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Tips for Public Speaking & Letter Writing

Submit a Letter to a Newspaper

If you would like to create dialogue or raise public awareness about a particular land use issue or topic, submitting your public comments or a letter to the editor can be useful. Below are the e-mail contacts for our regional newspapers:

Giving Verbal Public Testimony

We believe in the 5 Golden Rules of verbal testimony:

  1. Be courteous. Address your comments to the commission or board, not the public. You are most persuasive when you are polite and professional.
  2. Be brief. Bring notes and practice in advance.
  3. Focus on primary issues. Speak slowly and clearly and stay focused on 2 or 3 well thought out arguments.
  4. Supply meaningful facts. The more carefully you prepare, the more effective your testimony will be: study the application and back up your opinion with facts, purely emotional arguments won’t carry much weight.
  5. Address the criteria. The most effective testimony is that which addresses the criteria that the decision makers must apply in order to make a legal decision.  You’ll be more convincing if you are familiar with the comprehensive plan and ordinances since those documents govern local decision-making.

Examples of Public Testimony

The chairman of the governing body will open the public hearing phase of the meeting. He or she will ask for opinions in support of the application, opinions that are neutral to the application and opinions that are opposed to the application.

(Supportive)

Member of the Public: Thank you Madam Chairman and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. My name is_______. I wish to take this opportunity to express my support of the conditional use permit application by Smokin’Fast, LLC for a Nascar training center in the Super Quiet Neighborhood. As a neighbor, I think it would be a positive addition to our neighborhood. I also feel that a Nascar training center would be an asset to our community as a whole. The center will bring tourists to the area who will spend money in our towns and add resources to our local tax base. The center can also provide a recreational outlet for our local youth. Finally, I believe a Nascar training center fits in with the goals and objectives in our comprehensive plan as it addresses economic and recreational goals.

(Opposed)

Member of the Public: Thank you Madam Chairman and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. My name is _________. I wish to take this opportunity to express my opposition to the application by Smokin’Fast, LLC for a conditional use permit to operate a Nascar training center in the Super Quiet Neighborhood. As a resident of the Super Quiet neighborhood I would like to share with you one of the main qualities of the neighborhood. It is, as its name states, quiet. In fact, many of the residents purchased their homes with the expectation that it would maintain its peaceful quality. A Nascar training center would undermine the peaceful quality and change the character of our neighborhood. Furthermore, a Nascar training center in the Super Quiet neighborhood is not in accordance with the goals and objective of the comprehensive plan, which state that there should be distinct areas in the community that define particular uses such as residential, industrial and commercial uses.

Written Comment

Often, people are unable to attend hearings because of time conflicts or may not be comfortable with public speaking, in which case submission of written testimony is encouraged. The commission or governing board often establishes deadlines for submission of written testimony so that the testimony can be read before the public hearing. For more information on where to send your comment letters go to Contact Local Decision Makers. For more information on the decision making process and how to effectively get involved see VARD’s Citizen Advocacy Handbook. You can also sign up for our email updates to receive notice of important issues and decisions and how you can help make a difference.  For issues before Teton County, written comment must be received seven days before the scheduled public hearing.

In Victor, both the P&Z commission and the City Council require that written testimony for a public hearings must be received one week before the meeting is scheduled.

In Driggs, written testimony for public hearings for the P&Z commission must be submitted by 5pm the Thursday before the meeting; basically, seven days before the P&Z meeting. The city council requires that written comment be received by 5pm on the Wednesday before the city council meeting. Again, basically seven days before the meeting. Written comment should include the positive or negative impacts of the proposal, your information on the characteristics of the site or neighborhood and, if possible, how your views are reinforced by the comprehensive plan or ordinances.