Breaking Down Misconceptions
A developer sought approval of a “Smart Growth” urban infill development that included commercial, hotel, office, retail and residential space. The community was facing a difficult choice about its future. Many citizens wanted to stop the rapid growth that was occurring and remain a bedroom community. This was evident in the 2018 municipal elections where a loud anti-growth base grew in support of electing new leaders.
Caissa joined the team and immediately began to educate the community on the benefits of Smart Growth. We were requested to introduce, and educate the public on the specific elements of the development proposal, monitor social media, and to show the level of community support for the project.
The opposition was fierce and consistent. They had already started their own education of the elected officials and candidates to stop any new growth. The opposition focused on the density of the project. They cited the proposal being out of character with their bedroom community, fearing overcrowding of schools, increased traffic congestion and perceived undesirable land uses, such as hotels and apartments.
Caissa’s primary objective was winning votes on the Town Council. Public outreach and advocacy was key in gaining project support. We utilized a charrette style meeting to introduce the community to the project and to collect feedback from those who attended. The well attended meeting gave the participants the opportunity to express things they liked or disliked about the project, without facing judgement of people who held other views. The opposition's views were highlighted, but there was also support for the concepts of buildings and their mixed uses.
Caissa provided guidance to the developer on various changes that could be made to the proposed plan to address community concerns, while not changing the overall goals of the client. Caissa also utilized the community contacts made at the charrette meeting to schedule in-depth neighborhood meetings where specific questions and concerns could be addressed, and how potential amendments could address their issues.
Caissa utilized grassroots techniques and worked with neighborhood associations to distribute an online survey. This was completed by a high percentage of homeowners and residents in the area. The results allowed the applicant to demonstrate to the town council how the community was actually accepting of the project now that they were educated on the proposed development.
During all phases of the project Caissa monitored social media to gauge the community’s perception, keep track of the opposition and watched for any potential landmines that would affect the approval of this proposal.
The project received approval and due to the dialogue created with the community, elected leaders felt confident with the proposal and we had limited the oppositions power so that no opposition was voiced at the Town Council public hearing.