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Thread: Kicking off the planning process

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jan 2004
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    montana
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    Kicking off the planning process

    I was hoping to get stories from people about kicking off a planning process, whether it be general planning, neighborhood planning, visioning sessions, etc..

    First, how did you get notice out? Postings? Letters? postcards? flyers? How did you initially get the message out?

    Second, how did you run your meetings? How did you run the initial meeting? Did you have later, more policy-oriented meetings? How many did you hold?

    What about charettes?

    What was your final product? A document? A map? At least a good conversation?

    There's plenty of publications out there, and I've got my own experience, but I'd like stories from people on the ground!

  2. #2
    Drumming up citizen participation, in a meaningful sense, is most important. You have to have a good lure to hook them and I think that starts with education. To do something out of the ordinary, we tried citizen/planner training with folks from neighborhood associations to teach them about planning and zoning, and to lay groundwork to try to get some groundswell support as we moved into the comp plan update. Its strength ended up in teaching about land use issues, but it was weak at getting people to turn off their tvs and come talk about the future of the community (mostly it was a *I want my alley paved, tomorrow* kind of thing).

    We've used moderators, we've used staff, we've used neighborhood leaders: it all depends on the person conducting the meeting and their ability to get the dialogue started and keep it relevant. That's much harder to do than to say.

    Our products have been everything from small area to comp plans.

    A good resource for conducting meetings is Neighborhood Planning by Bernie Jones, available through Planner's Bookstore. Others may have different opinions or suggestions.

    Good luck.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I am in the 4th level of my comprehensive plan -

    my first level I called the "listening period" - it was a simple and happy time that I now long for... I organized meetings on single issues that are hot buttons and I also went out to neighborhoods - attendance was awesome, I was so happy - I basically stood in front of a chalboard and said: what's so great about where you live, and filled up the board with their comments - on issues I asked them how they felt about it and off we went - I usually picked on someone to get the conversation going - I wrote a paper called the "grey paper" that outlined all the comments - I like really big blackboards over the flip chart method because people seemed to get a kick out of filling a blackboard

    notification is by postcard using the tax list for the neighborhood meetings - issues workshops I used the press and invited the "usual suspects", i.e. all boards, committees, commisions and task forces - I keep track of who came to what meeting and now I have about 375 people on my mailing list - I consider this list my core, since they make the effort to go to at least one meeting - I use the core to notify when new documents have been posted on the website and will personally ask for them to edit the draft Plan this September

    the second level was the data collection - the meetings were organized by comp plan chapters - this was a tough one because it's really boring unless you are geeks like us - so do whatever you can to spice this up - it's hard because people need to understand this data to make good decision, but blah blah blah -

    then we did the visioning sessions - again, I went to the neighborhoods and then pulled it together in Switzerland (the high school) to come up with an overall vision - attendance was low for this but again, a core of people are emergeing - the problem is the shadow population that will wait for the draft plan I am writing this summer and nix anyting they don't like with lobbying efforts

    so the answer is look at your situation and do what's best for it - for Bar Harbor, it's all about the districts, we have 3 areas outside of the downtown that think they are NOT Bar Harbor, thank you, and stop tellling us we are - so I have to respect that and go to them - we also had issues that demand their own attention, like weekly rentals, shoreland issues, and cruise ships so they had their own meeting

    I also learned that using consultants is great for the data collection and background work (I hate that stuff) but the best meetings are the ones that I have run - not putting myself on a high horse, my consultants are heck of alot smarter than I am for sure - it's just that people are used to me being the messenger and the people from southern Maine, I mean, that's "away" - so if you are using consultants, look at your role and stature in the community and make the call as to where best the consultants whould fit

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
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    montana
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian
    I am in the 4th level of my comprehensive plan -

    my first level I called the "listening period" - it was a simple and happy time that I now long for... I organized meetings on single issues that are hot buttons and I also went out to neighborhoods - attendance was awesome, I was so happy - I basically stood in front of a chalboard and said: what's so great about where you live, and filled up the board with their comments - on issues I asked them how they felt about it and off we went - I usually picked on someone to get the conversation going - I wrote a paper called the "grey paper" that outlined all the comments - I like really big blackboards over the flip chart method because people seemed to get a kick out of filling a blackboard

    notification is by postcard using the tax list for the neighborhood meetings - issues workshops I used the press and invited the "usual suspects", i.e. all boards, committees, commisions and task forces - I keep track of who came to what meeting and now I have about 375 people on my mailing list - I consider this list my core, since they make the effort to go to at least one meeting - I use the core to notify when new documents have been posted on the website and will personally ask for them to edit the draft Plan this September

    the second level was the data collection - the meetings were organized by comp plan chapters - this was a tough one because it's really boring unless you are geeks like us - so do whatever you can to spice this up - it's hard because people need to understand this data to make good decision, but blah blah blah -

    then we did the visioning sessions - again, I went to the neighborhoods and then pulled it together in Switzerland (the high school) to come up with an overall vision - attendance was low for this but again, a core of people are emergeing - the problem is the shadow population that will wait for the draft plan I am writing this summer and nix anyting they don't like with lobbying efforts

    so the answer is look at your situation and do what's best for it - for Bar Harbor, it's all about the districts, we have 3 areas outside of the downtown that think they are NOT Bar Harbor, thank you, and stop tellling us we are - so I have to respect that and go to them - we also had issues that demand their own attention, like weekly rentals, shoreland issues, and cruise ships so they had their own meeting

    I also learned that using consultants is great for the data collection and background work (I hate that stuff) but the best meetings are the ones that I have run - not putting myself on a high horse, my consultants are heck of alot smarter than I am for sure - it's just that people are used to me being the messenger and the people from southern Maine, I mean, that's "away" - so if you are using consultants, look at your role and stature in the community and make the call as to where best the consultants whould fit
    Thanks, LP- that's exactly what I was looking for. Good luck with it!

  5. #5
    I'm planning on doing a "mental mapping" exercise for a small community's strategic plan for a particular transportation corridor.

    The exercise is derived from Kevin Lynch's book - Imaging the City. I want to find out initial impressions of how people know their community - and how they reflect on it. They will be drawing their own mental maps with the images of the community that stand out to them - whether positive or negative. I might give a directive such as - show me how you get downtown from your house. That might result in people drawing how they either walk, drive, or ride their bike to get downtown.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
    Registered
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    montana
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    Quote Originally posted by flymykite
    I'm planning on doing a "mental mapping" exercise for a small community's strategic plan for a particular transportation corridor.

    The exercise is derived from Kevin Lynch's book - Imaging the City. I want to find out initial impressions of how people know their community - and how they reflect on it. They will be drawing their own mental maps with the images of the community that stand out to them - whether positive or negative. I might give a directive such as - show me how you get downtown from your house. That might result in people drawing how they either walk, drive, or ride their bike to get downtown.

    Is this being done as part of a larger process? Who are you inviting? What will be the product?

  7. #7

    Registered
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    I believe you have a copy of Planning for Results. It includes quite a bit of info on this topic.

    A lot depends on the geographic scope and organization of the effort. I think a basic choice is whether you are going to be neighborhood-oriented or issue-oriented. You can do both, as LP's response illustrates, but in most cases one or the other will be predominant. Part of this choice depends on what you think the plan should/will look like. It also depends on local politics - if there are some hot community issues, you may want to put neighborhood planning aside.

    Mapping activities can be fun, but be aware that they require extensive preparation and skilled facilitation. You also have to choose a mapping "theory," that fits the place and local culture. Lynch's is good, but pretty urban. Karen devised a more rural one that works pretty well in practice, but has never published it.

    LP is right about most consultants. As you know, I based my practice on doing good citizen involvement, but as you also know, that wasn't profitable. So unless you find an exception to the rule, most firms just will not put in the time required for a really good citizen involvement campaign.

    Overall remember that the key is to follow the energy that's out there in the community.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by vaughan
    Is this being done as part of a larger process? Who are you inviting? What will be the product?
    Yes, there will be much more opportunity for citizen participation. We'll be doing a mail survey of property owners in the corridor as well as a survey sampling of community residents. We'll also invite the general public to a visioning meeting and likely another feedback meeting toward the end of the process. So the mental mapping won't produce an end product, but will provide us (consultant) with information as to what physical or natural elements in the community stand out in one's mind. I'm hoping we can identify a reasoning as to why these things stand out in their mind - lack of code enforcement, community collaboration on a particular problem, perhaps something on a mental map will be the result of governmental partnerships. This is kind of an experiment for us, as we haven't done it before, so we're going to do our best to make the session productive and useful - not just an exercize to go through the motions. Therefore, we've decided to conduct it with just the steering committee (10-15 people). Something I'm looking forward to is that the exercize should lead to a great deal of discussion amongst participants. I'm not following Lynch's model exactly, as this is a small community I'm working in - not a metropolitan city. The end product will be a strategic plan for a Main St./commercial corridor in a small village.

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