Any Change Can Spark Questions
Each new development is an opportunity to enhance the neighborhoods where we work. Nevertheless, change of any kind can summon questions and uneasiness in community members. Bozzuto Development Company (BDC) works to alleviate those apprehensions by reaching out with community meetings. Community meetings give individuals and groups a chance to voice their misgivings and to gain a better understanding of the project.
Doris Gantos, Senior Vice President of BDC explains how community meetings are crucial because they allow us to be receptive to concerns and accommodating where possible. “Open lines of communication are imperative to the success of any project. It’s more than just going through the motions. It involves listening carefully to really uncover and understand any opposition. Often times, the real issues are masked and in order to effectively respond and eliminate any responses we have to dig.”
A Need for Reassurance
Recently, the members of a church congregation gathered to meet with BDC to discuss its latest project in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. Their worries were similar to those we hear from many communities. Regardless of the specific location, educational attainment, income levels or other demographic characteristics of a neighborhood, questions about open space, traffic congestion, density, impact on schools, building height and construction always dominate these discussions.
The people who live and work in these areas are looking for reassurance. They want to know that Bozzuto is looking out for them and that it will be adding value to their neighborhood. We take this seriously and want to address their questions with as much care and clarity as possible. That’s why, BDC shares images, ideas and facts from similar past projects to help community groups envision the aspects of a new project they may enjoy. We also typically engage third-party consultants to assist with some of the analysis and uncover the impact of our project on these areas. However, data doesn’t always alleviate concerns. Presenting an air tight traffic study may leave an audience skeptical rather than comforted. In these situations, we listen, document the concerns and our responses, and remain extremely transparent about what we’re required to do to mitigate our impacts. Fundamentally—we do what we say we’re going to do.
Listen, Respond, Follow Through
The most important piece of the process is listening and responding to their concerns. More often than not, there are numerous groups that BDC has to communicate with throughout the entitlement process to ensure the overall support of the community.
Gantos believes this can be a benefit, “I think the smaller the community meetings, even if you need many of them, are more productive. Community and civic associations often think they have more power in numbers. If the meeting is too large it becomes less effective for everyone.” A constructive meeting is only possible when both sides participate in courteous and respectful dialogue.
At the end of the day, honesty and integrity are our best tools. The best advice that Gantos can offer is to, “Over communicate, listen and try to be empathetic and responsive to the communities’ concerns.” We want the community to feel comfortable and excited about our work, we want them to benefit from and enjoy our projects, to help them do that we need to listen, respond and then follow through by staying true to our word.