Despite the many requests of citizens, the city professional staff, the media and a number of organizations, the city commission voted in favor of the developer of the School Ave project and against the strong community voices that asked them to slow down and find a way to forge public acceptance.
In the last few years there have been a number of land use and zoning changes that have had public acceptance. These changes have occurred and everyone is happy. A key to the acceptance has been open and honest discussion between the developer and the community. While neither side may get everything they hope for, an excellent project is usually the result and community acceptance is assured.
There have also been a number of instances where public acceptance has not been found. In these instances the commission has not insisted that a step back be taken and more acceptance be found before proceeding. Instead they have sometimes rammed ahead and allowed the issue to continue to be a festering wound in our community. This does not have to happen and indeed there are a number of examples where major changes have been undertaken with the full support of the community and the closest neighbors. Unfortunately this is not the case with the School Ave project. Forging ahead with continued strong community disapproval is absolutely wrong. It is poor public leadership.
If commissioners believe the community is wrong in its beliefs, it is the commissioners' responsibility to educate, to open the discourse, to assure understanding. In essence, to show the leadership we expect.
We believe it is critically important that commissioners look at the current process and consider ways to assure public support before forcing a decision. Making a decision on projects that continually make last minute changes, changes that are not understood, changes that have not been reviewed, is a certain recipe for disaster. We deserve much better than this.
Developers continually say "time is money" and insist upon changing the process to streamline the decision making. Little thought is given to one of the most important issues: community acceptance. While this may take time and negotiation, community acceptance is one of the most critical aspects of any proposal.
[It is important to note that no evidence or testimony was given that suggested the project would not happen if it had to go back to the drawing board. Although this kind of statement was made elsewhere, no sworn testimony was given to this effect. The closest thing was the applicant's lawyer stating (paraphrased) he didn't care what the decision was, just give him a decision.]
We strongly urge the commissioners to look at the process we use and find ways to require more effort to find community acceptance on major proposals.