To allow zoning cases to move forward during the COVID-19 state of emergency, on Tuesday, the Clarksville City Council changed its rules to allow public comment without the residents appearing in person.
The council voted 12-1 to allow two methods of public comment: emails or letters and live video in the city hall lobby.
“Everything in our life is different now, and decisions need to be made,” said Councilwoman Stacey Streetman, explaining her vote on the measure.
The council had previously postponed zoning decisions, because it is necessary to allow public comments and it is usually necessary for it to be in person. This created delays for incoming developers, builders and business owners.
“I was told in March that we would suspend it (the zoning decisions),” said Councilman Tim Chandler, the only vote against the change. “For me, this is simply not giving citizens a fair shake.”
Public comments will be available:
By email to firstname.lastname@example.org or letter sent to City Hall. The letter can be up to five pages long, must be sent 72 hours before the relevant board or committee meeting and must include details of the case to which it refers.
By live video at Google Meet through the use of a computer kiosk in the city hall lobby at One Public Square. Persons wishing to do so should call the city secretary at 931-648-6121 or email email@example.com 48 hours before the meeting. Comments are limited to five minutes and only three residents can comment per side, per case.
After the meeting, Chandler said that while these measures offer an opportunity for citizens to comment, it is not enough.
“There is a big difference between reading a five-page email and having 25 people show up at a City Council meeting,” he said. He said he understands that developers and builders are losing money “but everyone is losing money”.
The matter can be discussed before it goes into effect. It only applies until Governor Bill Lee’s request No. 16 is lifted, which allows municipalities to hold remote meetings.
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