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Thread: Limiting public access (was: The darn public - arghhhh)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
    Sep 2005
    New York's beautiful Hudson Valley

    Limiting public access (was: The darn public - arghhhh)

    As an understaffed, overworked planning department it is almost impossible to get everything done when everything is running smoothly. Now we have a controversial application before the planning board and the concerned public (some residents, some not) comes streaming into our office on a daily basis with litanies of complaints, comments, demands, etc. I have taken to closing my door and requiring anyone who wants to see me make an appointment but the amount of time people are demanding of me and my staff is out of control.

    Primarily I am just venting because I imagine others have been through this, but I also would love to hear if there are any methods for controlling public access to staff without creating a sense that the city is not interested or responsive to the community (believe me, we are VERY aware and responsive to the community in this case).

    Done venting now

    Moderator note:
    Maister: Thread title changed. No teaser thread titles in the professional forums. Thanks.
    Last edited by Maister; 08 Jul 2011 at 5:42 PM.

  2. #2
    Apr 2011
    Kansas City, MO
    In Kansas City there is a plan to put in a new office building in our plaza shopping district. There is a pretty big movement to stop this plan because many feel the building does not fit the architecture or feel of the plaza. Let me just say I feel for KC's planning department!

  3. #3
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
    Jan 2005
    Hang on Sloopy...land
    You work for the people. Unfortunately many times that means you get nothing done. I don't think you should actively limit their ability to see the application materials - but that doesn't mean you can't say that they can only be reviewed from 11am to 3pm or something like that.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  4. #4
    Jan 2006
    Reno, Nevada
    Most of the time, people want to speak with a live body even if what they have to say is complete and utter tripe.

    You might be able to alleviate some pressures if you posted the application materials on a web site.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
    Aug 2005
    Clearwater, FL
    I like the idea of posting the plans online but how about this. How about also posting a most common Q and As to go with it?

    Have the applicant provide 24" by 36" mounted, rendered plans that can be placed in the lobby or waiting area or some other convenient place

    Place a list of common Q and As with it

    Organize a weekly update meeting - during business hours or better still after business hours.

    Limit the meeting to one hour.

    Make it a traveling meeting - have the concerned citizens organize and even host the thing. Bring cookies, pastries and coffee - it's hard for most folks to say horrible things about you when their face is stuffed with your baked goods and coffee (ie. "God, I hate you, you Godless, Socialist-Commie Planner, you. Nice buns by the way." See, doesn't work).

    I'm assuming that it's not the whole "getting the public involved" that killing you but the "doing it one person at a time" thing. Consolidate the pain.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

  6. #6
    Jul 2007
    more West now
    Wow Tobin, great suggestions.

    I would suggest encouraging folks to write down there issues, concerns, when you speak to them to submit to the Planning Board. One, it will make people realize that the body that needs to hear all this is not your staff and two it will help people organize their thoughts instead of rambling on and taking up staff time. Posting things on your website will help too.

    You could always plan a couple of public open houses for the public to view the plans/application to take the pressure off daily interuptions. Accept written comment at this workshop to get all the concerns down and so people can see that they may all have some of the same concerns and do not need to repeat them over and over to staff.

  7. #7
    Dec 2010
    We post all of our received submissions online, plans and all. I think this definitely limits the number of phone calls and walk-ins we get, but certainly does not eliminate the issue. Lots of older folks, especially, want face time. We are a small city so it's not a big deal usually.

    The largest annoyance is citizens' tendency to complain directly to the board members, mayor, or council members--because they rarely pass on these comments to the staff... so we are blindsided every now and then when citizens go over our heads, so to speak.

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