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Upcoming Public Hearing

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Subject: Upcoming Public Hearing
From: (Jack W Hyder, Jr.)
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 20:35:45 EST
Hi Joe:

A few suggestions from a Tennessee lawyer with a lot of experience
representing local governmental bodies, including planning commissions:

1.  Have you considered hiring an attorney to appear on your behalf at
the hearing?  Sometimes the mere presence of an attorney can have a
dramatic effect on a planning commission.  It sends them a message that
you mean business and reminds them that their decision must be based on
the law and not on public opinion. Believe me, planning commissions are
much more likely to reach the correct legal decision when the applicant
brings an attorney.  They hate having their decisions overturned by
courts, and the attorney is a subtle reminder of that possibility.

2.  Talk with the city staff to find out if they will be making a
recommendation to the planning commission on your application.  In the
great majority of cases, the planning commission will follow the
recommendation of city staff.  If the city staff plans to recommend
against your tower, you will not have much hope with the planning
commission.  But, if the staff plans to recommend that your application
be granted, that will be a big plus for you.  Ask the city staff whether
your proposed tower meets the legal criteria for your city.  If they say
no, ask them to tell you how your proposal  needs to be changed.  You
need to get the city staff to tell the planning commission that your
proposal meets all city standards and to recommend that your application
be granted.  This gives the planning commission an out -- they can simply
tell your angry neighbors that your proposal meets the law and that they
are bound to approve it.  They can blame everything on the city staff and
the sorry municipal ordinances that allow towers!

3.  You will need to educate the planning commission briefly on amateur
radio and why you need the tower installation.  In all probability they
will know very little if anything about our hobby.  Briefly, tell them
about ham radio, how you got your license and the public service aspects
amateur radio.  Do you participate in local emergency services?  If so,
tell them what you do (or what you could do with a proper antenna

4.  If worst comes to worst at the hearing, and if it looks like the
planning commission is going to deny your request because of the public
outcry, ask the commission to delay a decision so that you can submit
some additional materials addressing the concerns raised by your
neighbors.  The idea is to have the decision delayed to a another time
when things have died down and the planning commission will not be faced
with having to announce its decision in the presence of the angry mob.  I
have seen this work on several occasions when the planning commission
made its decision at a later meeting when none of the opponents showed up
since they had already had their say at the first meeting.  If would be
much easier for the planning commission to grant your request if that
decision could be postponed to a calmer time.

5.  Be ready to offer a compromise and seize the opportunity to do so if
it presents itself.  Planning commissions like compromises.  It is much
safer for them to approve something that neither side likes completely
but which each side can live with rather that run the risk of losing
completely.  In hotly contested situations, a planning commission is
caught between an angry mob (political risk) and the prospect of a
lawsuit if it ignores law and reason and goes along with the crowd.  The
simple solution for the planning commission is a compromise.  Since the
city has portrayed your proposal in the worst possible light, you have
plenty of room to compromise and could get exactly what you wanted in the
first place.  (Perhaps they did you a favor in distributing the ugliest

6.  If all else fails and it looks like the planning commission is going
to deny your application, ask them to defer a decision so that you can
alter your proposal to make it more acceptable.  Ask the planning
commission how you can modify your proposal to eliminate their concerns. 
Try to pin them down then and there as to what you must do win their
approval.  Here, again, try for a compromise.  You need to come across as
a good citizen trying to get along with your neighbors.  I have even seen
a planning commission designate a city staff person to meet with both
sides in an effort to mediate a compromise.  Do not let them slam the
door in your face -- you must keep your application alive even if it
means having to come back one or more times with revisions in order to
reach a compromise.  Be persistent and exhibit a willingness to
compromise.  Eventually, your angry neighbors will either get tired of
the fight or they will come across as unreasonable and unwilling to

These are just some suggestions which may or may not be applicable in
your situation.  Your planning commission may not operate like those I
have seen.  Above all, however, you need to keep your cool, be
reasonable, come across as the good guy, and demonstrate a willingness to
work with the city, the planning commission and your neighbors to reach a
compromise.  You may not get exactly what you want, but some tower is
probably better than no tower at all.

Good Luck and keep us advised.

Jack     W4JH

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