MYTH #1: Community outreach is unnecessary if City Hall supports your project.

A developer I know said he regularly played golf with the town’s mayor, who indicated 100 percent support for his hotel project. The city manager, his wife’s cousin, just loved the development proposal. They both assured him that his project would sail through with flying colors, with no need for public outreach.

Come the public hearing, and the room was filled with angry, sign-waving opponents. The mayor wasn’t looking his golfing buddy in the eye, and strangely, the city manager didn’t even have a vote. After spending more than $2 million on options, engineering studies, architectural fees and the like, he was back to square one, or worse.

There is a grain of truth to the myth that community outreach is unnecessary if government is solidly behind a project. Generally, the public can be safely ignored only if the real estate development is located in a nation without the democratic process, where political decision-makers don’t care about the will of the people. Until the revolution, that is.

In the United States and other democracies, public relations and community outreach truly are unneeded only if the project sponsor can be absolutely sure that City Hall won’t change its collective mind under public pressure. (Unless of course the property is located in a state that allows for local referendums or ballot measures, in which case all bets are off. Opponents then may be able to halt the project entirely, unless and until it wins voter approval.)

In all other cases, it makes sense not to risk your investment without talking to the community in a strategic way. More about that soon…

 

Frank Noto

About Frank Noto

Frank Noto is president of GCA Strategies, which helps mobilize community and governmental support for controversial land use projects. The firm has successfully assisted clients from Maui to Maryland to overcome NIMBY opposition and win local real estate entitlements. For more information, contact him at fnoto@GCAStrategies.com or (415) 834-5645, or see the GCA website at www.gcastrategies.com.

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