Planning Commission convenes to discuss how to meet during COVID-19 emergency

On April 16 the Planning Commission held its first meeting since early March, with all members virtually present. While planning and scheduling future meetings was the only agenda item, members also discussed logistics such as site visits and how to encourage public participation in hearings using a virtual platform.

After Chair Peter Joslin welcomed new member Bill Stuono to the commission, he asked Town Planner Daryl Arminius to share the most recent information about town meetings from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. In an email the VCLT said it “does not recommend holding a public hearing during the public health emergency amid the stay-at-home order’s restrictions on public gatherings.” Joslin asked the board to come to an agreement on how to proceed.

Planning Commission member Marty Illick said, “Depending on the urgency … it could be a case by case basis—some may not be able to go through until the order is lifted.” Joslin agreed, noting, “I want to make sure those who can participate, can. We can use the [land use regulation] petition as an example. A lot of people might want to participate.”

The commission decided to move forward with the planned agenda for May 7 with Arminius saying he would contact as many interested individuals and adjoining landowners as possible via phone or email. When the question of site visits came up, he suggested commission members meet and remain in their cars. Planning Commission member Shawn Coyle asked if they could look into using a drone for site visits. “We’d have a more permanent record, we could see it from the air and review it,” he said.

Commission member Bill Stuono asked how the commission planned to hold deliberations and record virtual attendance, which replaces the in-person sign-in sheet. The commission considered some of the features offered in Zoom as alternatives.

Illick then asked about communications regarding the recent land use regulation (LUR) petition. Joslin said he would draft and post an update to Front Porch Forum. “We are moving forward slowly, one step at a time. Our intentions are to hear the petition and move the LUR forward—we just don’t know exactly when yet,” said Joslin.