Toward better benefits and a wider voice

Thursday, Greater Greater Washington posted Helping communities win better benefits agreements, about leveling the playing field between developers and communities in negotiations.

If a developer wants to build something above and beyond what’s allowed as of right, it’s reasonable to expect the community to also receive some benefit from the development.  But, those who practice development day in and day out for a living bring a level of expertise and sophistication to the negotiating table that community groups (in D.C., Advisory Neighborhood Commissions) that may do a variety of things and/or that are loosely organized on volunteer time may not.

The Washington, D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission itself is an interesting model in concept as it is designed to give a community voice to a whole host of issues that may impact a neighborhood (including, but not limited to, zoning).  I can’t speak to its execution.

The Greater Greater Washington post also argues for input beyond traditionally recognized community groups, especially in this day and age when there are new ways of organizing and groups that may morph in and out over time rather than establish as a perpetual organization behind a particular issue or constituency.

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3 Responses to Toward better benefits and a wider voice

  1. murfomurf says:

    Our local council is good at some community connections and quite BAD at others. For instance we have a community arts project officer who has organised workshops for local artists to help them get grants, to meet each other, and on how to present and sell our artworks. However, our long standing Christmas group who hold a small street party each year for all the families in our cul-de-sac was refused permission to hold it last year because we might block traffic!! I don’t know why they thought there would be traffic in a cul de sac! Plus, most residents would have been at their own street party, not needing to drive; also, we always let cars through slowly IF there are any visitors- it’s not as though we erect barricades! We were quite miffed- especially since our street has some of the highest property prices in the whole city (although our cul-de-sac is the “poor” end of the street!); you’d think the council would be kind to us, since we pay such high rates and make the place look beautiful! It has stopped many of us making good connections with new people and of renewing friendships with those whose work hours don’t coincide with our own, like nurses and social workers.

    murfomurf: Not closing the cul-de-sac sounds crazy. Here you have to have a certain percentage of folks on your block petition for street closure for a “block party,” but Chicago’s street system is thankfully on a grid where almost all streets are connected. ~ Lynn

  2. We have something which sounds similar – new housing developments, for example, have to include a certain level of ‘affordable’ housing and often some facilities like a community centre. There can be very protracted battles over what does and doesn’t get included in the plan; in Oxford, where I used to live (and actually just blogged about) there was a boatyard which was closed but after three or four years there still isn’t any agreement on the planning.

    Rachel: I saw your post on Oxford, and that old boat yard looks so sad. It’s doubly unfortunate agreement can’t be reached since rivers (and most waters) are such people attractors. But I firmly believe that if a developer can gain from a deal where s/he gets special treatment, the community should also be able to gain. ~ Lynn

  3. Ryan’s work is in part based on my document on community benefits agreements, which was developed in part through my involvement on ANC6C’s Planning and Zoning committee from 2003-2005, plus subsequent activities. I have to say, I still think my paper’s better… (and I am surprised that my work wasn’t acknowledged on the poster).

    Community benefits agreements: revised (again
    )

    This includes a revision to the framework, plus the link to the original, longer piece.

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