Jurisdictions typically require neighborhood meetings for developments or rezoning that could impact the local population. Depending on the size and type of the development, these meetings could require inviting only adjacent property owners up to public level hearings and meetings where anyone in the jurisdiction may comment on the project. Here are some philosophies managers and engineers can adopt to assuage public project concerns.
Focus on Safety
Safety concerns are chief amongst the comments I’ve fielded during neighborhood and public meetings. While design features of the site and building are often scrutinized, construction is typically the hot-button issue that savvy managers and engineers develop contingencies for before any public meeting. These contingencies may include designating a route for construction vehicles, requiring flaggers or other traffic control measures in high traffic or limited access zones, and requiring builders to maintain a clean site and not track mud or construction debris onto public roads and walkways. Residents will be much more receptive to your project if they feel like their wellbeing has been accounted for.
It is just as important to make sure that, as your client’s representative, you do not simply bend to the will of the public. Yes, take their concerns into consideration and implement which measures are warranted, but keep in mind your client is paying for everything promised at these meetings. My favorite tactic is to let the commenter know that you will consider their suggestion and discuss with your client during a subsequent meeting as to whether or not the suggestion should be incorporated. This will buy time so that you do not promise something your client is not prepared to honor. Just be sure to follow back up with the commenter after a decision has been made; no one likes to be blown off and the commenter may become a thorn in your side in subsequent meetings.
Meet with Authorities Having Jurisdiction Early
Be sure to obtain support or at least be in the process of obtaining support for your project from any entity that may govern the project. This means sending in early designs to utility companies, fire departments, and planning departments to ensure their requirements are met. If the public knows that the proper authorities are in the loop, there is usually a higher amount of comfort that the project is in conformance with codes.
At ALJ Lindsey, we have the experience and know-how to explain jurisdictional issues to property owners, developers and officials. Please reach out to us to help tackle your project’s issues.