Letter to Councilman Benham from College Station Association of Neighborhoods

5cf145_e287f98713754424b451c6a0fb077a73_mv2Dear Councilman Behnam,

At a City Council meeting last night, I pointed out that a lot of concerned citizens had not known about public meetings relating to UDO changes and I suggested that perhaps the city should not be content with state required minimums about public hearings. After the public meeting had closed you spent a fair amount of time lecturing about how the staff had done their job. I appreciate that you stated several times that if more could be done, you would like to know what it is.

I would like to take you up on your offer to share some suggestions. But first I would like to apologize for not being clearer. You were absolutely right. The staff did nothing wrong. When I spoke of the city, I meant all the whole city, all of us, as directed by the leadership of City Council. I’m fairly sure that the staff would not feel entitled to take steps to increase citizen input without direction from Council. So here is a list of things that can be done to increase citizen input.

· Don’t lecture citizens when they come before Council suggesting that more can be done.
· Don’t defend the absurd 200’ state minimum notification distance when there is a variance or zoning change.
· Don’t pretend like HOA presidents are community leaders. I have heard countless times, at Council meetings, how notifications do not get passed on to neighbors. I seldom see HOA presidents at City Council or other City meetings.
· Do not pretend that all homes are in an HOA.
· Have a large sign at Council chambers inviting citizens to sign up for Planning and Development notifications.
· Announce the notification list in Council meetings.
· Do not flood the notifications list with every possible announcement that does not pertain to planning and development issues.
· Hold citizen engagement workshops twice a year, teaching citizens how to engage with Staff and Council.
· Do not isolate neighborhoods. Divide the city into a few districts that encourage neighborhoods to work together.
· Spend more time and effort getting input from citizens such as the Citizens Congresses that were held over a decade ago.
· When you engage citizens in the long process of putting together neighborhood plans, do not allow City Councils to ignore that work and direction.
· Once a neighborhood plan is created continue to engage the neighborhoods in tracking implementation and updating the plan.
· Increase the budget and purview of the office of Neighborhood services.

Thanks for the offer to provide this input.

Hugh Stearns
316 Suffolk


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