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Thread: Going to a public hearing

  1. #1
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    Going to a public hearing

    I have no idea what to expect. A grouo of Buddhist teachers in Boulder got an amazing piece of property with a house that sleeps 24 to do retreats at. There is a history with a land trust and historicsite status, and it has been used for the same purposes by Christian science church before this. We thought that the county was supportive however they may not approve it! I am not in the center of the group but know that this will be a huge value and attract peopld nationally. I just volunteered to go to the meeting and represent our niche of Denver punk Buddhists, my thursday night teacher is in the core group. What is this like if anyone knows? And is it a long process? I can take the morning but not all day

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zoe Girl View Post
    I have no idea what to expect. A grouo of Buddhist teachers in Boulder got an amazing piece of property with a house that sleeps 24 to do retreats at. There is a history with a land trust and historicsite status, and it has been used for the same purposes by Christian science church before this. We thought that the county was supportive however they may not approve it! I am not in the center of the group but know that this will be a huge value and attract peopld nationally. I just volunteered to go to the meeting and represent our niche of Denver punk Buddhists, my thursday night teacher is in the core group. What is this like if anyone knows? And is it a long process? I can take the morning but not all day
    Public hearing? Pack a lunch. No wait, take your sleeping bag, you may be there a while.

    I dont know how your city works, but the hearings I attend here are about property use and development and are conducted in front of the appropriate city board. Your issue will likely be one of several in the agenda. If you are lucky your issue will be heard first and you can leave.

    Here, there is a sign in sheet for those who wish to speak in the hearing, pro or con. Even if you dont speak, your presence is noted by the powers that be for the issue before them.

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    I have been to approximately 10,000,000 public hearings on local government issues (road projects, budgets, tax, zoning stuff, etc.). I think a lot of people hurt their cause by getting overly emotional or excited. I once had a lady assert that "the gates of Hell would open" if we moved the seventh hole of one of our golf courses. If you give a committee or panel an excuse to dismiss you as a zealot or eccentric, it simplifies things for them. I wouldn't introduce myself as a Denver punk Buddhist. The punk Buddhist thing might fly in Boulder, but it might be a mistake to identify yourself as non-local. If there's a time limit, respect it. It may be an important issue to you, but to them it's just another day at the office.

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    Great point LDAHL about not saying something that identifies you as an outsider.
    Zoning issues are insider issues.

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    Moderator Float On's Avatar
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    And then there is our county.... the notices are placed so they aren't all that visible (when we built our studio the zoning rep put the notice on the back side of a tree out by our road - he said we knew what our covenants allowed or didn't allow and he trusted us) but depending on the item copies are mailed to homeowners/businesses within a certain range. You go to the county court house ask 3-5 people, find a long dark unused hall and a small room. There is one county zoning rep and a tape recorder to take your statement. For our studio no one showed up to contest it. We've attended several where we were the only ones to make a statement.

    That's county, small city with large budget is a little different. Definitely been my experience that it was more heated, more opinions, and decisions were tabled repeatedly until the city wore out those against what the city wanted to happen (largest tax revenue potential).
    Float On: My "Happy Place" is on my little kayak in the coves of Table Rock Lake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tybee View Post
    Zoning issues are insider issues.
    I have typically found that to be the case. My Habitat for Humanity affiliate tried to build some smaller-but-not-tiny houses ( about 1,800-2,000 square feet) on the edge of an affluent-but-not-rich village. Their zoning and economic development people bent over backwards to help us. They have problems with insufficient affordable housing for cops, teachers, etc., much less lower paying service sector jobs. But then the villagers showed up at the public hearing with "deep concerns" about traffic, noise, or the "character of the neighborhood" (i.e. the price of McMansions a mile or two away) and brought the process to an abrupt end.

  7. #7
    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    The format all depends upon the type of hearing.

    I've been to countless County Planning Commission hearings over the past 15 years, as I'm on the Commission.

    Here, we usually have specific times on the pre-printed agenda for when we will take up each issue, so that the citizens know roughly when their item will be discussed. If there is an issue coming up that is likely to attract a lot of participation, we try to schedule it at a time during the day when it is convenient for people to travel to the hearing, as 2/3 of the county has to take boats or planes to get to the chambers the hearings are held in.

    If it is a hearing, the general format we use is:

    - staff presentation on the issue (for however long that takes)
    - planning commission questions about the presentation (specific questions to clarify, not deliberations-or-argument disguised as questions...)
    - citizen testimony on the issue. We generally limit each speaker to 3-5 minutes. We usually have a signup sheet if it is clear there will be a lot of speakers. We often will allow a speaker multiple 3-5 minute slots, if they go to the back of the line each time, if they are on-point and not duplicative
    - then we close testimony and enter deliberations on the topic

    Generally, a lot of people showing up doesn't sway the Commission, we try to work on the law and the facts. Excessively emotional appeals don't get much weight if not backed up by fact.

    Written testimony submitted in advance of the meeting by the deadline for doing so is greatly appreciated - it is distributed to all the Commissioners, and they presumably arrive at the hearing having read and thought about the written submissions. Submitting extensive written testimony the day of the hearing often causes the deliberations to have to be rescheduled, as reading a 30 page document during the hearing and giving it consideration is impossible on a short time frame. Submitting an extensive document ahead of time is great, especially when combined with a 3-5 minute verbal presentation drawing the Commission's attention to the key points.

    Edited to add: For our Planning Commission work, it generally doesn't matter so much in our consideration of your points whether you are an "insider" or an "outsider". What matters is the content of your testimony, and what standing/interest you have. We often have State or Federal folks testify, representatives of nearby First Nations who have interests, sometimes members of other similar communities who have faced similar issues, sometimes representatives of industries we are proposing to regulate, and so on.

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    Thank you all, I got a great packet of information from the teacher who is in charge of all this. It has been a real challenge for him the last year to learn everything needed when his real role is a teacher. In any case I think he is doing a great job. I need to read the information in advance, it spells out what their concerns are so we can address those specifically while asking that it not be an undue burden on us as a religious organization based on donations and volunteers.

    And good point about the 'insider' status. I would have never thought of that but Boulder is not going to be moved by the thought of helping punk types attend a retreat, especially addicts and people on parole. Good thing I asked!

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    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Are you sure there still isn’t time to rename the group “Monastic Grange for the Preservation of Husbandry” . Just tell them you are a group of likeminded farmers. By the time they find out what kind of retreats are going on , you will have a history of unremarkable presence and can rightly argue deminis infraction with no harm to the neighborhood. Or you can be honest. Probably the best route.

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    Just be honest. A retreat center sounds very harmless. I have seen many in New England, no big deal. Not sure about where you live.

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