Community Development Impact June 2024

An educational session for local clerks and other officials focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) and how it might be integrated into local government workflows. Ten “use cases” were explored, ranging from a chatbot that answers ordinance questions to a program that transcribes audio recordings of meetings and drafts minutes. Applications such as these could be helpful to clerks, who have numerous responsibilities but limited time and energy to fulfill them. 

Municipal clerks have numerous responsibilities but limited time and energy to fulfill them. Artificial intelligence apps have the potential to make the completion of some tasks easier and faster, however clerks are generally unaware of exactly how AI might be able to assist them. I held a 90-minute educational session that introduced the concept of AI, explored 10 “use cases,” and concluded with some caveats. On the post-session evaluation form, one of the attendees wrote, “I’m looking forward to seeing how AI develops and this was a great intro to how it can be applicable to our jobs as clerks.” The afternoon after the session, one of the attendees told me she had used an AI model to draft a request for proposal (RFP) in just a few minutes – something that typically would have taken her a couple of hours.  

Technical assistance for a local town to add a multi-family residential district to its zoning ordinance and also update the town’s comprehensive plan to ensure the new zoning district and the plan are consistent with each other. This new district will give interested developers more ways to provide a variety of housing options for the area, which is especially important given the current shortage of housing. 

The Town of Herman, which does not have professional planning staff, asked for assistance in adding a multi-family residential district to its zoning ordinance. Although the Town has seen limited interest in building such housing, it wants to be ready for any proposals that might be appropriate. Together we reviewed the Town’s current zoning ordinance, especially the existing two-family district, to determine our starting point. I then presented them with three multi-family residential district options, explained the advantages and disadvantages of each, and facilitated a discussion that led to a consensus on which option to choose. During this process, I noticed the Town’s Comprehensive Plan made no provision for multi-family housing, so I explained the steps that would be required to ensure consistency between the Plan and the Zoning Ordinance and provided templates as resources for amending their Plan. The Town has scheduled a plan commission meeting to consider the final draft of the new multi-family residential district. Expectations are that it will be approved. The Clerk has mentioned possible dates for a public hearing and asked me questions about the steps involved with amending the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.  

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