Not a word.
That's how much Columbia County Planning Commission members are currently allowed to say to others outside a public hearing concerning a zoning matter.
But now, a provision in the commission's code of conduct that prevents communication is causing a group of developers and elected officials to start talking.
"I'm not in favor of anything that prohibits information to those who make the decisions," said County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, adding that he thinks the provision should be changed.
The issue was raised at a Monday county planning and engineering services committee after a group of developers complained they were not able to speak to planning commission members before a public hearing concerning a proposed zoning issue. The provision in question, which officials said was adopted in 2004, states that planning commissioners are to speak to no one outside a public hearing concerning an issue that they must vote on.
Developers such as Jake Ivey and Oliver Owens attended the Monday meeting, telling committee members that prior to the public hearing they are allowed to only communicate directly with Jeff Browning, the county's planning director, and members of his staff. The developers said they worry that sometimes their argument on a matter might be presented to planning commissioners only through the opinion of the planning and zoning department staff.
Applicants have as much as 10 minutes in a public hearing to speak to planning commissioners, but developers said Monday that's not adequate.
In the end, members of the planning and engineering services committee agreed to have County Attorney Doug Batchelor reassess the provision in the planning commission's code of conduct to allow them to speak to the public and county commissioners outside a public hearing so long as it is understood they will not be able to say how they will vote on a particular issue.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.