Thanks to Emily Blumberh and Jenny Madino for helping me focus on what to write. I wrote a bit about this a few weeks ago, in my post here: https://medium.com/.../ok-so-what-do-we-actually-do... but didn’t include a teaser list of things to do, so this is that….
1. Be a part of the Comprehensive Plan process
2. Attend Regular Meetings
3. Push for a more transparent project tracking system at the planning level
4. Push elected officials on where they stand on planning issues
5. Create your own Community Group (possibly an under 40 group)
Be a part of the Comprehensive Plan Process. This can be difficult as they are few and far between on updates to these, so in the meantime become acquainted with the one you have. Its long and boing, but this document sets a lot of the ground rules for what the community supposedly wants. Know the intent of these policies, and remember these when thinking about a project that is coming up and think about how it fits or does not fit the words of the Comprehensive Plan. The Introduction which can be found on the Town website is a great place to start, its about 9 pages in length, and can be found in the link at the top of this comment.
Attend Regular Meetings. Few things will work as good as being a constant and dedicated face at planning meetings, these are often boring, short, and mundane, but showing interest is important. This includes getting to know your Planner. In Easton, Lynn Thomas is the man that should be contacted. He is a fantastic resource and can be a wealth of information on Planning issues in Easton. I would encourage everyone to — not independently but collectively — reach out to him and better understand his job and what it entails, he can be a great resource.
Push for a more transparent project tracking system at the planning level. This is critical. The planning process is long and very opaque. We need to push (Lynn Thomas) to ensure that planning commission schedules, meeting minutes, and cases are clearly and legibly posted somewhere. I would suggest this would be easily done on social media, rather than the Planning website. After all, I think I might be one of zero citizens that actually goes to the site to check for information. A more transparent process on their end will lead to a more educated public, this is essential for resident to make coherent decisions. It might create more work on the side of the Town, but as a planner I would say more input is always better than less. (Side note: it is important also for the planning department to provide some “ground rules” as to what can be developed with and without our input, “by-right” development entitles developers to a minimum level of ease in the process, this is a good thing, and is something that should be tackled at the comprehensive plan level not an individual project, no sense in arguing against something that they can legally do.)
Push elected officials on where they stand on planning issues. My experience on the shore, without naming communities or names, is that many of the planning commission member do not have any real planning expertise or training, this is a challenge but is something that happens everywhere so its out of the ordinary. Encourage these members at both the town council and planning commission level to educate themselves on different types of planning. I was focused on this when I was working in Easton but never got anything to materialize before I left. Everyone serving currently is well educated, but not necessarily in planning. For election season, push them on specifics about how they see the town developing, and what they plan to do to combat poorly planned projects.
These are the current members, if you know them, reach out to them:
* Mr. Richard Tettelbaum, Chairman
* Mr. William Frost
* Mr. Don Cochran
* Mr. Talbot Bone
* Mr. Terry Dell
Create your own community group. This is probably the best way to get your voice heard, and is easier than you might think! It only needs a leader, a mission, and a diverse membership. This can minimally structured, and be coordinated through Facebook and monthly meetings. It is what all the old people in town do, they organize, and present a coordinated concise voice. Power is not a “thing” its a process. A process, not limited to the existing groups. I would propose for Easton this be a group of like minded individuals under 40 that can speak collectively at planning meetings. With the technical prowess of those under 40 it should be much easier to distribute the monitoring of projects as a collective rather than an individual. Sharing projects and information on say Facebook would be easy. A small group of organizers at the top would be important to heard the group to consensus and go speak at planning meetings. Lots would need to be figured out here but I think it could happen easily. It happens frequently in Baltimore and DC with groups just organizing around a specific cause.