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City officials want to give residents more notice about development hearings and other government meetings that affect neighborhoods. And theyre looking to modernize how they get the word out, possibly dropping newspaper ads.
Mondays city council discussion came as leaders finalize a major revision to the citys development code, known as the UDO. Under the new rules, the citys planning department will notify neighbors when it reviews site plans for buildings larger than 25,000 square feet or within 100 feet of a residential area.
The council agreed to the extra notice, but theres less consensus on whats the most effective way to get the word out. An analysis of numerous notification methods showed that newspaper legal ads dont work as well as other options but theyre required by law.
Its probably the most costly notification we provide, and its not very effective, because not very many people read the legal notices in the newspaper, senior planner Travis Crane said.
Councilman Randy Stagner suggested the city ask state legislators to exempt Raleigh from the legal ad requirement, not that we dont love newspapers, he said.
The Johnston County town of Clayton made a similar request in 2011, aiming to move notices to its website, but the towns state senator refused, saying the print ads were important to residents who didnt have Internet access.
Raleigh already puts all of its notices online, but city planners say that gets less attention because residents have to seek out the information. Theyre looking to add advanced software to help residents sign up for targeted electronic notices. Durham already has the technology, Crane said.
Direct mail notices are considered most effective and are required by law for some types of hearings but some council members worry they can go unopened.
People are not going to read mail from the city, Councilwoman Mary Ann Baldwin said. Have we ever thought of doing postcards? That way they realize theyre not getting a bad notification.
Much like ditching newspaper ads, using postcards would likely require an exemption from the state legislature another cost-cutting measure Raleigh leaders want to pursue.
While most notices target a specific street, some council members want to offer citywide information on changes to Raleighs comprehensive plan, which affects all future developments. Those fliers can go out in water bills, though city staff cautioned against upsetting lots of people before a public hearing.
I dont buy into the notion that you had a bunch of upset people coming in here because they were notified, Councilman Thomas Crowder said. I would be more upset at not getting notification than having the opportunity to come in here and get educated.