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Engage NWI

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s Public Participation Plan



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About Engage NWI

Engage NWI is the federally required “Public Participation Plan” that enables Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) staff to ensure that it is meeting all federal requirements for public participation, but more importantly, a guide that enables the public to engage with regional planning.

Engage NWI promotes a meaningful exchange of ideas, identification of regional issues and solutions, as well as advancing initiatives to achieve the vision for Northwestern Indiana (NWI).


The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and Council of Governments (COG) for NWI, has the responsibility to conduct economic development, environmental, and transportation planning for Lake, LaPorte and Porter Counties. Engage NWI is required of a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to fulfill the regulations governing public participation (23 CFR 450.316).


Engage NWI is laid out in a question and answer format to assist NWI’s general public and stakeholders, and NIRPC’s regional planners to understand:

How the general public and stakeholders can most effectively connect with regional planning – Page 3 (page numbers do not align in this format)

What is regional planning? Page 4-5

When/where is the public engaged in regional planning? Page 6-7

Why is public participation important to regional planning? Page 8-9

Who is and should be involved in public participation? Page 10-13

How is public participation conducted? Page 14-16

The technical requirements of public participation Page 17-20


How to follow regional planning activities and find participation opportunities:

How to follow regional planning activities and find participation opportunities:

Website: nirpc.org

Sign-up for emails and newsletters here

Follow our calendar for events and meetings

Find NIRPC’s latest plans and updates

YouTube: youtube.com/user/NIRPCPlanning

For livestreamed Commission and Committee meetings if you cannot or do not want to attend in-person

Facebook: facebook.com/nirpcmpo

Like NIRPC’s Facebook page to follow planning activities and learn about engagement opportunities.

Twitter: twitter.com/NIRPC

Follow NIRPC’s Twitter feed to hear the latest news and learn about engagement opportunities.

Instagram: instagram.com/regionMPO

Follow NIRPC’s Instagram page to see what is going on in the region and learn about NIRPC’s work.

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/nirpc

Connect with NIRPC’s LinkedIn page to learn about NIRPC’s work and other planning partners.

RTIP: https://rtip.nirpc.org/

The Regional Transportation Improvement Program is NIRPC’s online database of funded transportation investments throughout the region. Amendments are posted on RTIP when available for public comment.

Direct mail:

To be added to our direct mail list, please send a request for newsletters : Public Participation Planer

6100 Southport Road

Portage, IN 46368


What is regional planning?


Regional planning in NWI is conducted by NIRPC regional planners. NIRPC is charged in state law to focus on economic development, the environment, and transportation planning. NIRPC provides are regional forum to discuss issues, opportunities, problems, challenges, and concerns of member communities, the general public, and stakeholders. Regional planners work planning initiatives each year that will hopefully advance NWI towards achieving the visions laid out in the adopted long-range plan of the Commission, the NWI 2050 Plan.


It is important to note that while regional planners may provide guidance on best practices, policy, zoning, transportation investments, economic development, or the environment, they do not make or enforce local ordinances or policies, as NIRPC is not charged with this mandate, nor given authority to do so, in state or federal law. In order to affect change locally, participation efforts must be geared by the general public and stakeholders towards local, state or federal government. Regional planners may not lobby under federal law, rather may only educate or guide elected officials.


For regional transportation planning, NIRPC must follow the federally required “3C" transportation planning process. The “3C” transportation planning process requires cooperation among all levels of government, comprehensive consideration of many planning factors, and be a continuously evaluated planning

process. Planning is carried out following contemporary federal transportation planning requirements of the Fixing American’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898, Persons with Limited English Proficiency Executive Order 13166, the Clean Air Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and their predecessor acts. Engage NWI reflects all such requirements, especially those of CFR 450.316, the regulation that governs public participation.


Regional planners at NIRPC are responsible for the following:

Regional planners at NIRPC are responsible for the following:


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Economic development, environmental, and transportation planning


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Technical assistance on planning best practices, and governance


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Providing a forum for regional issues identification and problem solving


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Facilitation of the prioritization of transportation investments for NWI


Public participation and transit

Public participation and transit

Transit is an important travel option for many residents in the region, and many instances the only travel option for some residents. Transit in NWI consistently is rated by the public as a primary concern for our regional transportation system. The NWI 2050 Plan and the 2018 Coordinated Transit Plan demonstrate those issues and concerns.


The Federal Transit Administration allows a transit operator to rely on the MPO’s Public Participation Plan for the Transportation Improvement Program.

Therefore, public participation conducted by regional planners must consider all of the requirements for a transit operators “Program of Projects” to be considered compliant. Projects need to be published in sufficient detail, as well as those affected by the “Program of Projects” must be provided an opportunity to examine the proposed program and submit comments. Transit Operators therefore must assist NIRPC with public participation efforts, including advertising and inviting the public to engagement opportunities.


engaged in regional planning?

engaged in regional planning?


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When/where is the public

When/where is the public

There are three core MPO planning documents that all other regional planning activities are derived:

Long-Range Plan (LRP) – NWI’s LRP is the NWI 2050 Plan which was adopted in May 2019. The MTP sets the vision for NWI and focuses on economic development, the environment, and transportation. The LRP is updated every four years and is amended from time to time. The development of the MTP takes approximately one to two years and engagement opportunities are provided throughout its development to shape the vision, goals, and priorities of the Plan.

Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) – NWI’s TIP was adopted in May 2019. The TIP is updated every two years and amended four times per year. The TIP includes transportation investments for the next five years made by communities, transit operators, and the Indiana Department of Transportation. The development of the TIP involves all the towns, cities, counties, and transit operators of NWI and must be consistent with the NWI 2050 Plan. Direct engagement with municipalities and transit operators is the most effective way for the public to influence the projects each applicant submits to NIRPC for funding.

Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) – NWI’s UPWP was adopted in April 2018. The UPWP is updated every two years and amended in between generally once. The UPWP contains all the planning activities required by the Federal Highway and Transit Administrations in addition to planning activities identified by the NWI 2050 Plan. The planning tasks are conducted by the regional planners at NIRPC. Each UPWP task includes a public participation goal appropriate for the task: Inform, Consult, Involve, or Collaborate. See page 15 for details on goals.

Understanding the core planning activities of NIRPC will help to connect interested individuals on when and where to engage in regional planning.


Engage NWI emphasizes that for effective regional planning, engagement must occur where people are, and early in the process. Input will be solicited from the general public and stakeholders when active engagement methods are utilized (described on Page 16), close to where the general public are already gathering and while plans are in development so that input can shape the outcome which is deliberated at the Commission. Every attempt will be made to hold active engagement activities throughout the region, balanced where transit is available and for the rest of the region, through a variety of creative means while plans are in development. The Commission will determine where and when to hold its meetings and those of its advisory and business committees.


critical to regional planning?

critical to regional planning?

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Why is public participation

Why is public participation

Engage NWI stresses the need for the general public and stakeholders to engage in regional planning to identify regional challenges, problems, and opportunities. Regional planners need to listen to voices of the general public and stakeholders to gain a diversity of input – especially from those traditionally underrepresented in planning processes – and hear potential solutions or to shape planning processes and achieve desired outcomes. The map on Page 9 represents the emphasized places in NWI that regional planners must connect with. These places include higher than regionally average areas of minorities, low-income individuals, limited-English proficiency individuals, zero-car households, veterans, individuals over sixty-five years of age, and individuals with disabilities. Regional planners need input early in the process so that final plans can reflect a balance of priorities and interests heard from all over the NWI.


Engage NWI stresses the importance that additional effort be made to invite individuals that reside in such areas to participate in regional planning efforts to give voice to communities who have traditionally been under-represented.



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Strategies to engage with emphasized places in NWI

Strategies to engage with emphasized places in NWI

One-on-Ones – regional planners must make face-to-face contact with community based organizations, neighborhood leaders, faith-based organizations, elected officials, and other important stakeholders that can connect regional planners to residents and businesses that have been underrepresented in regional planning activities. Such interactions are called “Out and Abouts” in Engage NWI and are described on Page 12.

Targeted formal engagement – regional planners must ensure that formal meetings or “Pop-Up Events” (described on Page 12) are held in these emphasized places to make participation convenient, especially if community residents rely on limited public transit.


Who is and should be involved in public participation?


Engage NWI focuses upon “regional planners,” “the general public,” and “stakeholders” as three critical groups involved in public engagement. Each plays a unique and important role in the planning process. Regional planners at NIRPC seek to undertake various planning initiatives that need to be shaped by public input. The general public includes individuals and businesses that represent themselves in the planning process, while stakeholders represent “grouped” interests, needs, or desires in the outcome of a planning process. The perspectives, experience, and expertise from the general public, or stakeholders, is not only welcomed, but necessary in the planning process.


Shaped by their personal experiences, regional planners do not know and cannot see every detail of every issue. Therefore, Engage NWI stresses the need for regional planners to listen to the general public and stakeholders as a duty, but also for the general public and stakeholders to robustly share their perspectives, experiences, and expertise as regional citizens.


For Engage NWI to be effective: NIRPC, as the regional planners, will inform the general public and stakeholders of every opportunity to participate through the channels described on Page 3; however, the general public and stakeholders have the freedom to take advantage of the opportunity to play their part and actively engage in shaping their region.



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General public

The general public is made up of individuals who choose to participate in the planning process. Their perspectives and experiences help shape the priorities of planning initiatives.


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Regional planners

Regional planners include NIRPC staff, Commissioners, and NIRPC Committee members.

Regional planners are in the “middle” since they must listen and hear the general public and stakeholders, but are also entrusted to find a balance between the priorities heard from all who participated, while also meeting any required planning objectives.


Stakeholders

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Stakeholders represent many individuals as a group for one or many shared interests. Stakeholders play a vital role since they often speak for many individuals at once. Stakeholders may include advocacy organizations, community-based organizations, partners, and federal, state, and municipal governments.


About the regional planners - NIRPC

About the regional planners - NIRPC

Regional planning and coordination came to Northwestern Indiana in 1965 when enabling legislation was passed by the Indiana General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. The first state law called for a transportation planning commission, which was inspired by the 1962 Federal Highway Act. The state law has since been amended to create what is known today as the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, a three-county council of governments. In 2007, NIRPC’s Executive Board membership expanded, and weighted voting added.


NIRPC’s governing body is the Commission composed of 53 county, municipal, and some township elected officials and a Gubernatorial appointment. The Commission membership is established in state statute and is required to meet in full at least four times per year and at a minimum statutorily responsible for the hiring of the Executive Director, adopting bylaws, electing officers, and annual budget appropriations. A smaller Executive Board is annually elected by and from the full Commission membership and takes on the routine business of NIRPC. The Commission has established several committees to make advice and assist in

conducting its business along with lower topical committees focused on specific interests.

Please check NIRPC.org for updates on the committee structure and membership.


Committees

Committees

All Commission and committee business related to transportation planning and investment decision-making must adhere to Engage NWI. Planning for economic development and the environment may adhere to Engage NWI or the specific requirements of grants funding those activities in question. Noticing for Commission and Committee meetings will follow Indiana Open Door Law.


Commission

Full Commission

Meets four times per year or

Executive Board

Meets approximately six times per year

Advisory / Business

Technical Planning

Local Government Assistance

Legislative

Finance and Personnel

Topical

Environmental Management and Policy

Ped, Pedal, and Paddle

Land Use

Surface Transportation

Transit Operators

Transportation Resources Oversight

Committees

Committees

Last revised February 2018 / Any future changes to committee structure made by the Commission will be reflected in Engage NWI as a technical amendment.


How is public participation

How is public participation


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conducted?

conducted?

Engage NWI lays out on Page 15 the engagement goals, the promise made by Engage NWI associated with that goal, engagement methods associated with each goal, and the when the goal will be chosen for each planning task. Then all the technical requirements of Engage NWI are laid out (Page 17-20). Input from the general public and stakeholders early in the process is critical to shaping the final outcomes of each plan. With a diversity of perspectives in a region as large as NWI, it will be up to regional planners to find a balance between competing priorities and interests for the region. Before plan adoption by the Commission, the plan will be put out for a formal comment period, if required.


Techniques to invite participation

Techniques to invite participation

Engage NWI outlines methods to ensure regional planning is conducting with participation always at mind from the beginning of planning processes. Each planning task undertaken will identify a participation goal appropriate for that task (Page 15) and then planners will employ the methods that goal requires. It is expected that most tasks will be on the more participatory end of the spectrum.


However, no matter which type of participation goal that is required, participation will be possible in formats that are inclusive. All meeting locations will be compliant with the ADA and requests for reasonable accommodations taken upon request within 72 hours of a formal meeting to ensure participation those who may need alternate formats of materials – including language translation, foreign, American Sign Language, or braille.

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Adapted from the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) Public Participation Spectrum


Does the task


Active participation methods

require? Inform Consult Involve Collaborate

Engage NWI goal: Provide public with

objective information and assist their understanding of regional challenges, options, opportunities, or solutions.


Obtain feedback on regional planning tasks, analyses, or prior to policy making.


Work directly with public and stakeholders throughout planning process to ensure concerns and ideas are consistently understood and considered.


Partner with the public and stakeholders in every aspect of the planning process from project scoping through adoption of plans or policies.


Engage NWI

promise

Keep general public and stakeholders informed.

Keep public informed, listen and acknowledge concerns and ideas, and provide public with report on how input shaped outcomes.

Work with public and stakeholders to ensure goals and ideas are directly reflected in planning work as much as possible and report on how input shaped outcomes.

Work with public and stakeholders to inform planning work from start at project scoping to understand issues, generate solutions, and incorporate feedback to shape outcomes.



Involvement methods / tools may include:


Website, social media, newsletters, multi-language publications, press releases, mailings, live streaming, white papers, or fact sheets.


Activities listed in “Inform” plus surveys, comment forms, webinars, or formal meetings


Activities listed in “Consult” plus focus groups, targeted outreach to meet people where they are such as “Out and Abouts,” or “Pop-up Events”


Activities listed in “Involve” plus task forces, charrettes, keypad polling, and working groups


When goal will be selected:

The “Inform” level of participation will be used for technical documents, but the methods will be used frequently to communicate regularly with the public

The “Consult” level of participation will be used less frequently, but the methods will be used when needed

The “Involve” method will be used frequently and the methods as well

The “Collaborate” method will be used frequently with major planning processes

Examples of active engagement

Examples of active engagement

Some types of active and in-person engagement will be conducted by employing the following:

“Out and Abouts” – regional planners meeting face-to-face to invite interest in planning activities, events or to solicit direct feedback

“Pop-up Events” – regional planners sharing information / asking for feedback at other organization’s events

Formal meetings – advertised open houses or public hearings – timely notice per Engage NWI for all public meetings listed in the table to the right will be two weeks prior to the meeting.

Task force / working groups – invited and targeted participation of subject matter experts at the discretion of the NIRPC Executive Director


Effectiveness of methods and evaluation

From time to time the strategies and methods contained within Engage NWI will be reviewed for their effectiveness. The principal measure for effectiveness of Engage NWI will be:

The frequency in which planning activities are conducted with the “Involve” or “Collaborate” goal of active participation methods described on Page 15

– should be at least 50% of activities; and

How aggressively regional planners have made attempts to invite robust participation from the general public and stakeholders throughout the planning process. May include advertising, ”Out and Abouts,” ”Pop-Up Events,” social media or newsletter content, etc.

A summary of public participation efforts by regional planners will be annually published ”Performance Report” recommended in the NWI 2050 Plan.

Technical aspects of public

participation:

participation:

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Technical aspects of public


Public comment periods and public meeting requirements

Core planning documents

Minimum comment period by law

Engage NWI

comment length policy

Engage NWI

formal meeting policy

Long-range plan (new adoption)

Not specified in federal law

30 days

Required

Long-range plan

Policy/Project amendment

21 days

Not required

Long-range plan

Modification / Technical amendment

None

Not required

Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) (new adoption)

30 days

Required

TIP amendment

21 days

Not required

TIP modification / technical amendment

None

Not required

Air Quality Conformity

30 days

Required

Unified Planning Work Program (new or amendment)

None

Not required

Coordinated Public Transit Human Services Transportation Plan

(new or amendment)

21 days

Not required

Public Participation Plan

(new or amendment)

45 days

45 days

Not required

Other planning and policy documents

Regional and sub-regional modal, corridor, development, or environment plans/policies

Not specified in federal law

21 days

Not required

Technical documents required to fulfill federal requirements

None

Not required

Amendment and modification procedures

Amendment and modification procedures

Amendment:

1) any phase of any project is added or construction phase or transit project deleted;

2) any addition of funds over $100,000;

3) change to an air quality non-exempt project;

4) project scope change that alters original intent of project;

5) change to policy or programming rules.

Interagency Consultation Group review on all TIP amendments and a redetermination of fiscal constraint is required. Twenty-day comment period required.

Must be approved by Commission or Executive Board. Public comment opportunity is available at the meeting.


Modification:

1) project moving year to year (but not out of the TIP, which is an amendment);

2) project fund source change;

3) project is split into multiple construction segments;

4) addition of funds under $100,000 (TIP and UPWP); or

5) typographical changes.

Modifications are made by NIRPC staff at the request of project sponsor subject to regulation and funding availability.

A redetermination of fiscal constraint is required.


Technical Amendment:

Changes to technical information that does impact policy or programmed projects, ie: performance targets, data updates, asset information.

Must be approved by Commission or Executive Board. Public comment opportunity is available at the meeting.


Emergency Amendment:

NIRPC Executive Director authorizes a TIP amendment without public process or Commission if:

1) public well-being or safety is at risk; or

2) lapse or loss of federal funds is at risk.

A redetermination of fiscal constraint is required.


Path to address public comments

Path to address public comments

Comments received during a comment period will be reported to the Commission via a “Public Comment Report.” The Report will be made available on the NIRPC website and included with draft plans before adoption The Report will constitute the formal response to comments and will contain the following: 1) the original comment, as received; 2) a recommendation by staff on how the final plan may address the substance of the comment; and 3) a notation on whether or not the recommendation is a major or minor revision. Any such recommendation to revise a draft plan that proposes: 1) Policy revisions; 2) Adds a project not previously subjected to public review; or 3) deletes a project subjected to public review, will be considered a major revision and will trigger an additional public comment period. All other recommendations will be regarded as minor revisions representing comments that are more general. Advisory Committee(s) or the Commission will consider recommendations at their discretion.


Public Comment Period (per Engage NWI policy)



Recommended major revisions?

Recommended minor revisions?


Recommended major revisions?

Recommended minor revisions?


The commission may accept or modify major revisions and start new full comment period

The Commission may reject major revisions and adopt the plan

The Commission may accept, reject, or modify minor revisions and adopt the plan

The commission may accept or modify major revisions and start new full comment period

The Commission may reject major revisions and adopt the plan

The Commission may accept, reject, or modify minor revisions and adopt the plan



Second Public Comment Period

(per Engage NWI policy)


Second Public Comment Period

(per Engage NWI policy)



The Commission may accept, reject, or modify major revisions and adopt the plan. Public engagement ends.


The Commission may accept, reject, or modify major revisions and adopt the plan. Public engagement ends.


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NIRPC’s Role in the Region

(back cover of the plan)



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To provide a common voice for Northwest

To serve as NWI’s Metropolitan Planning Organization and act as the designated recipient for certain transportation funding


To generate meaningful dialogue

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Indiana in its

and cooperation on


th fed

nications with e state and the

issues of common concern

eral government


To create opportunities for partnership between the public and private

sectors


To provide a forum in which elected officials and other decision- makers can develop and implement solutions to regional problems

To contribute to the development of a common vision pertaining to Northwest Indiana’s future


For more information:

Visit:

www.nirpc.org


Contact:

Public Participation Planner at comments@nirpc.org or 219-763-6060


Request alternative formats of plans or meeting materials:

mthorne@nirpc.org or 219-763-6060