A quick and welcoming approval for a 90,000-acre development near Salt Lake City may very well become the benchmark for community outreach for the next century.

Kennecott Land's extraordinary effectiveness in involving citizens, planning commissioners from adjacent jurisdictions, and community leaders is the result of its compelling communications campaign for its West Bench project.

“Our approach to planning has always been involving community often and early,” says Jim Schulte, vice president of long-range planning for Kennecott Land in Murray, Utah.

His simple explanation for why the West Bench project may be the new standard for community outreach: “It's easier to get it right when you think about it first than to fix it when it's gone wrong.”

Schulte explains further, “If the only thing a municipality has to respond to is 12 neighbors on the bordering land of the project then that's what the municipality will respond to. You have to broaden the people who will have a say in the development.”

COMMUNITY COLLABORATION: Kennecott Land worked closely with citizens, planning commissioners from adjacent jurisdictions, and community leaders in developing its West Bench project in Salt Lake City. Many builders and developers are turning to development consultants–experts with backgrounds in law, land planning, or development–who instruct their clients on creating effective communication campaigns. These campaigns yield several advantages before a project even goes to public hearings, plus they give self-appointed community leaders, project proponents, and potential opponents a better feeling. In the end, campaigns prevent time delays and keep project plans intact.

By using a holistic communications campaign from the very beginning of a project–starting well before the project plans are unveiled–builders and developers are armed with a stopgap measure needed to thwart costly concessions and numerous other hassles that delay projects.

Once a project idea is formed, builders and developers must consider the ramifications and anticipate potential headaches. They then can proceed and perhaps prevent a not uncommon reactive public relations campaign by taking a more proactive approach; the communications strategy must continue throughout the life of the project.

In the end, they witness how those who once said “not in my backyard” change into those who recognize the development's benefit to the community. They're also seeing that this process gives municipalities more room to vote the way they want, rather than voting by way of the loudest community members.

After implementing the process just once, builders and developers have seen the successes gleaned from it, noticed their win-win-win situations, and continued to implement the process to later projects, resulting again in well-received developments.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Salt Lake City, UT.