Why Community Outreach?
In the entitlement process, you are essentially seeking to obtain a project approval from the local jurisdiction’s political bodies – the planning commission and/or city council. These politicians will listen to the conclusions and recommendations of the city staff departments but may also listen very closely to the community at large. In the case where a project can be very controversial, the local community may have significant influence on the approval process.
Particularly with the projects that may have some level of community opposition, it is imperative that you reach out to the community early in the process. You might think that by keeping quiet that the community will not notice your proposed project and you can avoid opponents to your project. However, the local community will usually hear about your project and not getting ahead of community issues with outreach does not usually turn out well.
First, it is important to hold public meetings and workshops so that you can listen to the issues being brought up by the local community. In some cases, the issues may be valid and your development plans can be adjusted accordingly. In other cases, the issues may be just a smokescreen because the local community does not want the project – but you need to know their arguments. When you get before the planning commission and city council in the public hearings, the local community will get the opportunity to voice their concerns and issues. And the politicians will then usually ask if the developer has tried to discuss and resolve these issues. If you have not done this outreach, your approval may get delayed or even denied because you failed to consider the public’s wants.
Second, you may find through the community outreach that you will have supporters for your project. Maybe the proposed project will clean up an area and neighbors will be supportive to see blight go away. When you get to the public hearings, having supporters stand up before the politicians in support of your project can provide the decision makers with some much-needed political cover for your approval.
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