A Winning Formula for Permitting
One strategy that I have successfully used is to obtain a list of the agencies that will receive a copy of my application. I then contact those agencies and request a meeting with them to explain the request and to answer any questions.
Over the years, I have found that this has paid big dividends, and I have been able to put to rest concerns by agreeing to make modifications to the application before a negative letter is written recommending denial of the project.
Taking this proactive approach and meeting with agencies that are being asked to comment on a project also ensures that when a response is prepared, it is at least based on a true understanding of the request. Once an agency is on record as recommending a denial of a project, it is very difficult for the agency to reverse itself even it if turns out that the recommendation for denial was based upon an incomplete understanding of the request.
- Limit the scope of your request. Finally, I feel that applicants need to be very careful not to “float” a trial balloon at the beginning of the process with the intent to later withdraw the request if too much opposition develops against the idea throughout the entitlement process. For example, an aggregate producer seeking to expand an existing operation also might be tempted to use the opportunity to request an extension of existing hours of operation. In the producer’s mind, the justification for such a request could be that several times during the past few years, the company could not bid on certain jobs because the delivery times were outside those specified in an existing permit.
While, in theory, one can rationalize that the request for extended hours can be withdrawn and the opposition that developed to the request will disappear, it usually doesn’t work that way in real life. Neighbors who have learned to live with a 7 a.m. or even a 6 a.m. starting time and who might otherwise not object to an expansion request may very well be opposed to a proposed 5 a.m. starting time. This can cause them to join and/or form a group opposing the entire operation.
Subsequently, even if the request for extended hours is withdrawn, the opponents do not just give each other “high fives” and fade into the woodwork. They have become involved and have expended emotional energy with their opposition group. Chances are that most of those who only joined the group to oppose your request for extended hours will continue with the group to fight the expansion even after a request for the extended hours is withdrawn.
If you think about it, there are reasons why these groups continue. Frequently, they have developed into semi-formal organizations with officers, have collected money, and may have even hired an attorney. Some of the committee members may be sought by the media for their views and see their picture in the local newspaper. This can be heady stuff, and people don’t just walk away from those kinds of situations.
A perfect example of this happened in my hometown. The local school board decided to go to the voters and request approval for a bond issue to upgrade a number of existing facilities and build some new ones. Included in the proposed new facilities was a sports stadium to be built adjacent to the high school across from an existing residential area. The school board felt that the community needed a stadium since all of the sports and other after-school activities requiring the use of a stadium resulted in the district having to rent a facility in the adjacent town.
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