Editor's note: The following opinion post was written by Gary Grefenberg. He is currently chairman of the Roseville Human Rights Commision and is co-leader of the Civic Engagement Task Force. He is also founder of a neighborhood group called Solidarity of West Area of Roseville Neighbors.
Roseville usually does a good job when it comes to long-range planning: witness the Imagine Roseville 2025, Comprehensive Plan update, and the Parks Master Planning effort.
Yet the city never seems to get many residents engaged in these planning projects beyond the usual suspects, yours truly included. And when controversy erupts and the consequences of this planning impact a Roseville neighborhood this lack of wide-spread citizen involvement often results in the feeling that it doesn’t matter what the residents think—a you can’t fight City Hall attitude at best or at worst Government is the problem.
This experience has happened too often to be completely dismissed simply because residents are too busy—or at worst too lazy--to get involved when the opportunities for involvement are good, at the beginning of the planning process. There may be other factors at work here.
I’d like to suggest one. Our community-wide planning, whether it is a new Comprehensive Plan or a Parks Master Plan, suffers from the fact that it is community wide.
City plans rarely focus on the local impacts except when a controversy over a pawn shop or asphalt plant occurs and a public hearing is required before government can make a final decision. Often by then it is too late since the ground rules are written and the land use policies are already enshrined in the Comp Plan and the regulations are codified in the zoning ordinance.
Local opponents, read Neighborhoods, then find themselves in the position of often vocally opposing such proposals for their neighborhoods, and the wider community sometimes reacts to this opposition by dismissing it as typical of Not-in-My-Backyard thinking, an easy epithet often attached to actors opposed to change by those lucky enough not to be effected by the change in question.
We can accept situations such as suggested above as human nature and just the way it always is, or we can try to improve it. I would suggest one problem in our community planning often is that we do not bring it down to the local.
Both the planning for our Comprehensive Plan and Parks Master Plan were not brought back to the local level, in Roseville that means its neighborhoods. The focus was exclusively on community-wide planning, thus setting the stage when controversy erupts for local residents feeling overlooked or ignored.
You can hold all the public hearings and community forums you want at city hall, but without bringing community plans down to their specific impact on local neighborhoods before they are official you will always get this reaction from many at the local level.
Over the last few years we saw this reaction from the extreme NW quadrant of Roseville in its response to the increased density of some of multi-family parcels, and from West Roseville residents when the Wal-Mart development was first announced to the public months after City Staff first became aware of it.
Roseville’s planning process will never be perfect. But it could be better if those planning our future at city hall would occasionally bring the potential consequences of their community planning back to the neighborhoods before it is finalized by the City Council.