Last week, over 150 concerned citizens attended a open house on changes to the Snyderville Basin General Plan. The General Plan is important because it guides development in our area for the next 25 years. There are some changes that will appear large to some neighborhoods. The next step in the process is a public hearing with the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission on January 13th (at 6PM in the Kimball Junction Library). A draft of the plan will then be sent to the County Council. There will be more Public Hearings and then the County Council will vote on it.
Let’s say you attended that meeting or have read the proposed plan, and don’t like some parts of it. What’s your strategy to illicit change? “What, you say? I need a strategy?” Yes, please have a strategy. We have sat through many county meetings and those people without a plan do no one a service. This is how a public hearing typically works:
In the case of the Planning Commission or County Council, there may be some discussion by the commission/council members and then they’ll open it up for public comment. People will come up to the microphone and speak for “up to 3 minutes.” Then another person will speak for 3 minutes. Then an inconsiderate person will speak for about 10 minutes. Then another person will speak for 3 minutes. Rinse…Repeat. There can be 50-100 people who all want to provide their opinion. Four hours later, our representatives look like they’ve gone to war and just escaped ISIS. What they’ve heard are a few good ideas… Some people criticizing the use of a comma versus a semi-colon … A lot of , “I completely agree with what she said.”… Some personal attacks (“somebody’s got to be sleeping with someone for this to pass”). You even get the occasional person who threatens them (yes, we are not making that up). It’s a free for all.
What’s the outcome? Perhaps an idea or two is incorporated into the plan but its hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. At best, it’s really just another wasted opportunity. At worst, you’ll look back and wonder why you even bothered (and won’t in the future). So what do we recommend? Before we answer that, we think you should first understand your audience.
Generally, whenever you are speaking to one of the above groups about something like the general plan, you need to recognize that it’s extremely likely they have spent countless more hours on the subject than you have. We can count on one hand general citizens that are better informed about these topics than members of the council or commission. If you don’t know if your are one of those people (we know we aren’t), you probably aren’t. Not sure how many pieces of land have development rights already in the Basin? I’m sure there is someone on the Planning Commission that does. Do you know what “1 per 20 means”, in relation to development in the Basin? Why would you? You know accounting, or real-estate, or insurance. That said, these guys do.
So, what do you do? Not show up? Not comment? No. You just need to be smart about it. Speak from your personal experience. Bring up things that they may not have heard of. There will be enough people just saying, “I hate affordable housing.” You can be the one who provides better information. What and how do you do that? We aren’t experts for sure… but we’ll do our best with that in Part 2.