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Staying Community Conscious

Even the most basic project or development can become controversial in today’s polarized environment. In an age where an opinion (whether or not it’s based on facts) can influence thousands of others by a click on Facebook or Twitter, thinking ahead about everybody with an interest in a project is critical.

We know how difficult it can be to engage stakeholders and put an end to misinformation. When a project is up for vote, it’s imperative that community members have all the facts. Recognizing this, LaBella offers stakeholder engagement services to ensure your community is on the same page.

Stakeholder engagement (or stakeholder management) is planning in advance for the involvement of stakeholders, especially for municipal leaders and those proposing projects before a municipality.

This article can serve as a field guide for managing all of the issues that can arise with stakeholders. There are four basic elements to stakeholder engagement—Identification & Analysis, Communications Planning, Engagement Method, and Crafting the Plan.

Stakeholder Identification & Analysis
Broadly defined as “any organization or individual that has a vested interest in a project,” stakeholders may be directly or indirectly impacted by a development. Stakeholders are usually diverse. For example, for a project which proposes to develop property that was formerly used as farmland, stakeholder groups could include the residents living adjacent to the property, members of a local environmental group, farmers in the community, and faculty from the local higher education institution. In order to determine the complete set of stakeholders, it’s useful to review previous projects which are similar in nature to the current initiative. Other sources of data might include complaint logs, impact assessments, and a social media search. Once stakeholders are identified, they should be analyzed to determine their level of interest in the project and their level of influence. Stakeholders with high interest and high influence become your top priority.

Communications Planning
After identifying stakeholders, it is important to understand what key messages will lead to your project’s success. Stakeholders likely don’t have all of the facts and have heard various things from friends and neighbors. Now more than ever before, your constituents are getting their news from social networks such as Nextdoor and neighborhood groups on Facebook. Don’t worry about the misinformation being shared within these groups. Rather, make a plan to communicate directly with them. Preparing a communications plan and weighing these considerations allows you to foresee all of the potential risks. Some form of additional education for stakeholders might be appropriate. For example, some stakeholders may not understand the authority of a municipal government to take a certain action or not. Additionally, having a communications plan for disclosing public information might be useful for complicated projects which have many documents associated with them.

Engagement Method
Identifying how you’ll engage stakeholders throughout the project planning process, approval process, and even through construction, ensures that stakeholders feel that In addition, New York State law mandates that developers are responsible for decommissioning solar farms, which are typically slated for a life of twenty years. That said, it’s in their best interest that systems are non-invasive and easy to un-install. “I like to call it the eject button,” Steve said. “If an owner decides to decommission a solar farm for some reason, it’ll take a couple months to disassemble—that’s a lot of nuts and bolts— but they can begin farming that land immediately.”

Despite different approaches, New Yorkers are united in their desire to develop cleaner energy, promote job growth, and preserve our state’s beautiful wilderness. Some communities believe solar is the answer, and others want to work towards different solution.

Whatever lies ahead , LaBella is ready to help municipalities craft a solar ordinance to match your community values and protect its resources. LaBella’s Planning Division has model ordinances, planning tools and most importantly, the expertise, to facilitate the process from start to finish.

Some form of additional education for stakeholders might be appropriate. For example, some stakeholders may not understand the authority of a municipal government to take a certain action or not.