Making Virtual Public Meetings a Reality in New Hampshire

by Adam Wagner, Founder & Partner, Market Square Architects

Let’s make virtual planning, zoning, board and other public hearings our new reality in NH.

I woke up this morning wondering what the day would have in store for us. Would another day working from my kitchen counter mean more closures, a big up or down day for the stock market, continued elective isolations, or perhaps even government-mandated ones? I quickly checked my LinkedIn feed to connect with all of the colleagues that I wouldn’t be seeing in person and found something very inspiring. Our friends over at Allen and Major Engineers were sharing the news that they had successfully received approval on their second project of the week, both by way of virtual public meetings in Boston and Methuen, MA. This may not seem as earthshattering to everyone as it did to me. After all, the concept of “virtual work” isn’t new. Universities have been conducting online college classes for years, and now our public schools are testing this same model with their students. Heck, my wife has worked as an online facilitator of business leadership development programs globally for almost a decade. None of this is new. But the idea of conducting virtual public hearings is.

Simply put, we already have the technology, and now is the time to leverage it. Through the use of platforms like Zoom, presentations can be offered where board members, city staff, design professionals and the public can all participate. We do not need to stop the process just because we can’t be in the same room. If we do, this could end up as devastating to the design and construction industries as the 2008 housing crisis was. This time around, we can do something to fix it, and we should.

The idea of virtual public meetings is critical right now. Approvals are the pipeline of future work for both the design community and also the construction industry. No approvals now, means no design work next month and no construction later this Spring, which is typically one of our busiest seasons for new project starts here in New England. We can do this in a way that keeps all of us safe and healthy while still keeping the wheels of progress turning. Let’s let the buzz phrase of “social distancing” be overtaken by a more powerful one, “remotely connecting”.
We have started a petition on Change.org encouraging Governor Chris Sununu to provide support and guidance to cities and towns across New Hampshire to have virtual public meetings. We encourage you to join us in signing it here. http://chng.it/QQCpfNRn

#InThisTogether

About the Author

Adam L. Wagner AIA, LEED BD+C is a Founder and Partner of Market Square Architects (MSA) in Portsmouth, NH.  MSA has been very active in the housing sector having designed several thousand housing units over the last five years.  Adam also serves on the Board of Southeast NH Habitat for Humanity and just recently transitioned from a three-year term as Board President.  He is a resident of Dover, NH.

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