by Mayor Tammy
Over the past several months we’ve had a few citizens raise concerns about the noticing process for public hearings. Whether they felt they should have been notified but weren’t, or they received notice but didn’t understand the information in the notice, or they felt the notice didn’t have enough information - we rolled up our sleeves and reviewed the current processes to see what more we could do. After fully vetting our process, we identified several areas we could improve on and/or pilot. First, we will implement some changes on the notice we mail to residents. We also found one more key area where we can reach community members – online – via the social media tool called NextDoor.
Here’s some background: Public hearings are required by Idaho State Code on land use applications. Idaho Code requires the City to publish notice of hearings in an official newspaper (ours is the Meridian Press) and issue notice to all political subdivisions providing services within the City (ACHD, West Ada School District, irrigation districts, etc.). We do this. Knowing that more is needed than what Idaho Code calls for, the City also sends notice of the hearing via mail to property owners within 300 feet of the project (or 1,000 feet if the application is for a heavy industrial use or wireless communication facility). In addition to these noticing requirements, the City requires an applicant to post a large sign(s) on the property that is the subject of the application with the date and time of the hearing, at least 10 days before the hearing. An applicant must also hold a neighborhood meeting and mail notice of the meeting to property owners within 300 feet of the project prior to an application being submitted.
After hearing the concerns, we’ve decided to go further and have launched a 6 month pilot project for noticing land use applications on NextDoor. Now, if your neighborhood is within a square mile of the project being proposed or if someone from your neighborhood received a postcard in the mail, you will see a notification of the project on NextDoor. This notification will show up as a post and include a link to the application on our website. This will allow immediate access to the information. While we hope this will create a more informed and engaged public, any comments that people have on the project will need to be sent to the City Clerk via mail, email or given as testimony at the Public Hearing so this can all be part of the public record.
If you aren’t on NextDoor and are interested in what might be proposed in your area, I encourage you to sign up! It is a social media platform for neighborhoods. Currently there are over 17,000 households on NextDoor in Meridian so it is one of the top ways for our City to reach the most residents online (www.nextdoor.com). We know that in many communities this is where the conversation about development is already occurring; hopefully this will add to that discussion.
One of our goals in the City’s Strategic Plan is to increase engagement and participation with citizens in the planning, operations, and decision making processes of the City. Posting these notices on NextDoor is a great addition and step in that direction - and is also in direct response to feedback we received from our citizens. We are always listening and looking for ways to improve our outreach and communication with residents – something that in this tech age is ever-evolving.
I look forward to hearing your feedback on this pilot project.
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