A Winning Formula for Permitting
I, of course, pointed out all the company and/or its major stockholder (the foundation) had contributed to the community including the contribution toward the hospital expansion. It happened that the chairman of the hospital’s board of directors was a prominent local contractor who supported the permit request. Consequently, he asked the hospital administrator, who was well known in the community, to attend the public hearing on the request with him. Not only did they attend, but also they took front-row seats during the six-hour hearing, and it was obvious they supported the request. Their presence went a long way to countering the negative image our opponents were trying to convey about our company. The request was ultimately approved.
One final thought about contributions, donations of material, etc. – most groups will send you a thank you note after they receive your contribution. Do not discard these letters. Keep them in a file that you can use during the public hearing process. And if you don’t receive a thank you letter from a community beneficiary, ask them to send one!
- Verify the permitting procedure. Make sure you thoroughly check with the local government officials the exact procedure you will be required to go through to receive the approvals needed to permit new reserves. Although you may be familiar with the procedures in your local jurisdiction, don’t assume that the procedures will be the same when you try to permit a greenfield site in a new community. Some years ago, I served two terms on the city council in my home community. Our city had an unusual rule that required a 4/5 affirmative vote to change a zone rather than the customary majority vote required in other nearby cities. On more than one occasion, I observed applicants who came before the council seeking a zoning change who thought they had won their case when they received a 3-2 vote in favor of their request. Subsequently, they learned that their request had been denied because they didn’t receive the necessary fourth vote.
- Establish a strategy for talking with local decision makers. Make sure you understand what the rules are as to when you can discuss your project with the local decision makers. Personally, I feel that you should discuss your project with the local elected officials before you submit your application, but not everyone agrees with this philosophy. Be aware, however, that some local jurisdictions have rules or laws that prohibit any discussion between an applicant and elected decision makers after an application has been filed. I worked in one county where, while not prohibited by law, a long-established custom deferred elected officials from meeting with an applicant after the application had been submitted to the county staff. Therefore, in this county, if an applicant wants to have direct conversation about a project with any of the elected county supervisors who will ultimately vote to approve or disapprove a project, he must do so before the application is filed.
- Expect controversy. Finally, an aggregate producer attempting to permit additional reserves needs to realize that the chances are great that the request will, in most cases, become controversial. The producer must make a decision as to when the time is right to meet with and discuss the request with neighbors. Almost all communities today have requirements for notifying the adjacent property owners of the public hearings to be held on permit request. The neighbors will find out about the request!
One school of thought holds that it is better to talk to the neighbors before plans are prepared for the project and an application is filed. That way, concerns of the neighbors can be incorporated into the plans as they are prepared. Another school of thought says that it is better to prepare preliminary plans for the project before meeting with neighbors. Then, after hearing the neighbors’ concerns, the plans can be modified. That way, the thinking goes, the neighbors will feel they have had input into the process when they see the revised plans that have incorporated their concerns.
While the debate goes on about when the best time to talk with neighbors is, one thing is clear: a permit applicant must meet with the neighbors before beginning the public hearing process. Decision makers do not appreciate it if, when the public hearing is held, the applicant and the neighbors have not met and attempted to iron out their differences. Even if, after the meetings, the neighbors still oppose the project, the fact that the applicant has met with the opponents is a big plus for the producer. At the hearing, the producer can point out all the changes that have been made to the project as a result of listening to the neighbors’ concerns. Having done this, the producer can then strongly imply that it is the neighbors who are unreasonable and still oppose the project even after their concerns have been addressed.
Meeting with the neighbors before the public hearings begin also has one other advantage: as people get to know one another, they are less likely to make wild unsubstantiated claims before decision makers. Anything that can lower the decibel level of the public discussion on a producer’s application works to the advantage of the applicant.
The application phase
One of the least understood parts of the land-use entitlement process is the importance of timing. The worst thing that can happen to any applicant whose project will be controversial is to have the issue surface right before a local election. If the project is controversial, most of the candidates will take a position against the project in an effort to win votes.
Applicants, therefore, need to know how long it will take to process their request and manage the timing of their request so that it does not surface during an election campaign. Once a person takes a public position against a proposal, it is very difficult for him to reverse his position once elected.
MORE FROM Articles
SUBSCRIBE & FOLLOW
- Vulcan shareholders reject board changes at annual meeting972 Views
- Former gravel quarry-turned-landfill transforms into nature reserve506 Views
- Americans consume 3 million pounds of minerals in a lifetime245 Views
- North Carolina grants Martin Marietta water quality certification for limestone quarry241 Views
- Excavators uncover ancient quarry in Jerusalem203 Views