History of the Smarter Land Use Project

This research project has been independently funded by more than twenty philanthropic foundations since 1989. The single purpose, 501c3 non-profit corporation, which is still receiving tax deductible donations, is Land Use Forum Network, Inc. (See www.guidestar.org for details about how to donate). The focus of the research over the first 15 years was Karl Kehde’s participation in more than 500 combined stakeholder (neighbors, developer, planners, environmentalists) meetings in 48 proposed land development projects in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Vermont, and Washington — an average of ten stakeholder meetings per project. A website was set up where stakeholders upset with proposed projects could call for help. Kehde would attend the stakeholder meetings, first as an observer, then to offer suggestions, and finally to test the collaborative planning process. In each year of research and meetings new insights were gained. Here are a few of the key insights as they were discovered during the research:

1989 – People are moving out of settled areas because new and redevelopment projects are not creating sufficient improvements to life there. Land developments could be designed to include features that would improve their surrounding neighborhoods so residents would want to stay.

1991 – The community-enhancing features of a land development project and their placement in the project are the result of the project’s design process. A project design process that built a sense of community among the stakeholders would yield a project that improved the sense of community (safety, comfort, quality of life, property values) in the existing neighborhood.

1992 – A Smart Growth (collaborative, community-building) design process, instead of focusing primarily on the project itself and its compliance with regulations, would have to focus on improving the surrounding community(its sphere of influence).

1995 – Project design by the developer alone would have to give way to project design by a collaborative stakeholder team which has detailed knowledge of the surrounding human and wildlife community.

1997 – A person who plays a certain stakeholder role (ie. resident, developer, environmentalist, city planner) in a given project may well play a different, even opposing, role in another project. Furthermore, each role actually defines expertise in a certain subject (surrounding community, land development, environment, city planning) rather than an opposing special interest.

1999 – The current, regulation based, permitting process sets up the stakeholder roles to be adversarial. Actually, the various expertise could all be on one project design team. The collaborative team could be set up, even after a history of confrontation, by following a step-by-step process.

2001 – Once the residents, developer, planners, and environmentalists are on the same team, their personal objectives change from minimizing damage in their area of special interest to maximizing improvements to the project, the surrounding community, the environment, and relationships. The team building yields extraordinary new ideas for achieving the special interest agendas and also generates a project that builds community spirit, safety, and sustainability.

2002 РThe collaborative project design process is implemented with voluntary Collaborative Planning guidelines rather than with additional regulations. Byram Township in New Jersey has done that. Visit their website http://byramtwp.org, which will open in a new tab or browser window.

2007 – For collaborative planning to be efficient and effective, its primary focus must be on activities that improve relationships between the stakeholders involved in the proposed project. The better the relationships, the more powerful are the new ideas for solving the problems that each stakeholder faces inside and outside the proposed project. This is the thrust of the current research and demonstration.

2008 – Research and demonstration moves to the greater Yellowstone area of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Problem-solving ideas are a function of the consciousness of the collaboration participants. When the focus is on getting and maintaining a feeling of community among the participants (rather than retaining and sometimes aggravating defensiveness) the ideas that come are much more effective to solve the problems.

Collaborative Planning Guidelines are in the Appendix and on the CD in the Collaborative Land Use Planning guidebook. A much more detailed history of the research is in Chapter 8 of the guidebook.