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Strategies for Overcoming Public Opposition to Development

Change represents uncertainty. No matter how bad the current land use condition is, the cruel reality is more comforting than the doomsday scenario that fearful opponents can conjure up.
In the public sector, opposition usually comes with the fear of making a bad decision. Bad decisions become a constant reminder of the lack of proper diligence that accompanied the review of the original request. It could end with dismissal.
In the private sector, opposition is generally rooted in worst-case visions that paint a troubling, if not a cataclysmic picture. Images of declining values, destroyed quality of life, hazardous fallout, environmental collapse, and visual pollution often accompany their stance. In some instances these propositions could be valid. But in most cases, the fear is largely ungrounded. The emphasis of overcoming opposition is in effect an exercise in anxiety mitigation, using factual, visual, and third party assurances to minimize or dispel the fear.
The process to deal with this threat must be customized for every challenge. No set approach guarantees results. The deliberation, the representation, and the methods will always vary, as the nature of the objective itself is always changing. Using a thoughtful, patient, and methodical approach should, however, improve the probability of success.The following outline suggests a checklist of considerations that could aid the applicant in the pursuit of approval, particularly in those forums filled with emotional as well as analytical arguments, which lie in waiting for the chance to object.
Consider the following checklist as a point of beginning when valuing the request and the process that will follow. Know the opposition.

  • Staff
  • Elected official
  • Public consultant
  • Neighboring property
  • Watchdog group
  • What are their known concerns?
  • Growth
  • Safety
  • Intensity
  • Environment
  • Traffic
  • Utility Infrastructure
  • Public facilities (Schools, Parks, etc.)
  • Visual pollution
  • Historic preservation What are the opposition’s political strengths? Are they currently well organized? What agencies maintain review authority and control? What is the agency mandate?

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