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The tradition of the town hall style public meeting as the basis for local government decision-making goes back over 400 years. Much has changed in our world in that time but, at least until the COVID-19 pandemic, the form of our local public hearings stayed generally the same. We stubbornly refused to adopt most of the technologies that transformed the rest of our lives.
The pandemic forced us to collectively challenge our preconceptions about public hearings. Suddenly we weren't able to meet in the same room. Technologies that were never designed to replace public hearings were hastily pressed into service by confused and desperate staff members. Now, as we come out of pandemic restrictions on gatherings, there are many lessons learned and many decisions to be made on how our public hearings will look in the future.
This issue of Zoning Practice examines the traditional process of local government public hearings and the problems that this model creates for modern communities. It then introduces the relatively new idea of asynchronous public hearings and the advantages and challenges of modernizing the public hearing process.
About the Author
Travis Parker, AICP
Travis has been Planning Director for Lakewood since August 2011. In that time he has led the update of the Lakewood zoning code, rewrite of the Lakewood Comprehensive Plan, creation of the City’s first Sustainability Plan, and major planning efforts surrounding the West Corridor light rail. His previous experience includes over a fifteen years of planning at the city and county level in Virginia, Indiana, Iowa and the District of Columbia. His career has focused on land use planning with an emphasis on writing and interpreting zoning and he has been involved with the update of four different zoning codes. He has also lead efforts to improve public hearing engagement through technology. He has a Masters of public administration from George Washington University a degree in urban planning from Iowa State University.