Special Information about the July 14 & July 28 Council Meetings
The River Bend Town Council will be discussing a rezoning request over the course of two meetings in July. The first meeting will take place on July 14, 2022 and the second will be on July 28. As the date of those meetings approach an agenda for each will be prepared and advertised as usual. However, the Council already knows that rezoning will be a topic at each meeting.
The meeting on July 14 will start at 6 p.m. This is the usual date and place for Council’s monthly work session. The only change is the start time. One agenda item for this meeting will be a question and answer session between the Town Council and Ellis Development concerning a proposed rezoning request. The doors will be open to the public at 5:30 p.m. There is a seating capacity for the room and once that has been reached, admittance will be stopped. Reserving of seats is not allowed. The Council will not take any action on the rezoning request at this meeting.
The meeting on July 28 will start at 6 p.m. The purpose of this meeting is to conduct a public hearing to gather public comments on a proposed re-zoning request. More information about the proposed rezoning can be found on the town’s web page at www.riverbendnc.org by clicking on the “Rezoning Request” tab. The doors will be open to the public at 5:30 p.m. There is a seating capacity for the room and once that has been reached, admittance will be stopped. Reserving of seats is not allowed. The town’s rules for conducting a public hearing will be followed.
Recently, there has been much discussion about the venue for the public hearing on July 28 not being large enough to accommodate all River Bend residents. That is correct. There is no indoor venue in River Bend or the surrounding area that will accommodate all 3,000 residents. The seating capacity in the room is 99. Obviously, some of those seats will be taken by Council members, staff, camera crew and the developer. The remaining seats will be available for the public to use. The town has taken extra steps to make the meetings available to as many residents as possible.
Step 1. CTV-10 has agreed to record both meetings and both will be available for viewing on the town’s web page the following day. They will also be aired on the local CTV-10 Channel.
Step 2. If you do not want to wait to watch, the town has arranged to have both meetings available to be viewed via live stream as they occur. You will simply go to the town’s webpage on the day/time of the event and click on a link. You can also click here now to see the site for the live stream. The stream will not be live until the date and time of the event. As long as you have a device with a screen and internet service, you will be able to watch the meeting from anywhere in the world live. Each meeting will have its own link. The link for the July 28 meeting will not be posted until after the July 14 meeting.
Step 3. The town’s rules for conducting a public hearing require everyone to sign up in order to speak. Please carefully read the overview of the policy. Obviously, if the room is at maximum capacity people who are outside of the room will not be able to sign up to speak. For the July 28 public hearing the town will have a second signup sheet posted outside of the room. We will refer to it as the “will-call” list. We will maintain 1 vacant seat in town hall. That vacant seat will allow anyone who is on the “will-call” list to enter the room and make their comments. However, anyone who signs the “will-call” list will be doing so with the condition that they must leave the room after speaking, thus creating a space for the next person on the “will-call” list to enter and speak. This will allow everyone who has signed up to speak an opportunity to be heard.
The Town realizes that these steps are not the perfect solution and in reality there is no perfect solution. Any option has its drawbacks. For example, we could have the public hearing on the soccer field. That would probably accommodate every resident but what if it rains or is really hot that day? We could move the venue to an out-of-town location but then people would have to drive farther to attend it. Also, the Council meeting room is already prewired with a public address system and prewired for recording. If we use another venue, we would lose those capabilities. The town strives to be transparent. Lots of information about this issue and about these meetings has been made available to the public for some time. The “will-call”, live streaming and recording options are just more examples of how we are doing more than is required by law to make your government more transparent and more accessible. For some of you, these options will make it even easier for you to view and/or participate in the process. You can watch the meetings from a hotel room while on vacation if you like. While maybe not perfect, they do offer everyone an opportunity to view the meetings from the comfort of your own home and an opportunity for everyone who physically attends the public hearing to be heard.
Finally, be advised that the public hearing is not the only platform for the public to share comments with Council. You do not need to be physically present at the public hearing to be heard. Citizens who want to avoid the crowds, can’t come to the meeting due to scheduling, are not physically able to attend, do not want to wait a long time to speak, etc. can share their comments/opinions with the Council via emails, phone calls, letters or face-to-face exchanges. The Council is in no way obligated to only consider the comments expressed during the public hearing. Sharing comments before the meeting is similar to “early voting”. The Council’s email addresses are published on our web page. Anyone can drop off notes in our overnight payment box at town hall or in person with one of the staff by 4 p.m. on July 27, 2022. They need to be labeled as “RE: Rezoning.” Any received by us by the deadline will be distributed to the Council prior to the public hearing.
Some have asked about the Councils options after the public hearing. The options are simple. The Council may deny the request. The Council may approve the request. The Council may reject the request as presented and offer another option for the developer to consider. If the developer agrees with another option, they will submit a new rezoning request and start the process over again. The Council is not obligated to vote on the request at the conclusion of the public hearing on July 28 but they can if they want to. They may want to take time to digest citizen input and wait until a later date to vote. That is at their discretion.