We are considering adding a "Community Input Workshop/Meeting" during the rezoning process for one of our zoning districts (Infill Residential District). This would be a meeting in addition to the typical Planning Commission public meeting.
In my mind the Planning Commission review process often fails us. Due to a number of factors (legal, practical, and others) Planning Commissions often do not allow for good constructive negotiation. (I know that is not the case everywhere).
Right now our typical rezoning process is as follows: Staff Receives Rezoning Application, Staff Creates Staff Report/Recommendation, Staff Notifies Adjacent Property Owners and Erects Sign (public is now on notice), Planning Commission Holds Public Hearing (about 2 weeks after public notification), City Council Holds Public Hearing and votes on the applicantion. Pretty standard procedure.
But by the time the applicant gets to the Planning Commission (ie designated public input point), many of the developers ideas are relatively defined. That creates additional tension between the applicant and the community. That tension often fuels the tone of discussion between the groups from that point forward. Futhermore, the Planning Commission meeting is a relatively formal setting where constructive give and take between the community and the applicant really doesn't happen. Opposition simply gets up to the podium and lists off the standard objections.
At some point in the process, mostly likely before the Planning Commission meeting, we are considering adding a required "Community Input Workshop" or something to that effect. In my mind, the applicant would be required to attend and present to the community their concept (I'm not even sure city staff would attend). No action would be taken. No consent by the community is necessarily required. It is simply a project kick-off and opportunity to engage in informal negotiation before the project gets into the formal rezoning process.
Do any of you use this type of process? What recommendations can you make?
Practical questions that I have include:
Should staff attend? If so, what role?
Should it occur before the rezoning application is submitted? After? Before or after staff creates our own recommendation?
How long between said meeting and the Planning Commission meeting?
Does it actually work or does it simply stack the deck against the applicant?
Thanks for your input.