Webinar to focus on effective citizen engagement in land-use planning

April 05, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Extension will offer a Web-based seminar showing community leaders how to better engage local citizens in issues surrounding land-use planning.

To be presented at noon and 7 p.m. on April 17, "Developing More Effective Citizen Engagement: A How-To Guide for Community Leaders," will give participants thoughtful suggestions for dealing with and involving citizens in land-use decision making.

Presenter Walt Whitmer, a senior  extension associate specializing in economic and community development, noted that the one-hour session will focus on why public participation matters, and why it is so important to create local networks of community members and offer opportunities for them to discuss their concerns.

Neal Fogle, extension educator in economic and community development, also will contribute to the program.

"In a nutshell, we'll talk about what really constitutes effective citizen engagement in land-use planning, why it matters, what are the keys to success, the role of trust, designing and preparing for an effective citizen-engagement effort, and how to choose the right tools and forums for achieving your goals," Whitmer said.

"In addition we'll talk briefly about the role of facilitation and what you need to think about to do it well," he said.

Citizens of a community are "engaged" when they play an effective and participatory role in dialogue and decision making, Whitmer noted.

"That requires letting go of some of the traditional reins of power and trusting that citizens can and will effectively engage in the issues," he explained. "The result is a partnership that is nearly always healthy for a community."

Land-use issues are particularly difficult for communities, Whitmer pointed out, because they encompass questions of control, property values and rights. Arguments about land-use planning are very value laden, including disagreements about private versus public good and changing regulations and case law.

"In the webinar, we'll cover the five elements of civic engagement," he said. "They include increasing citizens' knowledge about a community issue, encouraging citizens to apply that knowledge, using that knowledge to improve the community, creating opportunities for citizens to engage each other and ensuring that these opportunities are regular and on-going."

The April 17 presentation is part of Extension's monthly Land-Use Decision Making Webinar Series, which provides information about current planning issues, land-use planning tools and techniques, local regulation and community engagement. The sessions are designed to help planners, elected officials and citizens better engage in land-use decision-making processes.

The final webinar in the series -- "Low Impact Development and Smart Growth: How Are They Best Integrated and Utilized in Our Communities?" -- will be offered on May 15.

Three previous webinars were recorded and are available to registered participants for viewing:

--"Planning in Pennsylvania: Land Use, Communities and Beyond"
--"How Pre-emption of Zoning and Other Local Controls Impacts Planning"
--"Renewable Energy Implementation and Land Use Regulations -- Is There Conflict?"

Registration cost for the entire webinar series is $25, and registrants can watch as few or as many webinars as they like. For more information, contact Jeff Himes, extension educator based in Tioga County, at 570-724-9120 or jhimes@psu.edu, or visit the website.

  • land-use planning meeting

    Land-use issues are particularly difficult for communities because they encompass questions of control, property values and rights.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated January 10, 2015