In an earlier post, I alluded to the fact that I am participating in the Urban Policy Leaders Fellowship in Memphis, TN this summer. The program, designed by Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston, is in its second year with 22 fellows in Denver, CO and 8 of us in Memphis.
The Policy Leaders Summer Fellowship is a paid Fellowship that brings the best and brightest to Denver, Colorado, or Memphis, Tennessee, for an intensive, six-week experience. We strongly believe that empowering underserved communities requires feet planted in policy and practice. To that end, Fellows work on high-level policy projects with Senator Mike Johnston or Memphis Councilman Lee Harris and on the ground alongside partner organizations in Denver and Memphis
My organization for the summer is Stand For Children, an education advocacy organization, and our Memphis team is working on a number of projects for Councilman Harris. Below is the press release highlighting one of my projects, amending the Memphis City and Shelby County Unified Development Code to give communities greater voice in city development decisions.
Council Members Harris and Halbert Propose Neighborhood Empowerment Amendments to the Unified Development Code
On Tuesday, July 17, Council members Lee Harris and Wanda Halbert will propose four amendments to the Uniform Development Code to allow community members to take a more active role in neighborhood development. If approved, the amendments will (1) require developments to host a neighborhood meetings prior to development; (2) strengthen the requirement that developers notify all residents about significant changes to their community, (3) offer residents an opportunity to weigh in on these changes at the required neighborhood meetings; and (4) allow neighborhood associations to provide written Community Impact Statements to city and county decision-makers.
About the changes, Councilman Harris said, “It is important that community members have the opportunity to learn about changes coming to their neighborhood. It is also important that neighborhood folks are given a chance to have their voices heard. With the introduction of Community Impact Statements, neighborhood leaders now have direct line to the City Council to ensure that future developments are consistent with the values of the community leaders and neighbors impacted by those developments.” Councilwoman Halbert added, “Together, these four amendments make sure that the opinion of the community helps shape the development process. The neighborhood meetings and Community Impact Statements are the tools community members can use to take an active role.”
The four amendments are explained in detail below:
1. The first amendment requires developers to host and/or attend a neighborhood meeting before city officials can begin to act on a developer’s plan.
2. For neighborhood meeting notification, developers will be required to notify all nearby residents, property owners and tenants, unless the addresses are unobtainable. Previously, developers were only required to notify property owners. Additionally, early on in the process, developers must also notify the elected city or county official who represents the district in which the development is planned.
3. The third amendment requires the developer to reserve at least 15 minutes of any neighborhood meeting for community members, businesses and/or neighborhood associations who wish to present regarding the development.
4. The fourth amendment provides the opportunity for neighborhood and business associations to submit a Community Impact Statement (CIS) of up to 500 words with opinions on how the development would impact the local community and any recommendations they might have. The CIS will be presented to the City Council when they consider approving the development.
These four “Neighborhood Empowerment Amendments” will be voted on by the Landing and Zoning committee at 1:00 pm on Tuesday and, later the same day, by the full council at 3:30 pm. A copy of the Proposed Amendments to the Uniform Development Code is attached.