Serena: How to improve the municipal planning process, community outreach

I am approaching the mid-point of serving my first term on Scottsdale’s Planning Commission.

This position has provided me a first-hand perspective on the growth of our city and the direction it’s headed.

Christian Serena

During my time on the commission, I have experienced plenty of things about the planning process that help make our city so great.

However, like any area of government, there are things I believe we can improve. One critical area is how we engage residents.

In short, the planning process needs to be more resident-friendly.

I have frequently requested that we formally discuss ways to increase citizen involvement. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, city staff and planning commissioners have been unable to reach consensus on how to expand the community outreach process.

There is much to be learned from the project being proposed at the Papago Plaza site in South Scottsdale.

The outreach into nearby neighborhoods for the project has been increased. The city has required the developer to hold more community meetings for residents to provide feedback on the proposed development. The radius around the project in which neighbors were notified about those meetings was expanded from 750 feet to 1,500 feet.

I have asked city staff to explore how the expanded outreach process for the Papago Plaza project can be incorporated into other projects throughout the city. I have also asked them to explore requiring a neighborhood outreach meeting between the Planning Commission’s decision on a project and the City Council’s final vote on it.

We will discuss these ideas at a Planning Commission study session on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. and will be held in the Kiva, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

I believe if we want to improve the planning process to benefit and include more residents, it is important for residents to attend meetings and share their ideas with the Planning Commission. I also encourage citizens to contact planning commissioners prior to the Feb. 27 meeting to offer their ideas about how to improve the overall process.

More resident input can make a difference.

Editor’s Note: Christian Serena was born and raised in Scottsdale and is serving his first term on the city’s planning commission.

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