08/16/05 — Council approves rules for comment

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Council approves rules for comment

By Turner Walston
Published in News on August 16, 2005 1:48 PM

Citizens wishing to address the Goldsboro City Council must follow new guidelines beginning next month. Council members voted Monday night to amend its policy regulating the public comment period at council meetings.

On Aug. 1, the council decided that anyone wishing to speak during the public comment period can do so without signing up in advance.

On Monday, City Attorney Tim Finan said his research suggested that the council could place "reasonable limitations" on the public comment period. He presented an amended policy proposal during the Monday night meeting.

The amendment gives the Council the right to set a maximum time for a person's comments, and asks groups to designate up to two spokesmen to speak on their behalf.

Under state law, only one public comment period is required per month, but the council decided last month to hold such a public comment period at all meetings. Speakers are given three minutes to address the council, and the total public comment period cannot exceed 30 minutes.

The amended policy also specifically give the mayor the power to maintain order and decorum during the public comment period.

Individuals wishing to address the council regarding a particular issue may do so once per quarter, but may speak on different topics at each meeting if they choose.

Finally, the policy restricts speakers to "relevant matters," defined as issues which are within the council's authority.

The council unanimously approved the new policy, which will take effect in September.

"Even though the city of Goldsboro had always provided a public forum, we did not have very specific procedures governing the public forum," Finan said today. "The city manager and I thought it would be an improvement if the council had some specific provisions as part of its policy."

In other business, the council voted to condemn three properties north of downtown after hearing recommendations from Ed Cianfarra, the city's chief building inspector. The dilapidated houses are located at 407 and 409 Wilson Street and at 409 William Street.

Council member Jimmy Bryan made a motion to condemn the William Street property while giving the owner 30 days to secure a bond to rehabilitate the home within six months.

During a public hearing on the proposed rezoning of property on the east side of New Hope Road between Hare Road and Shelley Drive a number of people expressed their concerns over the proposal. Property owners want the 52 acres rezoned from residential to office and institutional use. Currently, the property, which is adjacent to the Mimosa Park and Mimosa Park West subdivisions, is farmland.

Richard Krentz, who circulated a petition protesting the rezoning, suggested designating a strip of the property that lines New Hope Road as office and institutional, while keeping the majority of the land residential.

Phil Baddour, a lawyer for Norfam, the developer of the subdivisions, implored the council to follow through with its land-use plan that calls for residential development in the area.

"You have invested a lot of money in extending sewer to this area" Baddour said. "You need residential development in this area. It would be a shame to take this prime residential property out of its use."

Polly Purnell-Norris of Atlantic Beach owns the property jointly with her mother. She asked the council to consider rezoning the front portion of the property for office and institutional use. The land has been in her family for many years, she said, and her father would have wanted it developed.

"Not only is this important financially to us, it's also emotional to me."

The city's planning board will take the public comments into consideration and plans to make a recommendation at the next city council meeting.

The city council will next meet on Tuesday, Sept. 6 due to the Labor Day holiday.