Here's the situation. The state has seen fit to build a new interstate exit on the fringe of my town. We already have three interstate exits, all looking equally tacky with typical highway commercial clutter.
The new exit connects the interstate to a scenic highway with a natural ridge on one side and a valley on the other. The area is mostly rural with practically no commercial development.
The planning department envisions preserving the ridge and creating something of a recreation corridor connecting two parks that are on opposite ends of the highway with a context-sensitive (read: curvy and steep) bicycle trail.
Since the state's announcement, several landowners have put their land up for sale, anticipating typical commercial development at the exit.
We don't want any more of that kind of development, of course. However, the problem I'm running into is with articulating exactly why we don't want any more of that. The standard line from the Planning Director is simply "we don't need more commercial strips" and "it's important to protect the ridge".
I share those same concerns, and they are precisely why we're not proposing commercial near the exit in our long-range corridor plan. I'm organizing and leading the public presentation (followed by a workshop and weeklong open house). I've become "the face" of this process. When the landowners hear our vision, they are going to be hacked off undoubtedly. We will use the public input to adjust the plan, but my feeling is that our mayor and Planning Director will not back down on the "no additional commercial" thing.
So my question for those of you more experienced with working with the public is this: How do I carry the message of "no additional commercial" to a group that could become hostile and defend it when the reasoning provided by the mayor and PD is somewhat vague? I have discussed this ad nauseum and am still left with this sense that I'm not going to be able to hold our ground well.