Planning Board Look at Allowing More Public Input

On April 10, the Hudson Planning Board discussed how they best implement a more extensive public input session before their meetings in response to the passage of Warrant Article 28 last March. The article directs public meetings to “include time for public input regarding anything that board or committee has control over at the start of each meeting.”
Board member, Victor Oates, looked at the town of Ossipee, which incorporated a similar law decades ago, as a possible example of how to proceed.
“They’ve had no major explosions of problems, I just want to add that it is already being done in the state, Hudson would not be the first,” said Oates.
Ossipee limits its public input sessions to topics unrelated to existing cases, and member, James Crowley, recommended adding a similar rule in Hudson. Members of the public already can give feedback on pending matters as they come up.
“I worked in two towns that do have comments for their Planning Board and other things that are typical is that there’s no dialogue. People can come and make statements, but it’s not a back and forth between the Board and the individual,” explained Interim Town Planner, Jay Minkarah. “It’s also very common for there to be a time limit of say five minutes.”
He added that the frequency of comments during public input depended on the community, with the time limit in place to keep meetings from dragging on while prioritizing applicants.
“I think we need to make sure that somebody who’s going to do a site application in six months doesn’t have folks come in to talk about their property,” suggested Selectmen Liaison, Bob Guessferd, who recommended limiting some discussion on matters not immediately before the Planning Board. “We’re a quasi-judicial committee here, we have to be careful with regard to what we’re influenced by.”
There was some debate on the feasibility of that rule restricting discussion on a case not officially before the Board.
“Let them have their say and move on, as long as it’s not around anything before the Board that night,” said Oates. “You can’t control, that’s not what public input is.”
Chair, Tim Malley, complained that the wording of the Warrant Article was too vague and did not add anything to the current testimony process.
“I don’t understand why we need additional public input. Everything that’s under the jurisdiction of this Planning Board, every action we can take, already requires public input,” said Malley.
Other possible restrictions included input disparaging specific people or properties. Minkarah indicated that “speaking in generalities” would be preferable and more productive.
“I’m just worried about the grey area. We’ve got the Central Gas Station that is across multiple meetings over months. Who’s to say whether someone that’s come in on an off day just talking about gas stations is good or bad with the rules?” asked member, Tim Lyko. “Has anybody talked to legal?”
The Chair confirmed he already talked with Hudson’s Legal Division to confirm that Article 28 was advisory.
“The legal opinion was there’s nothing in the law that stipulates what you can’t do,” said Malley.
The exact language for their rules on public input will be addressed at a future workshop.

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