Tips for Making an Effective Public Comment

The best public comments are prepared, thoughtful and clear. A well-written public comment carries much more weight with staff and the Hearing Examiner than a poorly constructed one and the City wants your voice to be heard. Here are some tips on how to craft your public comment:

Preparation

Read the application, staff report and other background materials. All the reverent materials should be found in the agenda for the meeting (see above for links to the Planning Commission, City Council or Hearing Examiner agendas).

Check the public notice for the comment deadline and/or hearing date.  Know the decision-making criteria – these are the applicable standards and criteria that the hearing body must use when they make a decision. The decision-making criteria are outlined in the public notice and staff report. If you get confused or have questions, talk to the planner reviewing the application.

Writing Your Comment

Brainstorm a list of the points you wish to make. If you represent a group, ask other people for ideas and add their points to the list. Here’s things you should include:

  • Your name, address and phone number and/or email.
  • Your interest in the case and who you represent. If you are speaking for yourself, say that.
  • What you want/don’t want the hearing body to do (one or two sentences if you can).
  • Cite specific, measurable impacts.
  • Try to avoid hearsay or prophetic (“chicken little”) statements.
  • Provide evidence for why the hearing body should make a particular decision, and if possible relate the evidence directly to the decision-making criteria.

The most effective letters are short and to the point. For instance, “My name is Jane Smith, I live at 123 Main Street, and I live adjacent to the proposed development. I’m in favor/opposed to this development because of  . . .  x . . .y . . . z  . . . which will cause the following impacts . . . and that’s why I urge the council/commission/hearing examiner to approve/deny this project.”

Submitting the Comment

You can submit a letter by mail, email, or drop it off at City Hall. Check the public notice for the correct contact information. Letters can also be submitted at a public hearing. You can also speak in person at any public hearing provided your comments are under three minutes in length.

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