Looking for some feedback. I'm editor of the Planning Commissioners Journal. In our Spring issue we're running an article that touches on a variety of methods for engaging the public in planning. One of the topics briefly mentioned is developer assisted participation:
Developer Assisted Outreach: Before a development plan is submitted, call on the applicant to engage in a reasonable, yet vigorous, public outreach campaign. Such engagement can lead to significant improvements to the development plan, as the neighborhood becomes part of the design solution. At the same time, the rumor mill will be tamed, and youíll preempt heated public meetings where issues explode only to delay the process or build acrimony. With this approach to engagement, encourage the developer to provide documentation such as minutes, or even a video recording, of their efforts to engage the public.
Question: have any of you used this approach? What have you found to be the advantages and disadvantages? In Burlington, Vermont (where I served on the planning commission) we encouraged developers to present their proposals -- in advance of going through the formal public review process -- to the neighborhood association (we call them "Neighborhood Planning Assembly") in the area the project was planned. But this wasn't actually required by our ordinance, just informally encouraged. We found this very helpful. Otherwise, we'd hear public complaints asking why the developer hadn't spoken to the neighbors earlier.
Editor, Planning Commissioners Journal