Every zoning case initiates the sending of ballots to every property owner within 500 feet of the proposal. The list of property owners is supplied by the city, which use the list to mail ballots. Since the documents in a zoning case are public record, developers and their representatives often secure the list to educate and influence as well as to secure feedback on their project.
It’s a delicate dance where opposition might be turned into support for a project. As I wrote previously, response rates for these ballots are famously low. There are times when the zoning request is so tiny, it would only matter to the city – in which case there’s barely a return. In more controversial cases where opposition is high and well-organized, the returns are much higher.
All this balloting matters for several reasons. Obviously, the City Plan Commission and City Council want to know what the immediate neighbors, who will be impacted most, think. They also want to understand the basis for their opposition and whether there are common, valid themes. If a vast majority of respondents hate one thing, and it’s a changeable and bad thing, the city can use their powers to make it work.