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Public comment period could be included at Bethlehem planning board meetings

"We'd like to make all of this clear before it starts, so the public can know what to expect," she said. "Members of the public can also always send letter to the town if they have a question."

Behuniak reiterated that the board would not be engaging in a back and forth dialogue during this time.

"I would just point out that we as members wouldn't be answering questions, nor would staff of the town," said Behuniak. "But we could, as Kathy was saying, ask for clarification from people who would be speaking."

Leveille said it would be the responsibility of the board chairman to run the public comment period.

"I think the chair really should preside over that section," he said. "To the extent that members want clarifications, they just ask for them."

All specific questions would be answered, according to Leveille.

"If there are questions that people have, yes, we'll direct them to staff, and we'll be sure to provide answers at the next meeting," he said.

Leveille added that the two-minute time frame was a reasonable and manageable proposition.

"I think our intent was not to have some kind of [stop watch] here, but two minutes is a lot of time to be able to speak a comment within reason depending upon how many speakers are there," Leveille said. "It's a guide."

The specifics of the proposed public comment period are being drafted and will be presented at the next Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, March 17. If the board adopts the proposal, the first official public comment period would be held at the board's first meeting in April.

"I think it's a reasonable way to get additional public input that's consistent with what other boards are doing," said Leveille. "Many boards and advisory committees operate this way and it's a final opportunity for somebody to speak to the planning board before action is taken on a particular item."

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