Working on large land use projects can have many upsides. You get to work with big name clients and, many times, the job comes with a bigger paycheck. However, working on large land use projects can also have its drawbacks. These projects tend to attract controversy and resentment from the surrounding community; and community resistance can slow down construction, and in some extreme cases, can even shutdown projects entirely. If you want to gain community support for your land use project, good communication and planning will be your secret weapons.
Communities have rallied against land use projects since real estate agents, developers, companies, and governments started proposing them. Knowing how to handle opposition is becoming increasingly important, especially in areas where land is both highly valued and extremely limited such as New York or California. Small towns have also had to struggle with choosing between new land projects and historical or well-loved buildings. No matter where you are in America, you can use these tips to gain community support for your land use project.
Create A Website
When people Google your project, the first thing they should see is your website not an angry blog post about your project. For this reason, it is important to start building SEO as early as possible. Lay out the need-to-know facts about the project and be sure to include some positive things the community will get from your project. Will the project bring more jobs to the area? Will it increase foot traffic, bringing more customers to local stores and restaurants? Brainstorm ways the community will benefit and lay them out on the website.
Listen To The Community
Organizing a small meeting where members of the community can voice their concerns allows you to understand where the opposition stems from. In many cases, most of the anger from locals comes from feeling like their voices are not being heard. Seeing you make an effort to understand their concerns can do wonders for your project’s public image. The other benefit is that the community will be able to hear the facts directly from you. You’ll be able to correct any misinformation or rumors.
Some public affairs firms, such as GCA Strategies, warn against huge town-hall style meetings. According to their article, the company believes that “large audiences usually have too many issues to address in depth, and time is typically so constrained that people become frustrated because they cannot fully express their fears or concerns.” Consider having limited-seating, smaller meetings to make sure everyone feels their voice is heard; think focus group.
Another option is making an appearance on local podcasts, radio shows, or news programs to talk about your land project. This way, you can still get your message out to locals while having total control of the situation.
Keep A Cool Head
Staying calm in the face of conflict is the single most important factor in gaining community support. With social media at our fingertips at all times, it’s easier than ever to share your thoughts with the whole world. In times of stress, it can be tempting to vent your frustrations on Facebook, but this can have huge drawbacks if the wrong person sees it. Remember, anything you say reflects not only on you as a professional, but also on the land use project you are trying to get approved.
Social media slips happen to the best of us. A good way to prevent them is to follow SPACE guidelines:
S – Stop: Type it, but don’t post.
P – Pause: Wait an hour before posting. Ideally, sleep on it.
A – Assess: Ask yourself about your intentions behind the post.
C – Confirm: Ask a close friend who isn’t involved with the project their thoughts on the post and if they think it might cause trouble.
E – Execute: Send the post only if it passed the other steps.
Gaining community support for land use projects isn’t always easy. Social media and misinformation can spread like wildfire and be difficult to contain. However, if you approach the situation with a cool head and make it clear upfront the ways the community can benefit from your project, you can overcome even the greatest of hurtles.
Want to learn more about gaining community support? Be sure to tune in to RLI’s upcoming Hot Topic Webinar “Gaining Community Support for Land Use Projects” on May 16, 2018.
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