Mike Saint: planning disputes generate passions in land use politics

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P Michael SaintMike Saint, chairman and CEO of The Saint Consulting Group, talks about the discipline of land use politics in a bylined viewpoint in Area Development Online.

Land-use politics is a discipline in land-use permitting that employs sophisticated political campaign strategies and tactics to help ordinary citizens influence public officials’ decision-making process in reaching land-use decisions. Land-use politics practitioners facilitate grassroots activism by organizing and assisting citizens in the effective use of their political rights.

Whether it’s a distribution center up the street, a rock quarry, a power plant, or a supermarket, residents think that if it comes to their area, they will have more traffic, more air pollution, higher crime, or the rustic nature of their neighborhood will be destroyed. They react emotionally to the project; that emotion becomes passion, and that passion becomes political action.

You need to create a political campaign that convinces, identifies, and delivers supporters into the process. We advise clients to get out there before opponents have formed into organized groups and talk to people who live closest to the project because they are most likely to form the nucleus of the group to stop it. You need to find people who think the project is a good idea and get them to come and participate in the political process by calling City Hall, showing up at public hearings, putting up signs and posters, and appearing in videos.

P. Michael Saint is chairman and CEO of The Saint Consulting Group, email msaint@tscg.biz

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