JFS Engineering
Land Development and Water Resources Engineering
Bridging the Knowledge Gap
Categories: Design Vignettes
Cards Against Urbanity

Cards Against Urbanity

We’ve written and spoken extensively about the enormous knowledge gap in land development (LD). The stars have aligned in today’s world where the few people who dedicate the time to really learn how LD happens usually end up working in the field. There are some notable exceptions, but for the most part, public comment at Planning and ZBA hearings end up being a little wild. Go to enough hearings and you’ll hear: “we are the abutters and we demand a shrubbery!” and “more kids, more taxes, more traffic, boo!” as seasoned professionals are pelted with popcorn.

Some of our favorite quotes from over the years include:

“I’ve been driving a pickup truck for 45 years, and …” in comment to a complex traffic study involving a dozen signalized intersections and upwards of 20,000 vehicles per hour.

“I am driving my car slowly today to protest the new box store. We read about this the day after the hearing. How can this be approved in one hearing?” In response to an excessively noticed second phase development.

“I don’t need this discount clothing box store.” Says the man wearing tattered jeans and a hoodie a full decade before that was fashionable.

As a group, the public has difficulty gleaning many facts about the hearing process by watching it once while angry about a development. Most people are hard-wired to fear change, it’s a survival tool. So they are in a situation where they are a stakeholder with little to no expertise, potentially opposed to a developer with relatively infinite resources, where impact perception can be greatly magnified. I’d be angry too, and admit the situation is not optimal.

So how do we as professionals work to correct this situation? We could make people start to read, but that has limited effect. We heard about a new card game developed by a group of planners and architects, and we think they are on the right track.

We’d like to take this space to provide our support for a Kickstarter Project we would recommend to both professionals and the general public. Cards Against Urbanity, a riff on another recent card game, is being funded through a Kickstarter as a limited edition.

With the proper support, this could be an important tool for public planners, architects, developers, and other land development professionals looking for ways to engage with the public and teach planning principles. This might also be a great tool for teaching planning in schools. It’s a great idea, and we encourage you to take a look at it. We’re picking up a set for ourselves. Maybe one day we can use it at a stakeholder meeting as an icebreaker.

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