Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

C Shopper Columns



CIVIC ENGAGEMENT THROUGH CITY PLANNING




When looking for ways to get involved in your local government, there are few departments more important to follow and engage with than the Chesapeake Planning Department. The Planning Department works with citizens and community leaders to build a consensus on how the city should grow, both in the short and long term. This is accomplished by coordinating a variety of planning functions that range from creating a 20-year vision for the future of Chesapeake to reviewing all new development proposals to ensure they reflect this vision. The Planning Department is a valuable force for city leaders to achieve sustainable development. Planning is a means to bring about a difference and helps make the most out of the city's budgets by formulating infrastructure investments and balancing demands for growth with the need to protect the environment. When making decisions about how a community's growth should be guided, planners try to anticipate that community's needs. Still, no image of a city's future can be complete without feedback from its citizens.





You can attend public meetings on a variety of city planning functions. In a world without COVID, you normally could attend City Council meetings in person. With COVID meeting restrictions in place, the city has provided new ways to engage with your local government right from home. You can present your comments by emailing council@cityofchesapeake.net or calling the City Clerk's Office at 757-382-6151 up until 4:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Include your name, the agenda item you wish to address, and your comments. All emails received will be provided to City Council. Another option is to call 757-520-1250 between 5:45 and 6:30 p.m. to participate by phone. At the appropriate time, the caller will address Council during the meeting. Meeting times and agendas can be found online on the city's Facebook page (City of Chesapeake Government) and Instagram page (cityofchesapeakeva). The city's website can be found simply by searching for Chesapeake City Planning in your web browser. This website is by far the most informative source of information, including proposed developments, contact information for planning commission members and their department, the city's calendar,  Chesapeake's Comprehensive Plan 2035, and much more.

I had the opportunity to sit down with City Council Member Debbie Ritter to discuss civic engagement and how best to reach local officials. A Chesapeake City Council member for over 20 years, Debbie was a wealth of information. When asked how people can best connect with their local government, she recommended reaching out to local officials through email and by telephone. During our discussion, Debbie expressed how much she wants to hear from Chesapeake citizens about how to bridge the communication gap between city officials and citizens. Civic engagement is key for community development to reflect the will of the people. Keeping up on the Planning Department's current events and the City Council Meetings is the best way to stay informed and provide meaningful feedback to your local officials.