Q&A with a City Planner

Ryan Homsi of Miamisburg, Ohio

TeresaH, Online Editor

Below is Ryan Homsi being sworn in as the City Planner of Miamisburg.

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In this transcribed Q&A, we talk cats (not really) and urban planning with Ryan Homsi, the city planner of Miamisburg, Ohio.

What does a city planner do?

Well, it depends on how big the city is. We don’t have a big staff because we’re a small town, so a city planner [in Miamisburg] does tons of stuff that a normal city planner doesn’t.

What do you do?

Review permit applications. Take new projects through the developmental process, so they can go from an idea to being built. Make people plant trees. Stuff like that.

Write grant applications…

Coordinate a group of volunteers to catch stray cats. I’m not joking either.

Update our zoning code.

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What’s a zoning code? And why does it need updating?

Because it’s old. A lot of our code was written in the 70s; Jimmy Carter was still president when most of our code was passed, I wasn’t even alive yet. My mom was like thirteen when our code was passed. Things change.

What’s a specific example of something in the code that needs updating?

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For one, when it was written, cars were enormous. So with parking spaces, there are minimum sizes they have to be (usually) so cars can move in and out of a parking lot safely and our minimum requirements are enormous cause cars were massive in the late 70s. We don’t need them to be that big anymore, so we have to update [the code] accordingly. Luckily, we have some administrative authority to tweak it a little bit.

How long have you been working as a city planner?

Almost two years now.

What did you do before then?

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I was a consultant. I did research projects for cities in the Dayton area.

Who appointed you as the city planner?

I wasn’t necessarily appointed. The prior city planner retired, so I applied for the job and went through the normal interview process. I was interviewed by several people: the Human Resources director, the development director, the city engineer, the city manager and the prior city planner.

How often do you work?

A lot. Well over forty hours a week.

What’s your typical work day?

Usually in an office, but there’s field work. You have to go and measure stuff sometimes. The Thursday before I left, we had some active railroad tracks and I was doing some dispatch. I was walking along the railroad tracks, and there was a drainage ditch next to me, and it had rained a little bit.

I took a step… Mud.

Right up to my knee.

So there’s field work like that that’s always fun; I get to walk through the woods in areas that aren’t developed.

How are city projects chosen?

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There aren’t chosen by me but by private individuals. I get email requests, and I usually call them or have them come in and meet with me. Say someone wants to put a fence up, they have to get it approved and I speak with them.

Do you enjoy your job?


How come not always?

We have hard days sometimes, deal with tough issues. Controversial projects come through.

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What do you consider a controversial project?

Well, the big one right now… Miamisburg is a pretty old town; you walk down the street and you’ll see a church on the corner that still operates as a church today except that old congregations are leaving and new ones are buying [the churches] and people are a little upset about that. I can’t do anything about that, it’s the market, but there are some understandably upset community members.


What are your future plans?

I’d like to eventually be head of the developmental department that I’m currently in. I’d want to work on more economic development.

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Would you want to be a city planner for a bigger city?

Maybe. I’m not sure. Houston with its weird zoning codes? It’d be interesting.

What’s the biggest issue you face at work? Cats?

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No not the cat thing… it’s pretty serious, but it’s a joke that everyone likes to bring up.

Part of [the biggest issue] is that there’s a lot of work to do in a relatively short time and so many different things going on.

 What’s the best thing about your job?

You meet a lot of people, and it’s never dull.



Photo Credit:

Ryan Homsi–Ryan Homsi
Zoning Codes–Wikimedia Commons
70s Car–Wikimedia Commons
Dayton–Wikimedia Commons
Fence–Wikimedia Commons
St. Jacob’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Miamisburg–Wikimedia Commons
Houston–Wikimedia Commons
Stray Cat–Wikimedia Commons