Members of the Rural Land Use Study Commission indicated this week they would be willing to "consider" Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray's request that they hold a second public hearing on alternatives to three-acre zoning in the western part of the county.

The ad-hoc citizens' commission had voted 5-2 on June 12 not to hold a second hearing.

Earlier this month, the commission was vilified and hooted down when it presented cluster zoning ideas at what Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, called "the most unruly hearing I've beento."

After the hearing, the commission decided not to recommend small villages asa way to save land in rural areas.

It did endorse clustered developments and hamlets as alternatives to three-acre zoning.

It also agreed to reaffirm the county's continuing use of its highly successful farmland preservation program.

A citizens' group opposed to thecluster concept presented Feaga with a 1,200-signature petition June14 demanding the commission hold more hearings.

Although sympathetic to the idea, Feaga did not press for one, saying the council should not be "looking over the commission's shoulder" and telling it what to do. The commission has been meeting several hours each week since January.

But Gray last week said he felt compelled to press for another hearing because of the petition and because several people have called him to request one.

"I tend to respond to individual requests," Gray said.

In a June 18 letter to commission Chairman Ted Mariani, Gray requested a second hearing "given the importance of this issue and the interest by citizens" and "to receive additional public input."

Gray said he had not had an opportunity to talk with othercouncil members about his letter because he needed to move quickly.

The commission will meet Tuesday to decide what to include in its report, which is due before the council the first week in July.

"I understand that the public hearing held by the Commission on June 5, 1991, was very heated," Gray wrote Mariani. "Hopefully it was enlightening as well. It is not unexpected that emotions would run high."

Mariani, who with Commissioner Bruce Brendel voted in favor of a second hearing, said "such a strong letter carries a lot of weight."

He said he will present Gray's request for a vote Tuesday.

Three of the five commission members who voted against a second hearing -- Ann Jones Koch, Randall Nixon, and Richard L. Talkin -- said they would be willing to "consider" Gray's suggestion, although Nixon says he is still "probably adverse" to the idea.

Koch's concern is timing. She says she has accepted other commitments past the July deadline.

Former state Sen. James Clark and Commissioner Thomas Mateya say unequivocally that they plan to stick by their earlier vote not to hold another hearing.

"This is just the beginning of a process," Clark said. "I think we've done our job" of suggesting ways to implement clustered zoning in accordance with the 1990 General Plan. "After all, we weren't asked or required to hold hearings anyhow."

The public will have "plenty of opportunity" to tell the council what it thinks about the commission's findings, Clark said. "The council is going to have meetings. And Dr. Gray can have as many hearings as he wants."

Mateya agrees: "I think we really are fulfilling our charge. We have been working on this 20 weeks now. Part of our recommendationis that the council needs to make a fairly substantial educational effort during comprehensive rezoning."

Council member Paul Farragut, D-4th, who along with Feaga attended the commission's June 5 hearing at Glenelg High School, thinks a combination of Gray's and Mateya'sideas would work best.

"I think additional public input would be useful," Farragut said, "but in a more informal setting -- discussiongroups with leaders -- a report technique. People would not feel so threatened in a small group."

Farragut also thinks various citizens groups and environmental organizations should play leadership rolesin such a meeting.

"This may be the last opportunity to look at another concept before the west is taken over by three-acre zoning andeasements," he said. The council needs to find out: "Is there another way to save land and discourage some of the subdivision" in the western portion of the county?

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