Citizen planners / planning boards A citizen planner's tool box

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#22
Ideas for making "development presentation" meetings useful?

I live in a hot neighborhood (Chicago's South Loop), where I'm the planning & development monitor for the neighborhood association. We know lots more new buildings are coming in the next 20 years, and want to be sure the neighborhood works well over the next half-century and ages gracefully.

Our one and only tool is the "development presentation," where either our association or the alderman's office invites/forces the developer of a new project to "present" it to whoever shows up for an evening meeting in the local church basement. Pretty renderings of a completely designed building are shown, people ask questions, some more pointed than others, the developer and his hired hands (architects, lawyers) give some kind of noncommittal answer, and eventually it gets late and everyone drifts away. There's no resolution, the residents often have a wide variety of opinion on the various issues, and even if there's a group that feels strongly (next-door neighbors) they behave politely and are dismissed as having parochial concerns. By the time of the meeting, the developer has spent hundreds of thousands on architectural and legal fees, so desperately wants to avoid any changes. Downtown zoning in Chicago is incredibly generous. The mayor (and therefore the planning director) always wants as much development as possible as fast as possible. A four-year-old neighborhood plan is never mentioned, even by city planning staff.

But we have a new alderman, with whom I'm meeting next week to discuss process issues. So I'm looking for ideas on how to make these presentation meetings more meaningful and more useful. An intensive process with buy-in from both residents and developers (like a multiday charrette) is just not in the cards: both groups of players change too much every year. But there must be some techniques to make these kinds of "public hearings" on fully designed projects more useful as an actual citizen participation tool.
 
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#24
Cyburbians-

I just got appointed to my city's historical and landmarks commission. I was hoping there might be some pointers to historical preservation resources in this thread--but no joy. Can any of you point me to some good stuff?

--don
 
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#25
A few more resources that might be helpful:

-Big Box Evaluator (www.bigboxevaluator.org) - free web program to show and communicate the impacts of big box development

-Cause Communications toolkit - free PDF or hard copy of a great communications toolkit for non-profits. Info about everything from writing press releases to building websites and tracking communications success.

-Community Almanac (www.communityalmanac.org) - free web-based platform for sharing stories, videos, photos, and comments. Communities can set up and moderate their own pages.

-Grassroots.org - free tech services and info for nonprofits. Tons of free resources and services from web hosting and website development to phone services, etc.

-Wikiplanning.org - "the virtual charrette". New, interactive site to help communities host discussions and interactive planning processes.
 
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#27
QUESTION TO ALL MUNICIPAL PLANNERS!

If you are completing a minor variance staff report on rear and side yard set backs.... you are not suppose to add in residents comments in the report to Committee of adjustment correct?

The way I see it is that we are looking for all of the technicalities within the planning, fire, hydro etc services and the CofA deals with the neighbours... am I correct???
 

Maister

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#28
If you are completing a minor variance staff report on rear and side yard set backs.... you are not suppose to add in residents comments in the report to Committee of adjustment correct?

The way I see it is that we are looking for all of the technicalities within the planning, fire, hydro etc services and the CofA deals with the neighbours... am I correct???
IF written communications are received from citizens before our agendas are mailed out to the board members, we'll attach them. Frequently, however, we recieve communications after the agendas have gone out, and in such cases we either include their letter as part of a supplemental agenda (assembled the day of the meeting) or advise folks they may provide the board a copy of their letter at the time of the hearing when that item is on the agenda. What we positively do NOT include in either the regular or supplemental agenda are citizen comments received orally ("Mr. Jones of 1357 Main St. says he thinks this proposal is a bad idea...").
 

Dan

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#29
From the ADL: Idiot Legal Arguments: A Casebook for Dealing with Extremist Legal Arguments. From the site:

What follows this introduction is a truly extraordinary collection of cases and decisions dealing with the "paper terrorism" tactics of the so-called "patriot" movement. While some members of this movement prefer the use of guns or bombs, the weapons of choice for many others are harassing lawsuits, harassing filings, bogus documents ranging from counterfeit money to counterfeit identification cards, tax protest arguments, and many related activities. Often these tactics are accompanied by bizarre legal or, more accurately, pseudolegal language. Many people who encounter such tactics for the first time are surprised and sometimes confused by the strange and unexpected arguments that show up in the courtroom.

Bernard Sussman has compiled the most extensive collection ever of legal citations and rulings related to these "patriot" arguments. This exhaustive concordance will be a valuable resource to attorneys and judges who will be thankful to discover that previous courts have often dealt with these issues before. However, this guide is also useful to laymen and others outside the judicial system willing to wade through all the citations. It is particularly valuable in helping people to understand the energy and ingenuity with which these extremist individuals seek to undermine or pervert the legal system through radical reinterpretations of our society’s laws. Taken together, these arguments, frivolous though they may be, represent an assault on the judicial system by people who would like to consider themselves immune to the laws that govern modern society. In putting together this collection of precedents, Bernard Sussman has provided a great service to all who wish to see the laws preserved.
 
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#30
Useful links

In general, especially for non-professional planners the following link offers a wealth of information. Of special note: The interactive visualizing density is a great tool to help people understand the truth about density, but Lincoln has research publications on everything from valuation and taxation to NIMBYism.

http://www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/visualizing-home/

If you live in Virginia, this is an excellent source for information:

http://apavirginia.org/publications/other-publications

If you live in CA, this is a good article with links to other great ideas:

http://places.designobserver.com/feature/beyond-foreclosure-the-future-of-suburban-housing/29438/
 
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#31
An Australian Resource

The following website is useful as it provides some basic definitions and concepts which are universally applicable (see "Planners Toolbox"), while it is particularly useful within an Australian and South Australian context in regard to planning systems and processes.

http://www.daonline.net.au/site/
 
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#34
I also welcome commentary and descriptors for the link(s) so that it is easier to determine what is most relevant to a new person looking for resources, presumably in crisis mode.
 

Dan

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#35
I also welcome commentary and descriptors for the link(s) so that it is easier to determine what is most relevant to a new person looking for resources, presumably in crisis mode.
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Considering the IP from a server farm in New Jersey known for forum spam, and a claimed location of "Chennai", I'm striking the banhammer.
 
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