Skip to Main Content

March 01, 2019

Planning Acronym Confusion (PAC)

Planning Acronym Confusion (PAC)
Planners are constantly multi-tasking, collaborating, working hard and looking for ways to save time or somehow make more out of each hour in the day. One way that we bend our temporal limitations is to provide for written and verbal short-cuts, specifically through acronyms. However, sometimes in an attempt to save time we end up confusing other people and sometimes even other planners. It is what I like to call Planning Acronym Confusion, or PAC for short, not to be confused with Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) meetings… and so it begins.

The first time such unintended confusion was apparent to me was at a Public Meeting for a Regional Official Plan Amendment (ROPA). The presenter used the
March20192.jpg In scenarios such as public consultations, the use of acronyms should be avoided to ensure that communication is clear, and confusion is kept to a minimum. Image by crystal710 on Pixabay
acronym ROPA from the start of the meeting. The first question from the public at the conclusion of the presentation was: what is a ROPA? This matter of confusion is even further compounded when acronyms are used that have multiple meanings. For example, ROPA can also mean Road Occupancy Permit Application. When someone sent me an email recently about a ROPA, in this sense, it was for a moment confusing as we were at the permitting stage of the project and did not require any kind of Regional Official Plan Amendment.

Planners are facilitators and collaborators. As a result, we work with many other professions. Other professionals may interpret an acronym to mean something else when there is a double meaning. Engineers or Lawyers use the similar acronyms in their everyday career, but the acronym refers to something totally different than the Planning acronym, such as SPA. We must therefore be careful when dealing with sub-consultants and other professionals to avoid confusing them in an effort to save time with an acronym.
March-20193.jpg As planners naturally collaborate with other professions, it is important to be careful when using planning-related acronyms; other professions may use identical acronyms with different meanings. Image by rawpixel on Pixabay

There are also acronyms, such as CIP, that have a double meaning both of which apply directly to the planning profession. As planners we will likely not confuse other planners in these situations, but we must be cognisant when dealing and communicating with non-planners. There are also acronyms that we use that can be confusing by being slightly different across jurisdictional boundaries. For example, some municipalities have Development Application Review Team (DART) meeting, whereas other’s have Development Application Review Committee (DRAC) meetings. Also, some have Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) meetings, whereas others have Pre-Application Submission (PAS) meetings and to make it more confusing some municipalities even have both.

There are some acronyms that Planners use that have become entrenched in the public consciousness, such as: NIMBY - Not in My Back Yard or LULU - Locally Unacceptable Land Use. However, most acronyms that planners use are not well understood by the public. In fact, many words that planners use on a regular basis are rarely fully understood by the public, such as: Intensification, Conformity or Gentrification.

As stated in the CIP Statement of Values, planners have certain responsibilities to the public; one of which is to clearly articulate planning values. As such, we should take a little extra time and fully articulate what we are saying, especially in a public forum setting or dealing with subconsultants.

Examples of Planning Related Acronyms with Multiple Meanings

ROPA    Regional Official Plan Amendment & Road Occupancy Permit Application
CIP        Canadian Institute of Planners & Community Improvement Area
SPA       Site Plan Application, Site Plan Approval, Site Plan Agreement, Site Plan Amendment Share Purchase Agreement, Stock Purchase Agreement & spa**
ESA       Environmental Site Assessment, Electrical Safety Authority & Employment Standards Act
PSA       Purchase and Sales Agreement, Professional Services Agreement & Public Service Announcement
TOR       Terms of Reference & Toronto, Canada *
ROW      Right of Way & row**

*   Acronyms can also be confused with abbreviations, like TOR
** Acronyms can also be confused with or actual words, like row or spa

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Mark McConville, RPP

Recent Posts