By Saint Consulting Staff,
The Saint Consulting Group
Continuing our series of case studies to illustrate the politics of planning, this Saint Model Outcome looks at overcoming local opposition to a retail project.
Our client wanted to close an existing 35,000-SF store and construct a new 50,000-SF store a half a mile away. The proposed project required the super-majority approval of the town board. Neighbors vehemently opposed the new development and retained a local attorney to fight it.
Before we arrived on the project, the neighborhood group had persuaded three of seven town board members to oppose the project. With those votes, a majority was tough to reach as one board member was conflicted out. That is why we were brought in to help our client win the vote.
We used the existing store and its customer base to educate local residents and build a massive support base within the community.
Our campaign included production of a 20-minute video demonstrating the need for the project, its benefits to the community, and supportive comments from various locals, including the mayor. We used data from our canvassing, to send targeted mailings and flyer drops outlining key issues. The message called on supporters to telephone and write letters to key officials.
After gaining some traction in the community and identifying supporters, we began placing full-page ads in the local newspaper with names of project supporters, inserting letters to the editor, and guest columns. With the vote on the client’s project approaching, we identified our most likely swing vote and focused intense political pressure on him to reconsider. We published his home phone number in the newspaper with the message that his vote was the only thing stopping this project which resulted in hundreds of phone calls.
We then began visiting door-to-door in the targeted board member’s neighborhood, obtaining permission to erect signs, and encouraging his neighbors to talk with him. This resulted in record-breaking, standing-room-only attendance at the hearing. We also handed out printed baseball caps, visibly demonstrating that the majority of attendees approved of the expansion proposal.
The result: an overflow crowd spilled onto the street as the town board voted 3-2 to approve with one abstention. The board member we had targeted voted in favor of the proposal.
For more information on The Saint Consulting Group, see www.tscg.biz