|RE: permitting/negotiating||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Rob Sandelin (robsanmicrosoft.com)|
|Date: Wed, 4 May 94 13:11 CDT|
---------- Judy Baxter wrote : We (Monterey Cohousing Community) have just gone through 2 site plan revisions because the Planning Commission and the Variance Board would not allow us any leeway with our site plan, forcing lots more concrete, loss of some central green space. our development consultant apparently misread the City Planner with respect to the option of any variances, plus our neighboring townhouse development came out in force to the Variance Hearing. Apparently that's what drove the strict reading of when variances would be allowed... I think the fact that the earlier situation was misread creates a sense of uncertainly in who's judgement to trust on how much trouble the neighbors can make. It's a complex situation - and it appears we are dealing with mostly fairly rational people and a few who are just furious and want to make as much trouble as they can. I think there is a very interesting lesson here somewhere. I have also heard similiar situations from other groups in regards to "problems" with the neighbors. I have also seen groups go forward with enormous support from the neighbors, or at least, no overt problems. I know in two cases where the neighbors were supportive there was extensive personal outreach (door to door plus block party and other social events) well before the permit process even started. I know of at least one group which had a lot of problems with the neighbors made no effort at all at personal outreach and the neighbors found out about the development from the hearing notice postings on the site and in the paper, had no idea what cohousing was so they made up their own visions. Those visions were pretty extreme and way far away from reality, but it didn't matter what the truth was because they were already against the project, and some were irrationally furious about it, based on those erroneous visions. Public hearings can be a great support for you, or a nasty surprise, depending on what the neighbors think. It is up to you to create what they think. Most people have not a clue about what cohousing is, and are immediately suspicious, thinking of hippy communues, drug use, sexual promiscuity etc etc. The fact that cohousing tends to attract college educated professionals who use big fancy words and may appear to scorn the "ignorant rednecks" doesn't help. Sharingwood is in a pretty rural part of the County and most of our neighbors are pretty conservative. When we began our development process a pair of us personally went door to door to every neighbor within a mile (12 houses then) and talked with them, explained in a friendly way what we were doing, asked if they had any concerns and also invited them to a small gathering of their neighbors, because we wanted to meet them. We cooked up a huge barbeque (spent two weeks just clearing enough land to do this) and showed first hand what friendly neighborly folks we are and also what friendly folks they were. In the process we met Jean Drake, who owns a land clearing business and who we hired to do much of that work for us, and also learned about the new cable tv company up the way, who we finagled a cable tv line out of. Not to mention a lot of history about the area and people and all the other things you learn from folks who have lived in an area for awhile. I think it also helped that one of our main ambassadors was and is one of the perkiest, nicest little old ladies you'd ever meet. (although if she read that description of her she'd probably box my ears : ) Three of the neighbors came to our hearing and totally of their own accord spoke in favor of the project, in glowing terms of neighborliness and how this kind of community sets a model example, etc. etc. Much much later I heard from someone who didn't really like what we were about but didn't say anything cause, "Everyone else was ok with it so I just went along", the everyone else in this case being the rest of his neighbors. Its easy to be suspicious of new strangers with strange ideas and easy to dislike those mysterious folks from wherever doing that cohousing stuff. It's harder to dislike or at least be tolerant of people whose hand you've shaken and who you have had dinner with. The old PR adage is very true, its up to you to mold what the neighbors think, and there is a point where it is too late to change the message. Our experience would say, get out and meet your future neighbors early (like before you close on the site), be friendly and neighborly, and maybe they will see you as you really are - nice folks doing nice things, rather than some strange bunch of wierdo communists.
permitting/negotiating Judy, May 4 1994
- RE: permitting/negotiating Rob Sandelin, May 4 1994
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