Because the county requires Board of Zoning Appeals notices be published in newspaper advertisements twice before hearings and the state does not, the Board of Commissioners agreed to take a suggestion to remove the requirement to a public hearing this week.
They also agreed to change the format of the signs posted on properties giving notice of meetings.
“Under state law, you’re required only to give reasonable public notice of Board of Zoning Appeals hearings,” County Attorney Tim Burke told commissioners at their Oct. 18 meeting.
“Your zoning ordinance requires four items,” he said. “No. 1, a mailing of the notice to all adjoining property owners; No. 2, a posting on the property with notice of the hearing; No. 3, posting of the notice in county office building — and we expanded that to use to the county website — and No. 4, the subject of this morning’s discussion, two advertisements in the Carroll County Times that have to run in sequence.”
Burke said if the newspaper advertisements were removed, the county would still continue to notify the public of the hearings in the ways he described.
But he also said he remembered commissioners were reluctant to accept his suggestion when he first brought it up in late May.
“It was suggested by at least one or two of the members that they’d be satisfied with one newspaper advertisement of the hearings,” said Burke.
But he said he wanted to ask them to consider removing the advertisements entirely one more time, he said.
“I think it’s antiquated,” said Burke. “I think it’s underused. I think it’s a waste of money. We spend over $5,000 on it.
“And last,” he said, “with all due respect to the Carroll County Times, under the new regime down there they’ve botched at least four newspaper advertisements for the Board of Zoning Appeals hearings — some of which required a postponement, which is a lot of inconvenience and a lot of wasted people’s time, and a lot of aggravation.”
Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, asked if both suggestions could go to a public hearing — the suggestion to remove the requirement all together and the suggestion to decrease the newspaper ad requirement to one.
“I’d like to hear [comments] about both,” he said.
And Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said he would like to see both options outlined clearly for the public hearing so residents could comment on both.
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said he agreed with Howard, but that he wanted to keep in mind the residents that still rely on the newspaper for this information.
“[If it weren’t] for the fact I have a ton of citizens in my district who don't have access to the internet, I’d be a fan of eliminating it all together,” said Wantz. “But I'd like to hear from the public.”
His constituents reach out to him regularly to discuss articles and notices they have read in the newspaper, he said.
The date for the public hearing is still to be determined.
Burke also brought to commissioners a recommendation for a new design for signs that advertise upcoming meetings.
When the board discussed newspaper advertisements in May, Howard suggested signs on properties have larger fonts and be made clearer for drivers and passengers in vehicles to read.
“As the young people say, there’s TMI on there, too much information,” said Burke on Thursday. “So we figured to look at the sign to see if we could come up with a better template.”
With Burke was Darby Metcalf, a geographic information systems technician with the county’s planning department, to explain the new signs — which are color-coded with case numbers to look up short descriptions on the hearings, and phone numbers.
To clean up a busy format, statutory references and code references were eliminated.
“I think it’s important to have the phone number for people to call,” Wantz said.
“This came up at planning the other day,” he said. “There’s a proposed facility down there [in Freedom] and people said stopping on Liberty Road to read our signs, you're going to get killed. This, you can at least slow down and get the phone number to call for additional information.”
Commissioners voted to accept the new sign changes, 4-0, with Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, absent.
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The new signs will go into effect “as soon as possible,” Burke said.