Open to the public

The Bethlehem Planning Board wants residents to hear them out on a proposal to hear more feedback from the community on local projects.

The board's new chairman and former director of economic development George Leveille brought up the subject in February, saying he wanted to include a public comment period before going over agenda items at the town's bi-monthly meetings.

Currently the board has no public comment period, but frequently holds public hearings. A hearing is a required project-specific forum at which residents can air concerns or comments to the board, which are added to the town's official record and meeting minutes. Many other boards, such as the Town Board, have a public comment period as a part of the regularly scheduled agenda.

Leveille said he met with Planning Board members Katherine McCarthy and Nicholas Behuniak, as well as Director of Economic Development and Planning Michael Morelli and Administrative Assistant Nanci Moquin.

I think it's a reasonable way to get additional input, Leveille said during the Tuesday, March 3, board meeting at Town Hall. "What we're trying to do is get more comments."

The planning subcommittee has put together a format they believe will foster a more open dialogue with town residents by creating a vehicle to receive and record important feedback from people who could be affected by proposals before them.

McCarthy said the group is proposing to hold the public comment period at the beginning of their meetings, which starts at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, for a length of 10 minutes.

"This is separate from a public hearing," McCarthy told board members. "This would be at every meeting comments would be limited to the items on the agenda for that meeting and each speaker would be allowed to speak for two minutes."

McCarthy said it wouldn't be a "question and answer" format, and that the board would not be responding to the comments, but merely listing to the speaker's. She added that board members could clarify issues or items and that any board member could request to extend the comment period by another 10 minutes if necessary.

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