Landscape and urban planners determine how land will be used within a community. As a citizen of your community, you have the right to be involved in the planning process. In fact, according to “The Practice of Local Government Planning,” public involvement is one of the most important aspects of planning. To that end, landscape and urban planning committees will hold various public participation events that enable you and your fellow citizens to influence land use decisions.
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Early Involvement in the Planning Process
Planning committees want to involve the community very early. Therefore, you should regularly check community bulletin boards and websites; they often contain information on upcoming opportunities for public participation. You can also contact your local planning office for information.
Attend as many public participation events as possible. Common events include meetings, visioning sessions, and charrettes. Meetings are large, informal gatherings of community members and planners. Here, you should plan to address the audience with your suggestions for using land in the community. Landscape areas may be as simple as open space for wildlife corridors and watershed to formal uses, such as parks and playing fields. Based on what is said at meetings, planners determine the community’s goals and expectations for land use.
Visioning sessions are a combination of meetings and workshops. You will meet with planners to explain how you think community lands should be used in both the present and future.
During a charrette – a type of workshop – community members and planners are broken up into groups. Each group creates a plan based on how its participants want to use land, and presents it to the other groups. According to the “Public Participation Handbook,” charrettes are more likely to influence planners due to the more focused and personal nature of the interaction.
In addition to attending public events, you might consider building a coalition, which is a group of like-minded citizens working together to advance a common cause. By joining a coalition, average people are far more likely to have their concerns addressed in the planning process.
Later Involvement in Planning Process
Based on the community feedback gathered in early public participation events, planners will create a tentative plan for landscape and urban development. They will continue to hold public meetings to keep the community informed.
At this late stage, the planning committee must conduct polls and surveys of community members to gauge the level of support for the plan. You should check community websites and your email for web-based surveys. You should also be prepared to take telephone surveys, and to arrange for in-person interviews with planning committee members.
Before the plan is submitted for approval, there may be a final hearing, which is a single, formal meeting. In most cases, anyone can participate, but speakers may have to register beforehand and presentation times will be limited. Your coalition or interest group should consider appointing someone to speak on its behalf. This may be your final opportunity to express any concerns you have, but it’s not too late to wield your influence. According to “The Practice of Local Government Planning,” landscape and urban planning is only truly successful with public support.