Planning Board To Start New Public Comment Procedure

NEW PROCEDURE – Planning Board chairman Michael Orsini discusses the new Board policy on public comment.

Attendees at the September 26 Planning Board special meeting on the B9 warehouses project will encounter something new: a sign-up sheet for those who wish to make public comment.

The decision to create the sign-up sheet was made at the Board’s September 20 meeting, and is seen as a way to help gauge how much time will be needed for public comment.

Board bylaws limit speakers to five minutes; that limitation has not been enforced in quite a while, although it was at the last time the B9 application was heard on September 6.

Board chairman Michael Orsini said at the September 20 meeting that he has always tried to be “fair and liberal” when it comes to public comment, and that he has allowed some people to speak for 20 minutes.

He said that some people “got kind of flustered” at the last B9 hearing when he instituted the five-minute rule.

“I reserve the right to let the person finish their thought … not to start a new one,” he said. “They will have an additional time to come back.”

“The Board can waive those rules any night, that doesn’t take away our ability to do that,” he said.

Board vice-chairman Charles Brown suggested the sign-up sheet to help Orsini determine if the time limit should be shortened.

“If we’re granting a minimum of five minutes, what happens when we have 20, 30, 40 people who want to speak and you have to honor that 5 minutes,” he said. “I would like to give you discretion to reduce the time, to take into consideration the number of people who are here.”

Orsini noted that the Board could not prohibit someone from speaking if they did not sign up on the sheet. He said it would just be used to get a rough idea of how much time would be needed for the public sessions.

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