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Thread: Rural planning/community development

  1. #1
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    Rural planning/community development

    I'm working on a multi-jurisdictional planning process in a small, rural community -- the county has under 30,000 people. Anyone have any ideas or insights on how to drum up interest as well as successful public participation techniques?

  2. #2
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    Comprehensive Development Plan

    We are a very rural (185,318 crop acres) Indiana county of 21,000. We have nearly completed our new Comprehensive Development Plan and will be updating all our zoning ordinances next. We had our APC select a group of 12, from a list of approximately 125 residents to participate on a Steering Committee. Initially they were to work with a consultant hired to draft the CDP, however the firm was from a metropolitan area and totally out of touch with our needs and concerns, so we decided (with approval from APC) to tackle the projuct ourselves. Unfortunately we still had to pay the $58,000 price for the consultant, but ended up with a much better document and because it has already been to the public several times (through open committee meetings and public hearings) will hopefully take less time to adopt. Two of our Steering Committee members are a planning professor from Purdue and an attorney familiar with writing ordinances.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
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    Caroll564 hit it on the head. If you can find some local "experts" and if they will get involved, you just might find that you have a catalist to get things started. Talk to some local opinion leaders. They are not necessarly the politicians, etc. You might find a pastor somewhere that has an interest, or a barber that has a lot of contact with citizens. A small business owner that interacts with a lot of people. Retired professors or teachers that have expertise in planning, environmental issues, etc often are invaluable.

    Start out by listing the resources the community has available. The 10 worst problems and outline the steps that will need to be taken.

  4. #4
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    The best way to drum up interest (and by that, I mean good/bad/otherwise) is to give your local newspaper a call. I've found working in similarly sized places that the local newspapers are always looking for a story besides the high school football team and Aunt Millie's famous pot roast. This will also allow you to frame the process as ground up rather than top down, which is one of the tenets of Wisconsin's Comprehensive Planning Law. Build up a good rapport with the journalist.

    I would also recommend you contact your regional planning commission for assistance in gathering public input and formulating a process. It's likely they have been through many comp plans already.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian southern_yank's avatar
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    I worked for a rural/agricultural county where we did several plans with steering committees and then an open public meeting at the end of the process. The process kept the discussion focused and weeded out the number of participants who just wanted to rant about raccoons in their backyard.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Montannie's avatar
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    I participated in an APA Webcast recently, Creating Citizen Engagement in Small/Rural Communities. It was great. Jennifer Evans-Cowley (OSU) went through the process that she had undertaken in Harrison County (MS?) for a large community planning process and it was incredibly successful. The audio for her webcast is still available online at http://www.utah-apa.org/pastwebcasts.htm and I believe the community plan is available online at OSU's planning department website. Or you could email her - she was very helpful. I would strongly recommend looking into her process. I know that I will the next time I'm working on a plan.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    I don't know whate state you're in (Private Idaho?), but, as I mentioned in another post on this forum, our state calls a tune to which every local governing body must march, ergo, planning has become one of the steps each has to learn.

    State direction is obviously a double edged sword, but it can be a catalyst for something, anything, which might not otherwise happen.

    I am a building inspector by certification and a zoning official ex-officio. On the building codes side the state leadership is a blessing, but I don't know enough yet about planning etc to know if the state helps more or less.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Montannie View post
    I participated in an APA Webcast recently, Creating Citizen Engagement in Small/Rural Communities. It was great. Jennifer Evans-Cowley (OSU) went through the process that she had undertaken in Harrison County (MS?) for a large community planning process and it was incredibly successful. The audio for her webcast is still available online at http://www.utah-apa.org/pastwebcasts.htm and I believe the community plan is available online at OSU's planning department website. Or you could email her - she was very helpful. I would strongly recommend looking into her process. I know that I will the next time I'm working on a plan.
    This will be good, thanks! I will look at watching this thing sometime this week.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    We have a landfill bill that goes out yearly.
    We sent out surveys with each bill. We were truely amazed at the number of responses.
    AT the same time we were holding public meetings in the larger cities of the county to help identify the needs and concerns.
    The public was very cooperative. I would use this process again.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  10. #10
    We work on exactly this issue with all of our projects, which are in small cities and towns in the Northeast and Rocky Mountain West. We've found a few things that work:

    -Issue personal invitations. At every public meeting we run, we ask people how they heard about it and why they came. We usually find that 60-80% of people came because someone personally invited them - not because they saw a poster or read an article in the paper.

    -Find the "communicators" in town - it might be someone who works at the post office or the coffee shop, or just someone who likes to gossip. Make sure they know about your project and ask them to spread the word.

    -Rather than asking people to come to your public meetings and join the process, go to them. Attend events like community suppers and baseball games and talk to people where they already are. Set up block parties or house parties and let people come to an event that feels less formal (and has less baggage) than a public meeting.

    -Storytelling is a good way to start a process. Instead of asking people to jump right into a public planning process, just ask them to tell their story or talk about what they love most (or need) in their community. We've done story circles where people come together to share ideas, and also one-on-one storytelling where the stories are then produced and shared with the whole community at a celebration. The values and ideas that emerge from the stories can then be used to inform the planning process.

    -Involving youth and schools is key - if you can get a class to do a project or participate in a public meeting in some way, then their parents will have to come to see them and participate too. You'll get the opinions and participation of youth, who have great ideas themselves.

    If anyone would like specific examples from communities on the ground or more resources, we have a lot of info on our website, www.orton.org.

    Moderator note:
    Gedunker~
    New users cannot post links because we often find that the links are spam. This is a long, thoughtful, and relevant post, so I'm going to permit it. However, Cyburbia doesn't exist as an advertising platform for various consultants, and care should be taken to avoid any possible appearances that someone is taking advantage of our site. You're off to a promising start, and I urge you to keep it up. Thanks and carry on!

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