TO: Local Planning Agency

FROM: Carol Cunningham

DATE: November 8, 1996

SUBJECT: Proposed Public Participation Plan


The following provides a proposed plan for involvement of the citizens of Fort Myers Beach and other interested parties in the formulation, evaluation, and eventual adoption of a comprehensive plan for the Town. This proposed plan for public involvement is consistent with the provisions of Rule 9J-5.004 of the Florida Administrative Code regarding public participation (see item 3 below) and is designed to engage the interest and participation of all aspects of the community throughout the comprehensive planning process.

The Local Planning Agency may want to implement this plan in its entirety or may wish to utilize only certain portions of it, tailoring the program according to constraints of budget and reasonable capacity of volunteer effort, while, at minimum, complying with the provisions of Rule 9J-5.004.

Questions for Discussion on November 19th

In working through how best to tailor this program, our discussion in your meeting of November 19, 1996, can be guided by the following questions:

Organization of this Memorandum

In the course of their discussions during the start-up phase of the comprehensive planning process conducted from July through September 1996, members of the Local Planning Agency and the Town Council identified objectives for public involvement for both the near term process of developing and adopting a comprehensive plan and for the long term nature of civic activity in the Town. These objectives are summarized below under item 1.

A description of how the proposed public involvement process could evolve, of proposed methods to achieve public involvement objectives, and of proposed responsibilities for carrying out the process is provided under item 2.

Following the LPA's review and tailoring of the public participation plan, the preliminary draft procedures for public participation related to the adoption of the Town's first comprehensive plan (provided under item 4) will be revised and provided to the Town Manager to be put into proper form for adoption as administrative procedures. Procedure for consideration of amendments to the comprehensive plan and evaluation and appraisal reports will be developed subsequently as an outcome of the planning process and be recommended for adoption later as a part of the Town's Administrative Code.

LPA and Town Council Objectives for Public Involvement

2. Proposed Methods to Achieve Objectives

Consistent with the above requirements and objectives, the following process and methods are proposed for the three phases of the process: plan formulation, plan evaluation, plan adoption.

Because of limitations of staff and budget, and consistent with the spirit of the process, the community outreach process should leverage as much volunteer effort and involvement as possible. The idea is to create an "unbiased" community communications network to engage the participation of all aspects of the community.

To initiate and guide this process, the LPA should appoint two or more of its members to work with Carol Cunningham throughout the process in enlisting the volunteer assistance of local organizations and community members and in securing the cooperation of the newspapers, preparing the press releases, developing mailing lists, and planning and sponsoring workshops.

As noted above, the extent to which any or all of these methods are utilized should be determined within the context of available resources, budget, and volunteer capacity.

(A) Plan Formulation Process: (This applies to the period shown on the generalized schedule for plan completion from October 1996 through June of 1997, although it may extend throughout 1997 at the option of the Town.)

The emphasis for public input during this period is envisioned to be primarily from the community-wide workshop process, tentatively planned as follows:

In addition, members of the public are invited to attend the regularly scheduled meetings of the LPA and provide comment during the appropriate portion of the agenda. The LPA meetings dealing with comprehensive plan items, scheduled approximately every two weeks, will be duly noticed as a part of the LPA meeting agenda in newspaper of general circulation and should specify the topic under consideration.

Outreach Effort

The outreach effort for the plan formulation process, particularly focusing on the workshop events, should include the following:

Initial Outreach Effort

Target the first week in December for substantial coverage in the newspapers (both local to Fort Myers Beach and in the News Press) to kick off the process, covering what has been addressed to date, providing the proposed schedule (in detail for the near term and generally for the longer term) and particularly promoting the upcoming community design workshop targeted for January. The coverage should include information on how people can participate and stay informed: through the newspaper coverage, documents at the library and local copy shops, and through their local organizations.

For those who are out of town and/or comfortable with computers, Spikowski Planning Associates recently established a library of material about the progress of this comprehensive plan on the Internet's "World Wide Web." This library is accessible from anywhere in the world through a computer with an Internet connection by entering into a web browser. Attached to this memo is the directory page of this web site showing the Fort Myers Beach documents that can currently be read or printed out, and also the page that is provided for electronic feedback from readers. As documents are prepared for the LPA, they will be continually added to this list. Relevant responses from readers will be circulated to the LPA.

Ongoing Outreach Effort

A computerized mailing list should be compiled to include every known organization on the Island (and include the name and address of every real property owner for an initial notice) including churches, schools, seniors organizations etc. and should target some key gathering places for posting the mailing to cover those who are outside any organization. Mailings to the comprehensive list should be done early in the process, immediately following the initial newspaper coverage in December and in advance of each major workshop (approximately early January, March, early June).

Additional articles or series of articles should be encouraged, particularly in advance of each workshop, to provide some background on the issues under discussion, explain the opportunities for both written and verbal participation, and indicate where technical and other background information is located and how to access it.

Public service announcements should be scheduled for both radio and television to publicize the workshops.

Cable TV coverage should be utilized strategically. Workshops can be videotaped and edited to be suitable for broadcasting, if a volunteer with those skills and equipment can be found. Videos can provide concise presentations of concepts, an evenhanded unbiased coverage of issues and concerns, and can apprise people of upcoming events and opportunities to provide input. Videos can be made available to organizations and individuals for their later review and discussion.

Public Workshops

Workshops are envisioned as community-building events and should be planned and carried out with as much care and enthusiasm as a local festival event, and can in fact serve multiple purposes. It is recommended that the workshops be conducted in conjunction with a fun event such as a barbecue or street fair (if such an event is being held and sponsored by an appropriate group) and be held in a place that reflects the primary topic of the workshop -- for example possibly holding the June workshop which focuses on Estero Boulevard improvements, recreation, and historic preservation policies in the Bay Oaks area.

Planning for each workshop should begin with setting clear objectives for the outcome and then structuring the format to achieve those objectives. Generally, the workshops should begin with setting a context and providing information, ideas, and posing questions and issues. This can be done through both visual (graphics, slide, video), verbal, and written methods, speakers, panel discussions or some combination thereof. Providing break-out groups where people can gather according to topic, geography, or some other organizing principle in small enough groups to be able to conduct a dialog is a highly successful method of engaging people in the process; however, good facilitation and recording of what is said is essential. Coming together to share results and consolidate positive recommendations as well as identifying points of disagreement remaining to be worked on, provides a good conclusion to sessions.

The results of each workshop will be carefully recorded and analyzed utilizing the notes (recorded on flip charts or butcher paper during group discussions) and structured comment forms for eliciting written comments.

(B) "Preliminary Plan" Evaluation Process: (This applies to activities on the generalized schedule which begin, for some topic areas, in approximately May 1997 and extend through September 1997, but which may be delayed until early 1998 at the option of the Town.) Plan evaluation is the process of reviewing the compilation and refinement of proposed policies, providing direction for modifications to be made as preliminary draft elements are prepared, and comment on the preliminary draft and draft comprehensive plan prior to initiating the public hearing process for plan adoption.

The emphasis for public input during this phase, in addition to the regular LPA meetings, is intended to assist in refining the detail of policy, understanding what outstanding issues and concerns remain, and working towards consensus on as much as possible prior to finalizing the draft plan and moving into the adoption process. Therefore it is recommended to convene those who have actively participated and represent various perspectives in the community in a structured format or focus group on a "by issue or by topic" basis where there can be "sleeves rolled up" working sessions to zero in on the pros and cons of proposed policies and to recommend modifications which work towards consensus.

Another effective means of obtaining purposeful input during this period is for designated LPA members and/or consultants to attend meetings of relevant organizations or agencies to explore implications of proposed policy from their perspective.

It may also be appropriate to wrap up this phase with a final community-wide workshop to review the preliminary draft comprehensive plan (the integration of all draft elements plus the community vision statement) in the context of graphic depictions of how the plan translates to reality (ensuring that the policies translate to both the verbal and visual vision for the future).

(C) Adoption Process:

The adoption process refers to the period beginning with the notice of public hearing for the first LPA public hearing (targeted to begin in the fall of 1997).

The emphasis on public input during this phase is the formalized process of provision of written comment and staff response provided with the staff report, and the public testimony at each public hearing (see specifics in item 4 below).

The outreach effort through the established communications network designed above should encourage participation and reinforce the spirit of cooperative participation. Gallery displays in the Town Hall, Library, and other public gathering places should be developed which provide the visual and narrative history of the evolution of the plan over the year (including photos of people planning together) and the visual depiction of how the policies of the plan translates into reality. The intention is to continue the atmosphere of community building and people working together to plan for the future even though there may be disagreements and differences of opinion along the way.

3. Provisions of Rule 9J-5.004, Florida Administrative Code

Rule 9J-5.004 provides the following requirements:

(1) The local governing body and the local planning agency shall adopt procedures to provide for and encourage public participation in the planning process, including consideration of amendments to the comprehensive plan and evaluation and appraisal reports.

(2) The procedures shall include the following:

(a) Provisions to assure that real property owners are put on notice through advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in the area or other method adopted by the local government, of official actions that will affect the use of their property;

(b) Provisions for notice to keep the general public informed;

(c) Provisions to assure that there are opportunities for the public to provide written comments;

(d) Provisions to assure that the required public hearings are held; and

(e) Provisions to assure the consideration of and response to public comments.

(3) Local governments are encouraged to make executive summaries of comprehensive plans available to the general public and should, while the planning process is ongoing, release information at regular intervals to keep its citizenry apprised of planning activities.

4. Proposed Procedures to be Adopted to Comply with Rule 9J-5.004

The following is a working draft of what the LPA and Town Council could adopt in conformance with Rule 9J-5. Please note that this draft goes well beyond the minimum requirements. Each item should be carefully considered in terms of budget and resource constraints. Some items could be noted as "encouraged" but not required, or the Town could simply adopt the minimum requirements (see attached Lee County example).

(1) The Local Planning Agency and the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach hereby adopt the following procedures to provide for and encourage public participation in the process of preparing and adopting the comprehensive plan.

(a) Notice to Real Property Owners of Official Actions that will Affect Their Property

Notice of official actions that will affect the use of their property shall be provided to real property owners in accordance with methods set forth in Chapter 163, Part II, Florida Statutes, specifically through advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in the area (assume County wide), such notice to be made 14 (requirement is 7) days in advance of the public hearing, and such other methods as adopted herein (should we mail a brief notice to all real property owners?).

(b) Notice to the General Public

To keep the general public informed, notice of meetings of the Local Planning Agency at which consideration of comprehensive plan related issues is a part of the agenda shall be provided as follows:

Additional efforts to keep the general public informed shall include publication of the following information as an article or prominent advertisement in newspaper of general circulation in the Town. Such article or advertisement to be published no less frequently than quarterly:

In addition, such other methods shall be undertaken as feasible including, but not limited to, mailings to all known organizations in the Town; posting of information in places of local gathering; and public service announcements.

(c) Opportunity for Written Comment

In all notices as described in (a) and (b) above, the process and address for written comments shall be described. Written comments may be provided throughout the process of plan preparation, directed to the Town Manager, and will be provided to LPA members for their consideration as a part of their packet for the next regularly scheduled meeting with comprehensive plan related items on the agenda. Such written comments will become a part of the public record.

Specific opportunities for written comments will be provided as a part of each scheduled public workshop (as described in (3) below). Such comments will be summarized and provided to decision-makers for consideration as a part of plan formulation and evaluation and be on file in their original form.

During the plan adoption process, the provision of written comments shall be specifically encouraged and the process and deadlines for submitting comments shall be specified in the required public notice as described in (a) above. All written comments provided on the draft comprehensive plan, submitted no later than 7 days prior to the scheduled public hearing, shall be acknowledged and specifically responded to as a part of the staff report provided to decision-makers with the original correspondence attached as a part of the public record.

(d) Provisions to assure that the required public hearings are held

Public Hearings for consideration and adoption of the comprehensive plan shall be held in accordance with the requirements and procedures of Chapter 163, Part II, Florida Statutes.

(e) Provisions to assure the consideration of and response to public comments

The LPA and Town Council will review all public comments (both written and oral) prior to taking their respective final vote on the comprehensive plan. The staff report to the LPA shall address written comments as specified in item (c) above. While the final vote of the LPA will constitute their response to all public comments both written and oral, such response should be supplemented as fully as possible to communicate their response to the Town Council.

The staff report to the Town Council shall address written comments as specified in item (c) above and shall summarize and provide responses to all oral comments from the minutes of the LPA's public hearing. While the final vote of the Town Council will constitute their response to all public comments both written and oral, such response should be supplemented as fully as possible for the public record.

(3) All material provided to the LPA or Town Council related to the formulation and evaluation of the comprehensive plan as it is being developed shall be compiled and available for public review throughout the process at the Town Hall, and to the extent practical also at the Public Library and through the Internet at a designated location on the World Wide Web.

Throughout the planning process a minimum of three community-wide public workshops shall be conducted for the purpose of disseminating information and gathering input. Summaries of these workshops and of the verbal and written input obtained as a part of the workshop shall be written, provided to the LPA and Town Council for their information and consideration, and shall be a part of the public record available at the above locations. All comment forms provided as a part of the workshops shall be on file and available for public review at the Town Hall. Where feasible, workshops will be videotaped and made available to local organizations and individuals (on a revolving check out basis or for a nominal fee?? to cover costs?) for their use in promoting discussion and further input on comprehensive plan related matters.

Copies of written material may be purchased (where? at what cost?)

Following the LPA's review of the preliminary draft comprehensive plan (which consists of the integration of all Elements, plus the community vision statement) and no less than two weeks prior to the first public hearing of the LPA on the draft plan, multiple copies of the draft plan will be available (where distributed? free? for purchase? for full cost of reproduction? or for nominal fee?) for public review and comment.

5. Next Steps

Following the LPA's consideration and direction regarding the above, the public participation plan will be revised and returned to the LPA to use as a guide throughout the process. The provisions of item 4 will be revised as directed and provided to the Town Manager to be put into appropriate form for adoption as administrative procedure by the LPA and Town Council.

The to-be-designated LPA members interested in working on the outreach and workshop program will meet with Carol to outline the strategy and responsibilities for the initial steps and report to the LPA at their next meeting.