Vol. IV No. 20 9/15/2023
Key Notes from the Planning Board, September 5, 2023, Hybrid
Chair Kate Fletcher opened the meeting with a suggestion that they only meet once a month. Marie Rafferty, Nancy Sosha, and Wayne Slosek wanted to meet more often to discuss topics of interest and not only meet or limit meetings to consider applications for permits. Sosha suggested they should also make time to discuss other issues of interest. She mentioned zoning as a possible topic.
Slosek wanted to be free to bring up an issue during a meeting and felt as if members were being silenced unfairly. The Chair explained that according to Open Meeting Laws, only matters on the agenda could be discussed.
Slosek said he didn't believe it.
Gary Pitney said it was true. Lis Wheeler said why not ask Town Counsel to send a memo to each member confirming the rules under the OML.
It was a brief and tense meeting. Sosha walked out.
The Chair agreed that time would be set aside at the next meeting for all members to suggest topics for future discussion that would be placed on later agendas. The Chairs asked members to make specific suggestions so they could be placed on the agendas for future meetings — OML requires specificity. It was also agreed that Town Counsel would be asked to send a memo to each member confirming OML rules and restrictions especially as pertains to the agenda.
There was no vote on the Chair's suggestion about a monthly rather than the current bi-monthly meetings.
Editor's note: Following is the memo dated September 13,2023, to PB explaining the relevant portions of the OML prepared by the Town Administrator in consultation with Town Counsel
Meeting Agenda must be posted, 48 hours in advance in a legible, easily understandable format; contain the date, time, and place of the meeting; and list all topics that the chair reasonably anticipates will be discussed at the meeting.
The list of topics must be sufficiently specific to reasonably inform the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting. Meeting notices must also indicate the date and time that the notice was posted, either on the notice itself or in a document or website accompanying the notice. If a notice is revised, the revised notice must also conspicuously record both the date and time the original notice was posted as well as the date and time the last revision was posted. Recording the date and time enables the public to observe that public bodies are complying with the Open Meeting Law's notice requirements without requiring constant vigilance.
Additionally, in the event of a complaint, it provides the Attorney General with evidence of compliance with those requirements.
If a discussion topic is proposed after a meeting notice is posted, and it was not reasonably anticipated by the chair more than 48 hours before the meeting, the public body should update its posting to provide the public with as much notice as possible of what subjects will be discussed during the meeting. Although a public body may consider a topic that was not listed in the meeting notice if it was not anticipated, the Attorney General strongly encourages that unless matter requires immediate action it should be put off to a later meeting and included in the agenda.
Certain matters may be communicated outside of the open meeting law but are limited. 1) Questions concerning meeting cancellations and scheduling often must be discussed outside of a meeting. 2) Requests to put items on the agenda, so long as no substantive discussion occurs. a) Request can be made to the chair to place an item on an agenda outside or during a meeting for the next meeting or a specific meeting date. b) If the chair refuses, a member may request to the board members to place the item on an agenda by majority vote. If approved, the item will be placed on the agenda for the next meeting or a specific meeting.
Photo: Lionel Delevingne