also arrogant and controlling."

At one point, a PAABer was accused of publicly uttering a racial slur. According to the applicant, "Not only was the reference untrue, it was in poor taste."

Here's the bottom line. Any effort to resurrect Planned Area Advisory Boards under the cynical guise of calling them Village Planning Committees (or anything else) should be dismissed as unbridled political pandering.

There are a sufficient number of boards, commissions, rules, regulations and backroom deals standing between the folks who own land and the land they own. There's no justifiable reason to add a layer of planning committees to the vast array of development impediments and inexcusable affronts to private property rights that exist.

Dan Durrenberger is a 32-year resident of the Southeast Valley who lives in Tempe and works in Mesa. He can be reached at

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