To the Editor:
I believe we can all agree that we are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. People are deeply concerned about jobs, paychecks, kids out of school, and putting food on the table, getting sick, and loved ones dying. This is not the time for zoning cases to be pushed through the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings without proper PUBLIC citizen comment.
While the Public is completely occupied by the COVID-19 Corona emergency, Zoning Cases, including the huge Courthouse Landing case, are poised to progress through the Planning Commission and/or Board of Supervisors without proper public vetting. The Planning Commission Agenda for the April 21 meeting lists eighteen (18) Zoning Cases to be heard and recommended. The public is essentially shut out of this meeting, due to “social distancing” guidelines. Though the County has a “virtual platform” to comment through, this is NOT a true Public Comment opportunity, as intended by County Code.
State Attorney General Mark Herring issued an advisory opinion last month stating local governing bodies could hold remote meetings during the emergency IF the business they took up pertains to the emergency or would cause “irrevocable public harm” if not handled. Private developer Zoning cases are not part of this emergency! We believe the Attorney General’s opinion grants governing bodies flexibility to delay hearings on anything other than what would cause “irrevocable public harm”. We also believe the Governor’s recent closing of schools, theaters, restaurants, stay-at-home orders, etc. illustrate that in a state of emergency, the “norm” can and does change.
Our emails to the County Administrator and the Board of Supervisors requesting a moratorium on zoning cases have not been acknowledged. Communication from two Planning Commissioners indicate they plan to proceed with the cases. It is up to US to demand a Moratorium on zoning cases until the emergency ends and hearings can be held with the public physically present. Please email your State senators, delegates, and the County Board of Supervisors. If you don’t, many cases could sail through this month and in the future without proper PUBLIC comment & vetting.
Mike Uzel & Phil Lohr
Chesterfield Citizens United