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Tennessee Environmental Procedures Manual

Chapter 10: Environmental Evaluation of State-Funded Projects

10.7 TEER Public Involvement Requirements

TDOT's latest Public Involvement Plan provides the foundation for the public involvement process and public notice requirements and procedures to be followed for preparing a TEER (see Section 7.3 of this Manual). The plan is on the TDOT website at http://www.tn.gov/tdot/documents/pip.pdf.

The public involvement components for the TEER are similar to those for a NEPA level environmental evaluation, as described in Section 7.3.5, NEPA Public Involvement. Public involvement elements for a TEER include:

  • Early coordination;
  • Public meetings and public hearings;
  • Notifications for meetings and hearings;
  • Meeting and hearing handouts; and
  • Opportunities for public comments.

These elements are discussed briefly below.

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10.7.1 Early Coordination

When TDOT determines the need to prepare a TEER for a state-funded project, one of the first actions is early coordination. This task and its elements are discussed in Chapter 4, Early Coordination.

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10.7.2 Public Meetings and Hearings

During the preparation of a TEER, meetings and/or hearings may be held. The timing, number, and need for project meetings and hearings are decided by the Project Manager, Community Relations Division staff, and/or a multidisciplinary team. Environmental Division staff participates in the multidisciplinary team during development of a public involvement strategy or plan for a project that requires a TEER.

A public meeting is held to provide information to the public and obtain public input. They can be held at any time during the process, and they are used to disseminate information, provide a setting for public discussion, and get feedback from the community. They can be tailored to specific community needs and can be either formal or informal. For example, a meeting could be held with a small group of neighbors or a special interest group, or a project could warrant a community-wide meeting.

A public hearing is a formal meeting, documented by a court reporter and often held to meet legal requirements. TDOT holds a public hearing when:

  • A project requires substantial amounts of right-of-way or substantially changes the layout or functions of connecting roads or the facility to be improved;
  • A project has a substantial adverse impact on abutting property, otherwise has a significant social, economic, environmental or other effect; or
  • If TDOT determines that holding a public hearing is in the public interest.

TDOT may elect to hold a public hearing or to offer the opportunity to request a public hearing for a Draft TEER once it has been circulated for public comment. TDOT must submit a transcript of each public hearing and a certification that a required hearing was held or evidence that a hearing opportunity was offered. The transcript includes a transcription of all oral comments received at the hearing and all written comments received either at the hearing or during the official comment period.

Public notices for meetings and hearings must be placed in a general circulation newspaper citing the time, date, and location of the hearing.

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10.7.3 Notification of Meetings and Hearings

Notices for TEER-related public meetings and hearings take the form of either a legal notice in the classified section of project-area newspapers or as a newspaper display advertisement. The Environmental Division planner, the Project Manager, or his/her designee prepares the materials needed for the notice:

  • General project location map; and
  • Text for the notice that explains the purpose of the meeting/hearing and its location(s) and time.

The draft notice and map must be submitted to the Regional Community Relations Officer, with a copy to the Regional Survey and Design and Right-of-Way offices. The approved notice is then forwarded to the Legal Office, which will arrange for placing the advertisement in local papers.

Other optional means of notifying the public of an impending meeting may be:

  • Flyers posted in local businesses; the flyer would be developed by the planner and provided to the project manager or other appropriate staff in the TDOT Region Office (e.g., public involvement coordinator). A sample flyer is included in Appendix F [pdf 627 kb];
  • "Smart signs" posted in highway right-of-way along the project corridor; sign would be developed by planner and provided to project manager or other appropriate staff in the Region Office; and/or
  • News release for community newspapers, local radio stations; planner, project manager or designee would work with the Public Information Officer in the Community Relations Division.

When TDOT chooses not to hold a public hearing for a Draft TEER, a notice of opportunity must be published in local newspapers and posted on TDOT's website, to offer the public the opportunity to request a hearing. If no requests are received, TDOT places a notice in a local newspaper advising the public that although no public hearing will be held, the TEER document is available locally for review and comment.

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10.7.4 Meeting and Hearing Handouts

The Environmental Division planner prepares a draft meeting handout for review by the Project Manager and/or multidisciplinary team. The handout should include a project summary, list of potential impacts, project map, and description of TDOT's relocation procedures. Once approved, the planner finalizes the summary and makes copies for the meeting. A sample handout is located in Appendix F [pdf 627 kb].

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10.7.5 Opportunities for Public Comments

TDOT accepts written comments at public hearings as well as within the 21-day period following a public hearing. In addition, regardless of whether a hearing is held, the public and agencies are given at least 30 days from the date that the Draft TEER is made available to provide written comments on the project and the documentation. Public notices regarding the availability of the Draft TEER must include a contact name, address, and telephone number for persons who have questions, and specify the location for written comments to be sent.

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