Getting a Fresh Take by Involving Youth in Planning

By Leslie Wright

Amy Ma and Peter Kivimaki are Edina, Minnesota’s student planning commissioners. Student commissioners serve one-year terms and can serve up to two terms. They take part in all the commission’s decisions, but they can’t vote.

Planning Magazine takes a look at how youth bring new perspectives to planning. Involving them makes sense because they are often the ones who, over time, will be most affected by decisions planners make.

Writer William Atkinson highlights several towns where youth have been at the table, including Biddeford, Maine, where youth played a role in that town’s Community Heart & Soul­™ project. Teens collected stories from their elders and learned a history of the town they never knew. That helped restore pride in the town and set the stage for economic development.

In Edina, Minnesota, youth planning commissioners have suggested more sidewalks, better pedestrian connections, and provisions for bike facilities. They tend to be more open to mixed use and higher-density development, and offer unique perspectives on architecture.

“The students who have served on the planning commission, even though they do not vote, are full participants in the discussion and provide a unique perspective that is appreciated by other members,” says Cary Teague, the community development director.

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