IW planners vote to prohibit post-public hearing remarks

Published 6:35 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

Isle of Wight County’s Planning Commission has adopted a change to its bylaws that now requires anyone wishing to speak for or against a project do so at the scheduled public hearing.

The Board of Supervisors’ and Planning Commission’s bylaws each prohibit remarks during the public comment period on any item scheduled for a separate public hearing later in the meeting. The rule is intended to keep speakers from speaking twice at the same meeting on the same topic.

The supervisors’ bylaws include an additional restriction barring public comments at future meetings on a matter that has “already been the subject of a previous public hearing” but where “no final vote has been taken.” Effective May 23, that language has now been added to the Planning Commission’s bylaws as well.

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The provision is intended to keep people from speaking over and over on the same topic once a public hearing on the matter has closed. County Attorney Bobby Jones brought the discrepancy in the two bodies’ bylaws to the commission’s attention in March after two speakers used the public comment period at the March meeting to lobby in favor of a proposed solar farm that had been the subject of a February public hearing.

According to Jones, the change only applies to unsolicited comments and does not prevent commissioners from asking a project’s developer or county staff for additional information following a hearing.

The commissioners waited until their May meeting to make the change due to a provision of the bylaws that requires any bylaw changes be provided in writing to each commissioner at least 30 days prior to the vote to adopt those changes.

The vote to amend the bylaws passed unanimously with Commissioner Jennifer Boykin absent.