Request for your help:
I am preparing an article for the Planning Commissioners Journal focusing on the situation described below. I would welcome feedback on ways of improving on the following all-too-common scenario.
Contentious, non-productive public hearings:
Many planning commissioners, at least occasionally, have had the experience of arriving at a public hearing to find a large crowd of citizens angry about a proposed development in their neighborhood. Often the hearing begins with a lengthy presentation by the applicant's architects, engineers, planners, and (sometimes) lawyers explaining the merits of their project and why it must be approved -- followed by a line of residents coming to the microphone to highlight a lengthy list of problems with the project. And often, the temperature in the meeting room feels like it's rising.
Planning commissioners often feel thrust into the middle of controversial projects. Yes, it is their job to decide (or recommend) on the application, but they may ask themselves why many issues between the developer and neighborhood haven't been resolved in advance. At some public hearings, planning commissioners may wish they could call a time out and get the two sides to sit down and work out some of the issues.
Looking for your feedback on the following:
1. are there pre-hearing approaches your community takes to identify projects likely to be controversial, and then seek to resolve some of the contentious developer/community issues?
I'm interested in hearing about approaches ranging from: neighborhood association review; other forms of informal dialogue and meetings; sketch plan review; community-developer advance agreements; the use of staff comments & recommendations; and anything else that has worked to resolve (or reduce) disputed issues in advance of the required public hearing.
Also, are there methods (or criteria) you use in advance to identify projects likely to be controversial? Or do you just know?
2. more productive hearings --
- are there approaches you've used to design more productive public hearings?
- are there alternatives to the familiar sequence of staff overview; developer project presentation; public testimony; commissioner question period?
- do you require the developer to make available models of the project or other visuals?
- how do you most effectively allow for both public and planning commissioner input?
- do you ever table projects (in effect, calling a time out) and then set up an informal process for resolving certain issues?
I'd welcome your feedback on any of the above -- or on other points you feel would be worth covering in the article I'm preparing.
If there's someone with expertise in the field you feel I might interview, please let me know their name and, if you have it, their email address and phone number. If you'd be willing/interesting in speaking with me over the phone, please let me know by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by Cyburbia messaging.