How to Participate
Participating in the Land Use Process
The following are some general comments, based on experience, intended to show what to do and how to avoid the most common pitfalls when participating in a public land use process. These are aimed at Type 3 decisions (developments that go in front of the Planning Commission).
Start early by attending the Neighborhood Review Meeting
The applicant sends notice of Neighborhood Review Meetings to the NAC(s) and property owners within a 500-foot radius of the property. A red sign is posted on the property at least 20 days before the meeting. The city is not involved in this meeting.
Remember that any agreement you come to with the applicant is not binding unless it is included in the conditions of approval for the application. The applicant is responsible for turning in notes of the Neighborhood Review Meeting if and when they file an application. It is wise to take your own notes and check them against the notes submitted by the applicant. Should the notes vary in substance, you may want to send a copy of your notes to the project planner once the application is submitted. This ensures that you are a party of record to the application and that the decision making body will see a copy of your understanding of what was agreed upon at the meeting. As a matter of courtesy, you should also contact the applicant to discuss the differences and your concerns about the proposal.
Watch for Public Notices from City Hall
Review the application file early and often
Application files are public information and can be viewed by going to the Community Development Department. You can call the front desk to check if an application has been submitted. Reviewing the application materials will familiarize you with the applicant's proposal. It is not uncommon for changes to be made to an application and for additional information to be submitted throughout the review period, so you may want to check the project file periodically for updates.
Understand the approval criteria
The applicant has "the burden of proof” to meet the approval criteria for each application. The approval criteria are the standards the decision making authority uses to evaluate the proposal. The approval criteria for all land use applications are listed in the public notice and can be found in the Beaverton Development Code. When the project planner prepares the staff report, they will make findings that relate to each approval criterion.
Be polite, organized and conscientious when speaking with city staff
At some point you will likely need to request information regarding a land use application from City of Beaverton staff. Here are some tips:
- Write down questions ahead of time.
- Start with staff at the front desk of the Community Development Department for general land use questions.
- For in-depth details of an application, ask to talk to the planner listed on the public notice as they will be most familiar with the project.
Citizens frequently feel overwhelmed and/or angry when they suddenly discover, for example, that a large shopping center is going in adjacent to their backyards. They may feel that the process that led to the development is beyond their control or is too difficult to understand. It is important to be polite, organized, and conscientious when speaking with city staff. Venting frustration is not productive. If you have questions about a specific project, it helps to know how far along the project is in the approval process. This information should be available from the planner in charge of the project. Also, note that in spite of the efforts the City of Beaverton has made to make the land use process more accessible to the citizenry, some frustrations may result from the process itself rather than from individual personnel.
Consult with your NAC
The time before the public hearing can go by fast. By state law, local governments have 120 days to make a final decision on an application, including any appeal to the City Council. The no-day limitation must be met and only the applicant can extend the clock. You have to learn fast, formulate opinions and strategy, and keep up with any changes to the applicant's proposal. You may not be able to learn and understand everything you need from city staff alone. Start with your NAC chair and/or the BCCI Chair or find other experienced citizens. Contact the Neighborhood Program for the names of your NAC Chair or the BCCI Chair. There are always a handful of people who have been around land use processes for many years and can help.
Another advantage of working with your NAC is that they are the city's communication conduit to the public for neighborhood issues including land use. NACs can vote to testify in support or opposition of a land use application. Testimony made on behalf of the NAC should be based on the approval criteria and should be consistent with NAC meeting minutes.
Participate in Public Hearings
The people who serve on the Planning Commission are unpaid volunteers who live or work in the city and are willing to devote a lot of their time to the city. Council members are elected and receive a modest stipend for their service. Remember that they are all ordinary people – some your neighbors – with training to make these types of decisions. You may wish to testify as an individual in support or opposition of a land use application. You do not have to be the world's most eloquent speaker when giving testimony. The following points should assist you in providing effective public testimony:
- Know your facts. Make sure they are consistent with the most current information in the application file.
- Know the criteria, which will be used in making a decision on this issue. Speak with the planner in charge of the application to understand the specifics of the application.
- Even if you plan to provide oral testimony, send in written testimony in time to be included with the application package so that it can be read by the decision-makers before the hearing. This usually means getting testimony to the planner for the application AT LEAST 10 DAYS prior to the hearing. If this cannot be done, check with the planner to see if written testimony delivered within 10 days of the hearing can still be included in the hearing packet. If that is not possible, bring 10 copies of your written testimony to the hearing to be distributed to the hearing body that night. The hearing body may not have time to fully read the testimony; however, it will be part of the record and you can refer to it in oral testimony.
- Review the Staff Report for additional points that you need to address during your testimony. You have prepared testimony showing where you differ from the applicant's view that the relevant criteria are met. It is also VERY important to compare your arguments with those of the staff. The staff report is published one week before the hearing and may be reviewed at City Hall in its entirety or online on the city's website (online has city prepared text only – no application material, maps or other diagrams).
- If you object to one or more parts of the staff report, submit your concerns as soon as possible. Be prepared to testify on them since the decision-makers may not get them prior to the hearing date.
- Practice oral testimony to make sure you can present your message and stay within the time limit. Many people get nervous when testifying, but practice helps.
- If possible, attend a public hearing or view an archived hearing online. Understanding the process will help you prepare and give you confidence.
Citizens can arrange to receive application notices, meeting agendas, and minutes. Contact the Community Development Department or City Recorder for more information. You may also subscribe to the appropriate email list to receive the information via email.
It is not uncommon for NACs to organize testimony based on comments or concerns from a previous NAC meeting and reflected in the meeting minutes. It can be helpful to alert the project planner that the NAC wishes to testify. The NAC should designate one person to testify on behalf of the NAC prior to the public hearing. This person may be given additional time to testify as a formal representative of the NAC.
Fill out the yellow testimony card
In order to testify at the public hearing, a yellow card at the sign-in table must be filled out and given to the recorder who sits up front with the hearing body, to your left. After turning in the yellow card you may decide not to testify, but you will not be a party of record unless you've already submitted written testimony.
Be concise when providing testimony
Since a hearing on a controversial application may last several hours, conciseness in the presentation is helpful. A clearly presented argument that cites the approval criteria is most effective.
Use the application approval criteria
Keep in mind the limitations of what the hearing body can do. Decisions must be made on objective, relevant criteria. If an application meets the objective criteria, the application will likely be approved. It cannot be overstated how important it is to use the applicable criteria in your arguments.
Be polite, professional, and to-the-point
Remember that decisions are based on the approval criteria. Decision makers must balance different and sometimes conflicting interests.
Explore your options in case you want to appeal
If you wish to appeal a decision, there are certain requirements that must be met. The city allows each NAC to be reimbursed for one appeal per fiscal year to the Planning Commission or City Council (see NAC Appeal Reimbursement). The NAC must decide at a NAC meeting whether to appeal a decision. Appeals must be received within a small time window. Therefore, the NAC may need to vote to appeal a decision, should it be unfavorable, prior to the decision being made or hold a special meeting prior to the end of the appeal period.