Why the NPP Is Good For Business
Not surprisingly, many business owners’ first reaction to the NPP is negative. It sounds time-consuming, and in most projects, time equals money.
In fact, investing time and resources in the NPP process, in the beginning stages of a project, can often save time at the end of the project – when that time is considerably more expensive.
The history of friction between businesses and neighborhoods in New Orleans is an unfortunate reality. One stated purpose of the NPP is to “improve communications between the development community, citizens and city government.” The idea is that having a dialogue between developers and residents will resolve issues, engender trust, and ultimately build support for good projects.
On the other hand, when people feel left out of the process, they have a strong tendency to react negatively. There have been far too many scenarios where business owners and developers seeking final approval for the projects, at either the Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Adjustments or City Council, have faced strong, last-minute public opposition. This frequently causes delays in the decision-making; mandates for substantial modifications; and sometimes outright rejection of the project.
Sometimes the community’s objections may be warranted, and sometimes there are simply no solutions. Many times, however, these objections are problems that could have been resolved through earlier and better communication.
The NPP provides this opportunity.
When applicants view the NPP meeting as an opportunity to really inform the community about the plans for their project, to listen respectfully and carefully to community comments, and to make a legitimate effort to address as many reasonable concerns as possible, it can transform the community’s attitude towards the project and the applicant.
We have seen situations where business owners met with very high levels of opposition when they first proposed their project. However, by taking the time to really work with neighbors, these same businesses had high levels of support when the final CPC and City Council hearings on the project were conducted. The same neighbors who initially opposed the project spoke in favor of it at these hearings.
Moreover, in virtually every one of these cases, both sides made some concessions. The resulting compromises were not a matter of the business owner or developer simply caving into to neighborhood demands. Rather, it was a matter of the neighbors really understanding the proposed project and the applicant really understanding the neighbors' concerns, and addressing them in a way that still enabled the project to be successful. We find in most cases that when neighbors have access to accurate information about a project, they gain a better understanding of the project's impacts on their area. And once the neighbors see that the business owner or developer is willing to work with them for solutions and make some changes, they are also willing to make compromises.
This is not to say that every single resident becomes a supporter. And in some cases, the vision of the developer for his/her project and the vision of the residents for their neighborhood is simply too different to find enough common ground. Then it falls to city decision-makers to render final judgment.
In the great majority of situations, though, those applicants who really honor the NPP process, and use it in good faith to work with their neighbors, find that they then continue through the application and approval process with significant support from their community. And when the project is complete and the business is open, it has been accomplished with the goodwill of its nearest customer base.