Although the town of Warrenton’s website includes instructions for residents to participate in meetings remotely during citizens time and public hearings, residents will not be able to offer remote comments (via Zoom) during the town council’s Tuesday, March 9 meeting at Warrenton Town Hall, 21 Main Street. Residents will be able to express their opinions in person or in writing (by mail or email).
At the March 9 meeting, public hearings will be held on the town’s comprehensive plan (Plan Warrenton 2040), and on a subdivision ordinance relating to a parcel located at 50 Oak Street And 110 Oak Street. Residents who are not comfortable attending the 6:30 p.m. meeting in person because of the pandemic may submit their comments by mailing statements to the Warrenton clerk’s office at 21 Main Street, dropping off comments in the town hall drop box before noon the day of the town council meeting, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no guarantee that written comments will be read out loud during the meeting, confirmed Town Clerk Elizabeth Gillie.
Gillie placed an announcement under the news section of the town’s website Wednesday, stating, “We have had a few questions on how residents can have their comments heard at the upcoming town council meeting. Citizens time is for those residents who would like to address council on any issue as long as it not already on the agenda for discussion. These comments must be kept under five minutes.
“For comments during the public hearing, residents may address council, but comments must be kept under three minutes. All comments received will be entered into the public record and will be provided to all council members.”
Gillie’s statement includes a request that residents who are a part of a group have only one person speak on the groups’ behalf.
The statement continues to explain that although the meeting will be available for viewing via Zoom, as usual, comments will not be accepted over Zoom as part of the public hearing or citizen’s time.
Mayor Carter Nevill, in explaining the decision not to offer the option of remote comments said, “our system does not sync well enough with the Zoom platform to manage large numbers of participants in a manner that is fair and equitable. We have tried to accommodate comments for citizen’s time using Zoom, and the difficulties have proven frustrating for us and for the participant.”
He said that especially because Tuesday’s meeting is expected to draw a larger number of participants, “we determined that the best policy for all would be to use the established methods of submitting comment: in person or via written letter. If we encouraged people to use Zoom and they encountered technical problems that denied them the opportunity to speak or have their comments entered, we think that would be unfair and expose us to challenges.”
Nevill added, “We have tried our best to push the technology to make government as accessible as possible during the pandemic, and we have gone further than many other municipalities in doing so. But our personnel and technology resources are limited, and given the importance of this issue, the best practice is to work within our capacity to ensure a fair, equitable and transparent process.”
Additional questions may be directed to the town clerk at email@example.com.
Masks must be worn by everyone attending the meeting.
Reach Robin Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org