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Public Meetings and Hearings

Public Meetings and Hearings offer a structured opportunity for the project management team to share project information, to hear concerns and comments, and to engage in conversation with stakeholders and the public. Depending on the circumstances surrounding a project, the project management team will determine a format that is best suited to advancing project goals and objectives, as well as which format will encourage and provide the best opportunities for stakeholders and the public to participate.  Public Meetings are typically held at the beginning of the NEPA process, while Public Hearings are held at the end of the NEPA process.

Public Meetings are typically held for large and complex projects that may have multiple impacts that will potentially affect a wide audience. This format can assist in managing and reducing opposition, controversy, and misinformation. Additionally, public meetings are be conducted throughout different intervals of the project development process as part of the decision-making process.

Public Hearings are much more formal than public meetings and are required for projects requiring an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) level environmental document. These are the most complex projects.  The Public Hearing is the official point in the NEPA process where decisions made for the project are shared with stakeholders and the public, whose comments concerning the project will become part of the public record. Much of what is shared during the Public Hearing has been developed with stakeholder and public input during early phases of the project development process. A Public Hearing Summary with an official transcript of all proceedings including presentations, testimony received, handouts, materials, exhibits, and displays is required for Public Hearings.

Below are materials to help guide you as you plan for Public Meetings and Hearings. Public Notification Templates can also be found in this PI Toolbox.

Agenda

Public Meeting Agenda Template:

Template (.docx)

Comment Forms and Response Summary

For comment form templates and other information on public comment collection, visit the Public Comments section of this Toolbox:

Public Comments Templates

Exhibits

Depending on the circumstances surrounding a project, the Project Management Team will determine a format that is best suited to advancing project goals and objectives, as well as which format will encourage and provide the best opportunities for stakeholders and the public to participate. All materials should be project relevant and presented in a manner that is easy for the public to understand.  A few tips for a good exhibit include: 

  • Size can be viewed easily 
  • High resolution 
  • Labels are large enough to read 
  • Use graphics to communicate the message 
  • Include key using colors or symbols 
  • Keep layers relevant to the public (or turn off) 
  • Use contrasting colors 
  • Use tables and bullet points to highlight information 
  • Materials should be easy to comprehend and reader friendly 
    • 6th grade level 
  • Use simple language, no acronyms or technical jargon

Displays or exhibits should be placed at several stations around the room and should focus on the various aspects of the project that are pertinent to share with the public.  

For example, at a public meeting designed to obtain input on a safety study, copies of the safety study should be made available at several stations.  Other stations may highlight major design features, or impacts to right-of-way, property or environmental resources.  Examples of room layouts are provided in the Public Involvement Toolbox. 

Other suggested displays include: 

  • Project purpose and need/project history 
  • Project timeline and decision-making process which shows next steps 
  • Alternatives being considered with construction limits and impacts clearly identified 
  • Impacts matrix 
  • Existing conditions/future conditions (before and after pictures, artist renderings, etc.) 
  • Maintenance of Traffic (with detours/closures clearly identified) 
  • Environmental (if applicable) 
  • Right-of-Way/Real-Estate (if applicable) 
  • Noise 

Road Configuration:

Example

 

Proposed Improvements:

Example 1  Example 2

Crash Summary:

Example 1  Example 2

 

Environmental:

Example 1  Example 2

Roundabout:

Example

Facility Checklist

Checklist (.docx)

Fact Sheets and FAQ Sheets

Fact Sheet Template:

Word (.docx)  InDesign (.indd)

Frequently Asked Questions Template:

Template (.docx)


Fact sheets and Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) sheets are useful as handouts for stakeholder and public meetings, as a mailing insert, and can be sent to media outlets. A fact sheet is generally written in a bulleted format and can be used as talking points. Providing frequently asked question sheets with answers included can also help to ensure members of the Project Management Team are on the same page, especially when responding to stakeholder and public inquires. 

Please refer to Public Involvement Material Guidelines when copywriting or designing material for public involvement.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are a powerful means to evaluate services or test new ideas. Basically, focus groups are interviews of 6-10 people at the same time. One can get a great deal of information during a focus group session.

Preparing for the Session

  1. Identify the major objective of the meeting.
  2. Carefully develop five to six questions (see below).
  3. Plan your session (see below).
  4. Invite potential members to the meeting. Include a proposed agenda, session time and list of questions the group will discuss. Plan to provide a copy of the report from the session to each member and let them know you will do this.
  5. About three days before the session, contact each member to remind them to attend.

Developing Questions

  1. Develop five to six questions - Session should last one to 1.5 hours -- in this time, one can ask at most five or six questions. 
  2. Always first ask yourself what problem or need will be addressed by the information gathered during the session, e.g., examine if a new service or idea will work, further understand how a program is failing, etc. 
  3. Focus groups are basically multiple interviews. Therefore, many of the same guidelines for conducting focus groups are similar to conducting interviews.

Planning the Session 

  1. Scheduling - Plan meetings to be one to 1.5 hours long. Over lunch seems to be a very good time for other to find time to attend.
  2. Setting and Refreshments - Hold sessions in a conference room, or other setting with adequate air flow and lighting. Configure chairs so that all members can see each other. Provide name tags for members, as well. Provide refreshments, especially box lunches if the session is held over lunch. 
  3. Ground Rules - It's critical that all members participate as much as possible, yet the session move along while generating useful information. Because the session is often a one-time occurrence, it's useful to have a few, short ground rules that sustain participation, yet do so with focus. Consider the following three ground rules: a) keep focused, b) maintain momentum and c) get closure on questions.
  4. Agenda - Consider the following agenda: welcome, review of agenda, review of goal of the meeting, review of ground rules, introductions, questions and answers, wrap up.
  5. Membership - Focus groups are usually conducted with 6-10 members who have some similar nature, e.g., similar age group, status in a program, etc. Select members who are likely to be participative and reflective. Attempt to select members who don't know each other.
  6. Plan to record the session with either an audio or audio-video recorder. Don't count on your memory. If this isn't practical, involve a co-facilitator who is there to take notes.

Facilitating the Session

  1. Major goal of facilitation is collecting useful information to meet goal of meeting.
  2. Introduce yourself and the co-facilitator, if used.
  3. Explain the means to record the session.
  4. Carry out the agenda - (See "agenda" above). 
  5. Carefully word each question before that question is addressed by the group. Allow the group a few minutes for each member to carefully record their answers. Then, facilitate discussion around the answers to each question, one at a time.
  6. After each question is answered, carefully reflect back a summary of what you heard (the note taker may do this).
  7. Ensure even participation. If one or two people are dominating the meeting, then call on others. Consider using a round- table approach, including going in one direction around the table, giving each person a minute to answer the question. If the domination persists, note it to the group and ask for ideas about how the participation can be increased. 
  8. Closing the session - Tell members that they will receive a copy of the report generated from their answers, thank them for coming, and adjourn the meeting.

Immediately After Session

  1. Verify if the tape recorder, if used, worked throughout the session.
  2. Make any notes on your written notes, e.g., to clarify any scratching, ensure pages are numbered, fill out any notes that don't make senses, eta.
  3. Write down any observations made during the session. For example, where did the session occur and when, what was the nature of participation in the group? Were there any surprises during the session? Did the tape recorder break?

Handouts

Handouts should be provided to attendees upon arrival.  Typically, they are made available at the sign-in/registration table.  To ensure there will be enough copies for attendees you may need to establish a plan for printing additional copies if attendance turns out to be higher than anticipated.  All materials should be project relevant and presented in a manner that is easy for the public to understand. Please refer to Public Involvement Material Guidelines when copywriting or designing material for public involvement.

Handouts should provide the following basic project information:

  • Meeting agenda
  • Purpose of meeting
  • Project map with construction limits and impacts clearly identified
  • Project description
  • Project purpose and need
  • Alternatives being considered and design considerations 
  • Potential impacts to community or environmental resources
  • Pending, current, or completed studies and investigations
  • Pending, current or completed coordination
  • Project funding
  • Project schedule 
  • History of project
  • Where we are now
  • Next steps in decision-making process
  • Who is involved
  • Identify decision-makers (project sponsor, lead agency)
  • Identify the role the public plays
  • Who makes recommendations and/or is consulted prior to a decision being made
  • Decision points
  • Criteria or factors used to finalize decisions
  • How public input will affect outcome
  • How recommendations and comments will be transmitted to decision-makers, stakeholders, and the public
  • How to get involved and participate
  • Project sponsor contact information

Media Coverage

Adequate media coverage can be helpful, and in many cases is essential to making the public aware of a project and achieving public support and acceptance. Receiving positive media exposure oftentimes requires the knowledge and expertise of a Public Information Officer (PIO) to tailor messages that are factual and meet newsworthiness criteria, and to handle media requests in general. Media coverage following a public meeting or public hearing can be an essential tool to disseminate project information and issues presented at the event. This can be accomplished through a press release, a news article, an interview conducted with media outlets (e.g. television news or radio reporter), or a combination of all three. 

News accounts of public meetings or public hearings have a greater potential of informing a broad segment of the local and regional community. A greater majority of people are likely to read about or listen to the results of a public meeting or public hearing than they are to attend those events. A news account covering the critical details of a project or event can ensure there are additional opportunities for the public to be informed and become involved.

Based on the magnitude of PI activities needed for Path 4 and Path 5 projects, it is recommended that the Project Management Team, with assistance from the PIO, get to know the journalists and reporters covering a project. For these types of projects, establishing a working relationship with journalists and reporters is important. Prior to a public meeting, public hearing, or other PI activities, the PIO shares information with all media outlets. 

Depending on the community and level of controversy that may exist, media outlets may be interested in presenting a behind-the-scenes look at how and why the project has been developed and what challenges the Project Management Team is dealing with.  Time is a precious commodity in the media industry and discussing items with no news value will be wasteful and will not advance PI goals and objectives. Chances of getting positive coverage will be enhanced if the message is simple to report and easy to understand. Projects that are designed with economic development, job creation and increased safety, will typically garner media interest. Here are some strategies for talking with the media:

  • Return phone calls promptly.  Avoidance is not a good strategy.
  • Be honest.
  • Do not say anything you would not want to read in print.  Assume that anything you say is on the record, unless there is an agreement that specifies remarks are “off the record.” And even then, don’t expect the reporter to get that right.
  • Answer the questions you are asked clearly and concisely.  You do not have to volunteer information unless you wish to provide more clarification.
  • Seek opportunities to reiterate your project’s core messages.
  • If you do not fully understand the question, ask for clarification.  It’s okay to say you cannot comment.
  • Do not be drawn into commenting on hypothetical or poorly constructed questions.
  • You do not have to fill silences in the conversation.  Wait for the next question.
  • It is okay to refer them to someone else within the Department with more expertise or seniority or to let them know you will get back to them with the name of someone else to contact (or have that person call the reporter).
  • If you do not know the answer to a question it is always best to say so.  But, tell the reporter you will find out and get back to them when you do.
  • Be accessible.  Ask about their deadline for story completion and help them make that deadline.
  • Compliment a story well done.  It is also okay to call attention to incorrect facts if you do so tactfully.
  • Treat legitimate bloggers in a similar way as a traditional media reporter.
  • If you are unsure of the legitimacy of an outlet, check with the Public Information Officer or the Office of Communications before commenting.

Media Kit

The Project Management Team should coordinate with the Public Information Officer (PIO) to create a Media Kit (if applicable) that will provide key information throughout the life of a project.

A Media Kit typically consists of the following project information:

  • Purpose and Need summary
  • Decision-making process outline
  • Summaries of technical studies completed 
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Notification materials/handouts
  • Locational mapping depicting project area and potential impacts
  • Project Manager’s Business Card

It is a best practice to invite media outlets to arrive at the public meeting or hearing at least 30 minutes prior to the start time. This allows time to ensure they are provided a media kit and gives the project manager the ability to answer questions. It also allows the media to obtain footage of the exhibits prior to the start of the meeting when the view may be obstructed by the public.

It is also a best practice to include a link to a video soundbite from the Project Manager or Public Information Officer sharing project information for recipients that won’t have the opportunity to shoot video soundbites at the meeting. It would give them something to use in a story.

NEPA Assignment Poster and Brochure

NEPA Assignment Material:

Brochure (.pdf)  Poster (.pdf)


In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 327 between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), an administration in the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), executed December 11, 2015 and amended June 6, 2018, ODOT must disclose to the public and agencies, as part of agency outreach and public involvement procedures the following statement:

“The environmental review, consultation, and other actions required by applicable Federal environmental laws for this project are being, or have been, carried-out by ODOT pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 327 and a Memorandum of Understanding dated June 6, 2018, and executed by FHWA and ODOT.”

In accordance with Section 3.1.3 of the above referenced MOU, Districts or the project sponsor are required to distribute information explaining NEPA Assignment to the public on projects assigned under the MOU. The Office of Environmental Services has developed brochures and poster boards to be used for this purpose.  Either the brochures or the poster boards (available for download by clicking the yellow brochure and poster buttons above) shall be used at public meetings, per the ODOT NEPA Assignment Language Guidance. 

For more information on NEPA, refer to the ODOT & NEPA.

Open Microphone Guidelines

Open Microphone Guidelines - Printable Version (.pdf)

How and When to Incorporate Open Microphone

  • Projects with a D3 CE, EA, or EIS level environmental document require the opportunity to speak via open microphone
  • D2 CE projects can either have a traditional open house or open house with an opportunity to speak via open microphone
  • D1 CE projects can have a traditional open house or less with an opportunity to speak via open microphone
    • As needed based on a project’s type and complexity
  • Not necessarily a Question & Answer Session, but can be if preferred by the district
  • Integrate open microphone and other PI standards into District Business Plan
  • Incorporate clear and concise rules (see below)

Open Microphone Period

  • Can begin with a presentation and Q&A and then lead into the open microphone portion
  • Depending on the nature of the project, existing controversy, and attendees anticipated, the open microphone period may require time restrictions
    • Depending on the number of speakers, enforcing time restrictions during the Open Microphone period will be at the discretion of the moderator
  • The order of hearing comments and time limits (if applicable) should be set and made known to the public during registration or during the formal presentation
  • Index cards must be available at the speaker registration table 
    • Staff must advise each participant of the information required on each card.
    • Index cards should be kept in the order they were received (first-come, first-served)

Ground Rules and Facilitator Guidelines

Open Microphone Ground Rules must be:

  • Provided as a handout 
  • Posted around the venue in visible locations
  • Reiterated as part of a presentation

Facilitator Guidelines must be provided to the facilitator in advance.  A strong facilitator who is familiar with these guidelines is vitally important for a successful open microphone session.  

Ground Rules

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) recognizes the value of public comments on their projects and community issues in the area surrounding those projects. To permit the fair and orderly expression of such comments, a period for public participation will be provided during public meetings and rules to govern such participation will be provided. The moderator of the meeting shall administer the rules of public participation. These guidelines are discussed below.

SPEAKER REGISTRATION

Members of the public who wish to speak must register upon arrival. Any member of the public is permitted to speak; However, organizations must select a single spokesperson. Speaker registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Pre-registration in advance of the meeting is not permitted. All comments made during the open public comment period will be recorded and become part of the public record. 

SPEAKER TIME LIMITS

In order to facilitate fair and orderly expression of comments, speakers will be allocated two (2) minutes to state their comments. (Note: Time may need to be adjusted based on number of individuals that sign up to speak.) Speakers may not give away, assign, or yield unused time. Unused time is automatically forfeited to the moderator. Speakers will only be called during the designated time; only the moderator may call speakers. Speakers may not call other speakers.

GUIDANCE FOR SPEAKER CONTENT 

We have established, based on experience, the following tips for an effective presentation:  

  • When called by the moderator, proceed to the microphone and state the following for the record: 
    • Name
    • Address
    • relationship to the project (area resident, business owner, commuter, interested citizen, etc.) 
    • specific topic 
    • Summarize main points and present new or relevant information
  • Please keep comments relevant to the project for which the meeting is being held
  • Please keep comments/concerns as specific as possible 
  • After each speaker, there will be two (2) minutes provided for ODOT and/or their associated representatives to respond (OPTIONAL)
  • ODOT and/or their associated representatives reserve the right to respond to questions in writing following the meeting if there is either not adequate time to answer or if information must be gathered to adequately respond
  • Once all registered speakers have presented, the moderator will ask if anyone else would like to register to speak.  If there are no additional speakers, those who previously presented will be permitted to speak for an additional two (2) minutes, if they choose.
  • If desired, the speaker may follow-up on verbal comments in writing (This is not a requirement and will not provide the verbal comments additional weight.)  

CONDUCT

  • Participants must be respectful and considerate of the opinions of others
  • Participants must be considerate of the time allocated for others to speak
  • Demeaning and derogatory words or actions may result in attendee(s) being asked to leave
  • A moderator will administer the rules
  • The moderator may:
    • Interrupt, warn, or terminate a participant’s statements when the statements are too lengthy, personally directed, abusive, obscene, or irrelevant;
    • Request any individual to leave the meeting when that person does not observe reasonable decorum;
    • Request the assistance of law enforcement officers in the removal of a disorderly person when that person’s conduct interferes with the orderly progress of the meeting or the safety of the attending public;
    • Call for a recess or an adjournment to another time when the lack of public decorum so interferes with the orderly conduct of the meeting as to warrant such action. 

SPECIAL ASSISTANCE OR ACCOMMODATION

Persons attending the meeting who are hearing or visually impaired and have special requirements or a condition that requires special assistance or accommodations should contact one of the meeting coordinators as soon as possible. Advanced notice is necessary in order for us to make arrangements to accommodate special needs. 

WRITTEN COMMENTS 

We welcome written comments from members of the public who did not have the opportunity or did not wish to make an oral presentation. Comment forms are available at the sign-in table. Please insert public comment forms in the comment box during the meeting or mail them to the address provided. 

Facilitator Guidelines

  1. Be positive and friendly.
  2. Review the open microphone procedures:
    1. State that ODOT will not be responding to comments as part of this formal part of the hearing.  If the public has questions they would like to have addressed tonight they must speak with a member of the project team, but those discussions are NOT part of the formal record.  If the public wants their comment to be part of the formal record they must submit it via one of the methods listed in the handout.
    2. ODOT will respond to all comments soon after the close of the 30-day comment period.  Responses will be posted on the project website and emailed to everyone who provided an email address.
    3. Review the stop light feature with the public:
      1. Green: 2 minutes
      2. Yellow: 30 seconds remaining
      3. Red: Time is up
    4. Inform the public that you have XX number of speakers who have registered and ask that if anyone else wishes to register they must please do so at the speaker registration table.
    5. Inform the public that after all registered speakers have commented others will be offered the option to speak.  
    6. Inform the public that we want to be sure everyone has had a chance to voice any thoughts/concerns regarding this project before we leave tonight.  
  3. Using the stack of index cards of registered speakers, call the first speaker.
    1. State the following speaker’s name so they know to be ready  
  4. Ask the speaker to state their name, spell their last name, and state their address (for the court stenographer)
    1. Simply stand and listen.
      1. Do not nod or shake your head in agreement/disagreement to any comments. 
      2. Don’t smile as they are making a comment (this may upset the individual if the comment is regarding taking property or something similar).  
      3. Be very consistent with every speaker. 
    2. Watch the traffic light and when the red light comes on, ask them to finish their sentence and thank them for their comments.
      1. If the speaker continues, politely interrupt them and remind them they may speak again after everyone has had the opportunity to be heard
  5. Call the next speaker and state the name of the following speaker
    1. Repeat steps 4-5 until all speakers are heard.
  6. After all speakers have all commented, ask staff if there are any additional registered speakers.  
    1. If none, ask the public if anyone would like to speak, including those who have already spoken.  (Apply the same time limits and rules.)
  7. At the conclusion, thank everyone for their input, remind them that staff is available to speak with them tonight, and remind them of the end date of the comment period for this project.
  8. Provide the stack of index cards to the court stenographer at the end of the open microphone period so they may ensure they have the correct speaker’s name and address information.

Post-Meeting Surveys

In-Person Meeting Participant Survey:

Template (.docx)

Virtual Meeting Participant Survey:

Template (.docx)

Project Team Survey:

Template (.docx)

Presentations

Presentation Template (Light Color Scheme):

Template (.pptx)

Presentation Template (Dark Color Scheme):

Template (.pptx)


Presentations are an effective and organized method of conveying key information and addressing community concerns and issues. Most projects that have presentations are typically Path 3, Path 4, and Path 5 Projects (higher level CE documents, Environmental Assessments [EA], and Environmental Impact Statements [EIS]). Presentations may incorporate a wide variety of methods, means, and techniques to enable the audience to be engaged and understand the information being given.

General Tips

Here are a few tips for developing an effective presentation:

  • Know your audience.  Understand who they are and what their concerns are.  What matters to a group of seniors will be different from what matters to a PTA group.  This first step lays the groundwork for everything that follows.
  • Customize your materials to suit your audience.  Some audiences respond better to a slide show, others prefer charts and graphs.
  • Respect everyone’s time.  Keep the presentation as short as possible and never go over the allotted time.
  • Use graphics as much as possible.  A picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Keep it simple.  Avoid being too technical.  Keep in mind that in most cases you’re much closer to the issue than they are; what is familiar to you may be completely foreign to your audience.  Your purpose is to familiarize and educate a group on issues that most directly affect them, so use layperson’s language and illustrative examples or analogies.  Avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Leave it to the experts.  When you’ve determined what needs to be presented, make sure it is presented by a credible source. 
  • Prepare an outline.  Your points are most effective if presented in an orderly fashion.  A good outline keeps you from skipping important points and rambling.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  Schedule a dress rehearsal at least two days before the presentation to leave enough time for any changes or adjustments that need to be made.  All those involved in the presentation should participate.
  • Be flexible.  Sometimes the audience wants more or wants something other than what you’ve prepared.  When appropriate to keep the audience engaged, go with the flow while maintaining control of the process.
  • Anticipate questions.  Start by writing out a list of questions you’re likely to be asked, then ask others to help you practice your responses.  Make sure you know the answers and can articulate them confidently and clearly.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest and promise to get back to them with an answer as soon as possible.  Then, keep that promise.
  • Don’t let all your preparation go to waste because of technical problems.  Make sure you’ll have the equipment necessary to present your materials as rehearsed.  Bring extra batteries, light bulbs, extension cords, easels, pens, files on CD, etc.  Arrive early enough to test everything before the audience arrives.
  • Leave them with something they can refer to later.  Bring handouts of material presented and contact information for questions or to request further information.  Or, turn your presentation into an online video and provide a link for participants.
  • Follow up while the issue is still fresh in their minds (and yours!).  Make certain that any questions for additional information, contacts, or answers to questions are returned immediately following the presentation.
  • Speak comfortably, loudly, and clearly
  • Check spelling and grammar
  • Do NOT read the presentation line by line
    • Speak from bullet points and stick to the bullet points (don’t ad lib)
  • Do not turn your back to the audience

All materials should be project relevant and presented in a manner that is easy for the public to understand. Please refer to Public Involvement Material Guidelines when copywriting or designing material for public involvement.

Presentation Format

  • Follow ODOT Branding Guidelines and use template provided
  • Limit the number of slides
    • One slide per minute is the rule of thumb
  • Simplify and limit the number of words on each screen
    • Use font size 24 or larger
    • Clearly label each slide
    • Use key phrases or bulleted lists and include only essential information
      • No more than 6-8 words per line
      • For bulleted lists use the 6x6 rule
        • One thought per line
        • No more than 6 words per line
        • No more than 6 lines per slide
      • Avoid italicized fonts
      • Avoid abbreviations and acronyms
  • Limit punctuation and avoid putting words in all capital letters
  • Use dark background with light text if the screen is white or light background with dark text if the screen is black
  • Avoid using flashy transitions (text fly-ins, etc.), sound effects, and clip art
  • Use good quality images that reinforce and compliment your message
    • Ensure image maintains impact and resolution when projected on larger screen
  • If using builds (lines of text appearing each time you click the mouse), have content appear on screen in consistent, simple manner
    • From top or left is best
    • Only use when necessary to make your point
  • Use only enough text with charts or graphs to explain the chart or graph and clearly label the image

Presentation Outline 

  • Introduction
    • ODOT welcomes you
    • State name, title
    • Discuss ground rules
      • Ask everyone to silence cell phones
      • How/when will questions be addressed
    • Review format of meeting/hearing
      • Presentation
      • Open House
      • Open Mic Comment Period
    • Introduce project team
  • Purpose of meeting/hearing
  • Project overview
    • Purpose & Need
    • Consistency with local and regional plans
  • Discuss alternatives
  • Discuss potential access management changes (if applicable)
  • Discuss social, economic, and environmental impacts
  • Explain ODOT Right-of-Way and Acquisition process (if applicable)
  • Explain how to submit comments
  • Describe next steps 
  • Conclude meeting
    • Thank you for coming
    • Please contact us with questions

Public Hearings

Public hearings are required for projects requiring an EA or EIS level environmental document.  Public hearings will not be the only opportunity to involve the public. Public meetings will be conducted throughout different intervals of the PDP as part of the decision‐making process. The public hearing is the official point in the NEPA process where decisions made for the project are shared with stakeholders and the public, whose comments concerning the project will become part of the public record. Much of what is shared during the public hearing has been developed with stakeholder and public input during early phases of the PDP.  

Depending on the circumstances surrounding a project, the Project Management Team will determine a format that is best suited to advancing project goals and objectives, as well as which format will encourage and provide the best opportunities for stakeholders and the public to participate. A transcript of all proceedings which includes presentations, all testimony received, and all handouts, materials, exhibits, and displays used is required public hearings. 

The Public Hearing format:

  • Follows a structured and timed agenda
  • Is led by a moderator/facilitator  
  • Starts in late afternoon (e.g. 4:00 pm) and ends after all comments are heard.  It is acceptable to schedule an end time for some time in the evening (e.g. 8:00 pm) but all comments must be heard that evening or a follow-up date must be scheduled to continue hearing comments.  The project team must plan accordingly.
  • Is held in a large conference room or auditorium
  • Must afford the public time to comment on the project via Open Microphone
  • Has multiple exhibit/display stations around the meeting space
  • Right-of-way impacts, relocations, noise, environmental impacts, etc.
  • Each station staffed by members of the Project Management Team
  • Includes short and periodic presentations delivered throughout the course of the hearing to ensure all attendees have an opportunity to be present
  • Requires a stenographer to generate a transcript of the proceeding
  • For large crowds it may be necessary to provide two stenographers

Elements of a public hearing must include:

Welcome Table

  • Handouts
    • Agenda
    • Open Microphone Rules
    • Project Fact Sheet
    • Project location mapping
  • Sign-in sheet
  • Open Microphone registration
  • Project Management Team contact information/business cards
  • Sign-up for project e-mail updates, newsletters, etc. 
  • NEPA Assignment Disclosure Statement Poster and/or Brochures

Exhibit/Display Stations

  • Purpose and Need/Project History
  • Preferred Alternative with construction limits and impacts clearly identified
  • Impacts Matrix
  • Before and after pictures, artists renderings, etc. 
  • Project timeline
  • Decision-making process chart that shows next steps
  • Each station staffed by members of the Project Management Team
    • Wear identification/nametag (e.g. name, company, agency)

Comment Box

  • In a separate area near the entrance/exit or near exhibits/displays
  • Comment forms must include contact information and address for return by email or regular mail
    • Contact person is typically District Environmental Coordinator (DEC) or PM
    • Include due date for comments to be submitted
      • Standard comment period is 30 calendar days
  • Comment forms should include space for the commenter to provide contact information
  • Comment forms can be made available on a project website or even email to public groups

Slide show and/or video loop 

  • Depiction of how a proposed improvement will operate (e.g. roundabouts, Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), a free flow intersection, or other type of improvement) 
  • Show what the proposed improvements will look like

Presentation

  • Style of presentation depends on the anticipated audience and the project’s type and complexity

Open Microphone

  • Can begin with a presentation and Q&A and then lead into the formal hearing portion
  • Depending on the nature of the project, existing controversy, and attendees anticipated, the Open Microphone period may require time restrictions
  • The order of hearing comments and time limits should be set and made known to the public during registration or during the formal presentation
  • Depending on the number of speakers, enforcing time restrictions during the Open Microphone period will be at the discretion of the moderator/facilitator

Ground Rules (includes Open Microphone) 

  • Provided as a handout 
  • Posted around the venue in visible locations
  • Reiterated as part of a presentation

A Public Hearing must afford the opportunity for the public to give comments and have them addressed by representatives of the Project Management Team following the presentation. An official court recorder is present so that a verbatim transcript can be made part of the project record following the proceedings. All verbal and written comments received, presentation materials, exhibits, displays, and handouts received become part of the official project record.

Meeting Plan for Public Hearing

Template (.docx)

 

Public Hearing Timeline

Timeline (.docx)

 

Public Hearing Summary

Public Hearing Summary (.pdf)  Transcript Summary Example (.pdf)

 

Public Meetings

Meeting Plan for In-Person Public Meeting

Template (.docx)

 

Meeting Plan for Virtual Public Meeting

Template (.docx)

 

Public Meeting Summary

Public Meeting Summary (.doc)

 

Public Meetings & Hearings During Declared Emergencies

The purpose of this guidance is to provide information regarding the provisions and conditions for holding a virtual public meeting/hearing for NEPA purposes as a substitute for an in-person public meeting/hearing when the Governor of Ohio and/or President of the United States declares a health or other public emergency or when the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) determines that an in-person public meeting/hearing should not be held out of concern for public health or safety. 

All public involvement requirements remain the same except that public meetings/hearings may be conducted virtually during these declared emergencies.  Virtual public meetings/hearings may be conducted using a variety of methods, including but not limited to webinars, live meetings (such as PublicInput, social media, etc.), telephone town halls, etc. Please refer to the Virtual Public Involvement area of the Public Involvement Toolbox for additional resources and information regarding conducting these type of meetings.

A virtual public meeting/hearing must include a presentation by the project management team, which includes both audio and visual components.  The presentation may be pre-recorded and uploaded for viewing at the scheduled meeting time and thereafter.  

Notification requirements remain the same; However, in addition to the existing requirements, a virtual public meeting/hearing notification must also include the following:

  • A web address for project information and meeting materials
  • Clear instructions about how to log in to the virtual public meeting/hearing
  • An explanation of how the virtual public meeting/hearing will be conducted
  • An explanation that members of the public may, as an alternative to logging in to the virtual public meeting/hearing, may call or email the project management team to ask questions about the project and access project materials
  • An explanation that the public may submit public comments via email or letter  
    • Provide contact information for one point of contact
      • Include an email address and phone number for them to call with questions

When conducting virtual meetings:

  • All project information must be posted online
    • Provide contact information for one point of contact for questions
      • Include an email address and phone number 
  • The presentation must include a statement that:
    • Project materials will be mailed upon request
    • The public may submit comments via email or U.S. Mail 
      • Provide contact information for one point of contact
      • Include the email address, U.S. Mail address, and a phone number

To ensure we are providing full and fair participation by conducting these meetings virtually, information must be made accessible through as many outreach methods as possible, including video, audio, website, social media, mailings, news releases, working with community agencies, etc.  Strategies to communicate with potential Limited English Proficiency (LEP) populations during a virtual public meeting/hearing should also be developed on a project-by-project basis.  Posting information in public places only makes sense if the businesses will remain open throughout the duration of the declared emergency.  

Public Notifications

For templates and guidance on flyers, paid advertisements, and other publicity material for public meetings, visit Public Notification Templates.

Public Notification Templates

Room Layout

Example (.docx)

Sign-In Sheets

Sign-In Sheet Template:

Word (.docx)  InDesign (.indd)

Specialized Meetings

  • Stakeholder Meeting
  • Advisory Committee Meeting 
  • Workshop
  • Focus Group

These types of meetings can enhance the sharing of information and ideas, the level of input received, and the identification of issues; expanding networking opportunities; build consensus; incorporate alternative perspectives; and establish credibility and trust.   It is important to keep in mind that some underserved populations may feel intimidated when an outreach strategy relies on large public workshops.  Coordinating smaller workshops and meetings with these communities encourages participation.

Strategy Meetings

A strategy meeting to discuss and determine how best to approach PI for large or controversial projects is strongly recommended.  Below is a list of topics that may need to be considered and/or discussed during a Public Involvement Strategy Meeting.

Establish weekly or bi-weekly strategy meetings

  • Reduces misinformation and provides updates 
  • Ensures materials are developed and printed
  • Opportunity for dry-run presentations for preparation purposes
  • Evaluation and debriefing (e.g. what went wrong, effectiveness, etc.)
  • Addressing comments and providing responses

Public Engagement Plan Review

Determine appropriate method(s) of notification

  • Determine which notification method(s) is best suited for the intended audience
    • Press Release
    • Public Service Announcements (PSA)
    • Mailings
    • Fliers
  • Determine pertinent information to convey to participants
  • Determine when deadlines for notification will occur 
    • Ask the District PIO for assistance

Develop an outreach strategy to engage Underserved Populations

  • Involve community stakeholders in identifying the best methods for involvement
  • Follow Underserved Populations Guidelines
  • Determine what outreach strategy should be used to encourage proactive involvement by soliciting information, ideas, and opinions of Underserved Populations

Determine meeting format

  • The type of format and event organization (e.g., agenda) is dependent on a project’s type and complexity, as well as the project’s geographic location 
    • What format will appropriately meet the purpose of conducting the meeting?
      • Open house or formal presentation
      • Open Microphone or ask questions 
    • What format is suitable for the intended audience?
    • Is a higher level of PI needed?
    • Does controversy exist?
  • Adapt format for a specific purpose
  • Is the goal to inform, obtain input, or gain consensus?
  • Why is the event being held?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Develop a draft agenda and refine as meetings progress

Venue Logistics

  • Utilize the Facility Checklist provided in an above section on this page.
  • Determine appropriate time of day and day of the week
    • Tuesdays or Thursdays are typically best
    • Tailor the meeting time to meet the needs of the intended audience
      • May need to hold meetings during both daytime and evening hours to provide multiple opportunities for participation
      • Conducting a public meeting or public hearing between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. has been proven to maximize attendance  
  • Accessible, convenient, centralized, comfortable (e.g. A/C and heat), and safe
  • ADA compliant 
  • Ample parking (no fee)
  • Close to public transportation (e.g., bus stop)
  • Can facilitate the event format (e.g., display stations, presentations, appropriate lighting, etc.)

Project Management Team Roles and Responsibilities

  • Who will attend?
  • Who will be presenting?
  • Who will be available to answer questions?
  • Who will moderate?
  • Who will manage exhibit/display stations, registration table, comment table, etc.?
  • Who is responsible for publicity? 
  • Who will take notes?
  • Who will make copies of handouts?
  • Who will develop exhibits?
  • Who will develop presentation?
  • Who will review materials?

Displays, Exhibits, Handouts, and Other Materials Needed

  • Use templates provided in above sections on this page and follow material guidelines provided here.

Virtual Public Meetings

For additional guidance on virtual public meetings and associated software, please visit the below page.

Virtual Public Meetings

Website Checklist

Do you have a public meeting – virtual or in-person – on the horizon? Let’s make sure it is well represented on ODOT's public website. Most of these steps can be completed through the website's projects and comments dashboard environments.

Take the following steps in the order provided:

  • PIO: Publish the project page in the project feed a few weeks before the meeting.
    • Location: Project Sync Dashboard > Project Sync Changes
    • Directions: Find project on the dashboard and click the EDIT PROJECT button. Edit the project name and description to be public-friendly and publish the page.
    • Note: If a PID does not appear in the dashboard, contact the web team at website@dot.ohio.gov for a page to be created manually.
  • PIO or Environmental: Set the project’s public commenting period ahead of the meeting.
    • Location: Comments Dashboard > All Projects Dashboard
    • Directions: Find the published project on the dashboard and click the green Add button. Enter the PID, begin and end dates for public comments, and click Submit.
    • Note: This can be done only after the project page is published.
    • Note: Public commenting periods can be set before the meeting. On the first day of the set public comment period, a green alert will appear on the page and all contact information will point to D##.PI.Comment@dot.ohio.gov. When the period ends, the page will default back to D##.PIO@dot.ohio.gov. 

Public information staff must complete the following steps through the authoring environment (“WCM”).

  • PIO: Add a news page to promote the public meeting.
    • Location: Ohio Content English > Content > ODOT > About Us > News > District ##
    • Directions: Open an existing event page and click Edit. Select Save As to copy the existing event to make a new one. Create a new name and title, then click OK. Add new information to the page, including county taxonomies and the publication date, and publish the page.
  • PIO: Add an event page to promote the public meeting.
    • Location: Ohio Content English > Content > ODOT > About Us > Event > District ##
    • Directions: Open an existing event page and click Edit. Select Save As to copy the existing event to make a new one. Create a new name and title, then click OK. Add new information to the page, including county taxonomies and the publication date, and publish the page.
    • Note: The event page is meant to promote the public meeting in the agencywide calendar of events, but not to host it. Be sure to include applicable links to the project page or virtual public meeting page when appropriate.

  • PIO: Add any necessary public meeting materials to the project page.
    • Location: Project Sync > Project Sync Changes
    • Directions: Find project on the dashboard and click the EDIT PROJECT button. Embed any YouTube videos, links to any external virtual public meeting hosting services, and add hyperlinks to any material stored in SharePoint libraries. Save and close the page.
    • Note: If there are only a few documents to post, it may be easier to combine the PDFs into one package and post it in the webpage’s on-board Attachment field to avoid the SharePoint storage and hyperlinks. Only one file can be hosted natively in the Attachment field.
    • Note: Don’t forget about the “Related Resources” box, available to place extra links to SharePoint documents or additional links into the right sidebar of the page.
  • Environmental: Ensure official public comments are being addressed in the system.
    • Location: Comments Dashboard > All Projects Dashboard
    • Directions: Find the project on the dashboard and select it. Click “View Details” button on any comment to respond. Comments marked with a green dot have not been address but have requested a response.
    • Note: As long as the public commenting period is set, official public commenting period email notifications get sent to D##.PI.Comment@dot.ohio.gov. General comments not attached to an official public commenting period are sent to D##.PIO@dot.ohio.gov. 
    • Note: If necessary, email notifications can be forwarded to project managers for consultation on answers, but only designated website users (DECs, PIOs) can place the answer into the website’s system.