It's in developers' interest to work with neighbors early and often
I have followed with interest the news coverage surrounding the proposed rezoning of four tracts on Prince Avenue to make way for a new office building.
As a resident of another in-town neighborhood, I was disappointed to see the developers of this project chose to bring Prince-Boulevard and Cobbham neighbors into the planning process only to ask them to ratify decisions that had already been made in private. This is certainly not the way to encourage good relations between neighborhood associations and new projects. And, meeting with the neighborhood groups earlier doubtless would have avoided the contentiousness and delays that are bound to follow.
In addition, I hope this style of interaction will not become standard elsewhere in Clarke County. Developers can save themselves considerable headaches by speaking with groups early on to allow neighborhood concerns to be addressed in a supportive, non-confrontational way. It is in their interest in the long run to adopt this kind of collaborative approach. A project that enjoys broad community support will be valued and patronized by residents, thereby increasing its value.
Neighborhood-based planning is an idea that has been successful in many communities around the country. If we are not yet ready to adopt such a mechanism formally in Clarke County, let us nevertheless begin to reduce conflict and build trust by actively encouraging meetings between developers and residents at an early stage in the design process.
Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Friday, February 20, 2004.