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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Public input pushed back


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Residents will have to wait a bit longer to express their opinions at County Commission meetings.

Board members agreed Tuesday to remove resident comments from the beginning of the meeting until after the public hearings are concluded, but before they take up any staff business.

That gives residents or business owners who have hired attorneys or consultants the opportunity to get their zoning cases or other hearings out of the way without racking up bigger bills by having them wait through citizen comments.

“The public should always come before staff in terms of business coming before the commission,” Russell said.

But it is also important to accommodate those awaiting public hearings and who have made appointments, Russell said. Plus, it would still be early enough in the day to hear resident comments, he said.

And, who knows, he added, perhaps some of the concerns brought up in public hearings may be ones other residents may have had and those would be addressed.

The idea met with approval from County Commissioner Diane Rowden, who last week broached the possibility of changing resdient comments to later in the meeting, just before the final commissioners’ comments.

Rowden said that would benefit residents because they would have more information about agenda items after the board discussed them or could make comments during the public input of individual agenda items.

Others, who hire attorneys to represent them at public hearings, would save legal fees by getting their cases heard in a more timely manner.

Rowden supported Russell’s idea and the board could always modify the times if needed.

“I like that idea and you can always change it if it doesn’t work,” Rowden said. “I’m hoping we’re going to see a lot more businesses coming before the county with public hearings and attorneys obviously and their consultants cost a lot of money and it still gives the citizens the opportunity without waiting until the end of the day.”

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