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What is the best way for involving local citizens on a proposed development project?

December 07, 2006

Most people in the development community understand that community support can often make or break a land use development project. Under California law, potentially affected nearby landowners and tenants must be notified of a proposed development before final approval is granted. However, the notification usually does not take place until a few weeks before the hearing where a final decision may be made, and is limited to a nearby area (usually a 300' or 500' radius).

Because this noticing process is often considered a less than adequate when it comes to informing the community and generating community support for a project, Hofman Planning Associates generally encourages it's clients to proactively solicit public input in the earliest stages of the planning process. It should further be noted that local elected officials place a high value on making sure the concerns of the community are heard and addressed.

For its development clients, Hofman Planning Associates will generally recommend an overall strategy for ensuring community involvement. In our experience, the most successful and effective strategies are those that utilize a mix of community information meetings and design workshops. These primary of a community involvement strategy is to focus on providing project details to the public and to address community concerns in the earliest stages of the land planning process.

In our experience, open public meetings held in the beginning stages of the planning process can be an extremely effective planning tool often times allowing the developer to get feedback from the neighborhood in the development's conceptual phase. In turn the developer can consider these suggestions and evaluate them in the context of the overall goals of the proposed development.

In the end, a proactive community involvement strategy not only benefits the neighbors, and the general community but pays dividends to the project sponsor as well because the chances for surprises and new issues being brought up at the end of the planning and approval process has been effectively minimized.

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