Strategies for Addressing Common Concerns during Planning Processes

Planners can often predict the concerns residents will raise during planning processes. “Our schools are already at capacity.” “The traffic would be terrible!” “We must preserve community character.” Sometimes these are justified concerns that require an adjustment to the plan or planning process. Sometimes these concerns are based off false impressions or misinterpretations that can be debunked through additional information or analysis - and sometimes these concerns are just excuses used to preserve the status quo.

To help understand and address common community concerns, MAPC has created a best-practices guide. The guide includes the six most common concerns heard during planning processes, the groups most likely to have each concern, and why they might be concerned. It also lists potential strategies for addressing each concern, the most useful moment to deploy each strategy, and the uses for each strategy.

The guide is a living document, which we will update frequently – please give us your ideas!

Give us feedback! Comments on or give additions to Addressing Common Concerns During Planning Processes here.

Top Six Community Concerns

  • Another Plan, No Action: The concern that this will just be another plan that sits on a shelf or that ignores resident input.
  • Increased Demand for Resources: The concern that housing will increase school enrollment, strain municipal services, and increase property taxes.
  • Increased Traffic and Limited Parking: The concern that new development will increase traffic congestion and decrease available parking.
  • Analysis Paralysis: The concern that implementation is inadvisable without further study.
  • Displacement and Gentrification: The concern that new investment-attracting policies will price out residents and businesses.
  • Loss of Community Character: The concern that new policies could negatively affect the built environment, demographics, recreation, and amenities.

Top Six Strategies for Addressing Community Concerns

  • Recruit and engage plan champions. Plan champions are residents or stakeholders who support the planning process and the recommendations. Recruiting them, actively engaging them in the process, and having their support at meetings adds credibility to the project and encourages others to get on board.
  • Organize an Advisory Committee or an Implementation Committee. Local committees also add credibility and create accountability for carrying out recommendations and next steps.
  • Publish Frequently Asked Questions. Providing a FAQ (in a variety of formats) that details the process, anticipated outcomes, partners, common myths, the implications of current policies, etc. can advance a common understanding of the issues and the project. Collect concerns, make them public, and produce a plan for addressing them. Concerns are a part of any planning process. Ignoring concerns, or neglecting to seek them out, just puts off dealing with them till later in the process. Identify concerns as soon as possible and plan how to address them. Present and publish this plan to as many stakeholders as possible.
  • Engage as many residents as possible before a public meeting. The more relationships you can develop before decisions have to be made, the better the chance for having constructive rather than obstructive dialogue.
  • Begin a meeting with an Open House. Display the effort you’ve made to address concerns and offer residents the opportunity to discuss the findings during a conversation rather than at a podium.
  • Run a demonstration pilot. Municipal officials and residents are often reluctant to authorize new programming or policies. Testing the idea with a demonstration pilot, however, minimizes cost, risk, and exposure. If it’s successful there is evidence to justify expansion. If it fails it’s much easier to modify a pilot than a fully funded/staffed program or policy. Or move on to another idea.