by Deanna Murphy, AICP
Director of Planning
Sizemore Group

The outbreak of COVID-19 across the United States has changed the way Georgians can interact with each other and conduct business. But in order for economic development and community planning to continue, it is important for municipal leaders and planners to find new ways of gathering communities and gaining public consensus for projects in development.

Since the spread of coronavirus in Georgia, the closure of non-essential public gatherings, as well as the implementation of social distancing, has made hosting in-person community meetings impossible. We must adapt to this new reality.

How do we reinvent traditional public gatherings and instead build consensus virtually for community projects?

Sizemore Group recently attended a webinar hosted by the Atlanta Regional Commission on remote community engagement. We learned there are several tools clients can use to gather the public input they need.

  • Live Stream Meetings: For public meetings that are traditionally hosted in person, such as city council and planning commission meetings, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Go To Meeting and Facebook Live are good options to host the meetings online.
  • Public Comments: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, GoToMeeting and Facebook Live allow you to collect public comments in the chat section. Make sure you have a moderator in place to field questions.
  • Call-In: We can provide a call-in option to encourage live questions and conversation from meeting attendees. This is a good option for those who don’t have internet or computer access.
  • YouTube Live: For clients or organizations that do not have public Facebook pages, YouTube Live is a great option for public meetings. This also provides public access for meeting attendees who do not have personal Facebook accounts.
  • Polling: If a client requires a public poll, allows us to run polls throughout meetings and provide real-time updates.
  • Interactive Maps: For charettes and public meetings asking for input on specific geography and location, Pinpoint is a tool that attendees can use to add comments to maps online.

Sizemore Group is already putting some of these tools into practice. For example, we are planning an upcoming virtual community engagement meeting for Airport City, now known as Six West.

Our team, in collaboration with the City of College Park and The Collaborative Firm, has released a project introduction video that is being shared far and wide, including on social media, email blasts, public television, and links shared in the utility bills. The video provides project background and how to get involved.

To gather initial input from the community, we have simultaneously released an online community survey. Following this initial project introduction will be a series of online interactive community sessions. Using Zoom and Facebook Live, we can reach residents and stakeholders from their home, allowing for vital community feedback to drive our design process.

Please check out our Six West District Plans introduction video and community survey link here: