How to participate in public meetings remotely.

 

April 21, 2020

Montpelier Development Review Board and Design Review Committee
Procedures for Remote Meetings: A Guide for How to Participate

Since social distancing to preserve public health and safety have become standard practices, the City of Montpelier is working to conduct public meetings via electronic methods whenever possible. With the State’s passage of H.681, the physical location requirements for most public meetings is temporarily waived for the duration of the Governor’s declared state of emergency.

During this time, Design Review Committee meetings will be conducted solely electronically with options for public participation.

Meanwhile, Development Review Board meetings will not begin until the Governor has lifted or sufficiently modified the “Stay-At-Home” Order—Addendum 6 to Executive Order 01-20. When the Board’s meetings commence all members, applicants, and public participants will be highly encouraged to attend electronically. However, given the potential for decisions by the Development Review Board to have effects on interested persons, there will also be the opportunity to attend in person.

In an effort to help prepare you for what to expect with a remote meeting, the following information has been prepared to identify how the Board and Committee will conduct business and how you can participate.

If you have questions about any of this information please reach out to Meredith S. Crandall, Planning and Zoning Administrator at mcrandall@montpelier-vt.org.

How will I be able to participate in a remote meeting? 

The City of Montpelier is using a program called Zoom to conduct remote meetings. Zoom allows participation via computer or telephone. The Zoom meeting link will be provided on each Meeting Agenda.

  • If you participate via computer, you have the option of seeing the other participants, and also seeing the information that is being presented. The only requirements are that you have a reliable internet connection, a web browser (such as Chrome or Internet Explorer), speakers to hear the discussions, and a microphone if you want to speak.
  • You can also use a smartphone, but may be required to download the Zoom app before it will allow you to participate. In this instance, you may be able to use the smartphone’s built in camera, speakers, and microphone to see and hear the proceedings of the meeting.

  • Another option is to use your telephone and call in. A phone number and Meeting ID will be provided on each Meeting Agenda that allow interested persons to use a standard telephone to participate. This option will accommodate the audio portion of the meeting, however no visual information will be available.

When a Zoom meeting is scheduled, a website address, telephone number, and Meeting ID will also be provided with the public hearing notice. This will allow any interested person to choose the option that best suits their needs for participating. A different website address and Meeting ID are generated for each meeting.

Whether you choose to use a telephone or computer, we ask that you join the meeting approximately 10 minutes before the scheduled start time (5:20pm for regular Design Review Committee meetings and 6:50 pm for Development Review Board meetings). This will allow us to note who is participating, but also confirm your intent to provide testimony or not. This is also a great opportunity to check your equipment to make sure we can hear you, and you can hear us. If you are only interested in watching the proceedings and not providing testimony, our meetings will continue to be live-streamed and archived via ORCA Media and can be viewed via your television or computer:

TIP: We ask that if you are calling in or participating in the Zoom meeting, you do not have the audio from the live broadcast (from ORCA or the City’s Website) playing at the same time. It causes a very bad feedback loop and can disrupt the meeting.

What should I do if I’m interested in participating in a remote meeting? 

If you want to provide testimony or otherwise participate in a remote meeting, we ask that you take the following steps to assist us in making this process run as smoothly as possible.

  • Provide a notification to the City via email that you want to participate in the hearing. You can do this by sending your name and address to Meredith Crandall at mcrandall@montpelier-vt.org before 4pm on the day of the regularly scheduled meeting.  This information will be used for a sign-in as proof of participation and will aid the Board or Committee Chair in recognizing persons interested in participating.
     
  • When notifying the City, include the specific questions or discussion topics that you intend to address during the meeting. This will allow the Committee or Board to discuss these issues at the meeting, but also ensure that if you are having difficulties connecting to the remote meeting, your questions or concerns can still be addressed.
  • If you have any documents or information you want to be included in the public record, provide that information via email to Meredith Crandall at mcrandall@montpelier-vt.org. This should be sent by 12:30pm the day of a regularly scheduled Meeting, which will allow for distribution to the appropriate members. Also, if the documents are provided in advance, staff will ensure that anyone participating in the meeting through visual means will have the ability to see the information.
  • When you join the meeting (preferably 10 minutes before the start time) you will be asked to introduce yourself to staff. If you previously indicated your intent to provide testimony, we will confirm your interest. If you did not previously indicate your intent to provide testimony but have since changed your mind, you can declare that intent when you introduce yourself. This includes wanting to speak during the Other Business time at the end of the agenda.

Please note, failure to meet any of the above items will not limit your ability to participate in the hearing. Also, any questions or concerns provided in advance will not preclude you from asking additional questions when you’ve been recognized by the Committee or Board Chair to provide questions or comments. This is simply being requested to help ensure an orderly meeting can be conducted since there will not be any visual cues in a physical room for recognizing persons interested in participating.

Note that if you exhibit any extremely disruptive or inappropriate acts over the phone or Zoom camera, the City reserves the right to mute you or turn off your camera feed. 


What can I expect at the meeting? 

These are new and challenging times for everyone. While there is no way to predict exactly what will occur at the meeting, we are hoping to have a format similar to what occurs when we all gather to meet in person and will be easy to follow. In general, we anticipate the meeting will go like this:

  • The Board or Committee Chair will call the meeting to order and introduce the members. The Chair will also provide an overview of the items that are on the agenda indicating the order in which they will be heard.
  • The City of Montpelier’s Design Review Committee and Development Review Board Meetings are typically focused on hearing specific permit applications.  For each application, the order of events is typically as follows (with some modifications depending on the application itself):
  • Chair or staff will provide a brief overview of the application
  • Applicant makes a presentation
  • The Committee or Board members ask questions of Applicant, potentially resulting in discussion
  • Once the Chair has confirmed that Committee/Board members have no further questions, the Chair will call on members of the public to participate based on the order they submitted their intent.
  • If you are interested in speaking, and had not said you would like to speak previously, please raise your hand or state your name, and City Staff will add you to the queue.
  • Once the Chair has recognized you to participate, the moderator will unmute your microphone and confirm that you can be heard. You are then free to provide your questions or comments, aiming to keep them to 2 minutes. The members will have the opportunity to respond or ask questions of you, and the Applicant may have an opportunity to respond. The Chair may grant additional time for speakers who have follow-up questions or comments. After you have finished, your microphone will be muted again.
  • The Chair will then call the next person to speak. You will be able to provide additional input, but only after the Chair recognizes you again. If no one requests to provide additional information, the Chair will move on.
  • Staff presents any written comments from the public that were not circulated prior to the hearing.
  • Board or Committee deliberates — either publicly or in closed, deliberative session, typically after the close of the public hearing.

Be prepared for technical difficulties and lag in audio/video. Not everything works as planned, but we will do all that we can to ensure a complete record is created and everyone has an opportunity to participate.


What happens when the meeting is complete?

When all the agenda items are complete and any actions have been taken, the Chair will adjourn the meeting (or, if a deliberative session will take place, close the public portion of the hearing). Once the meeting is adjourned, no other business of the Committee or Board will take place. As with all Design Review Committee and Development Review Board meetings, minutes will be prepared and posted to the City’s website and a video recording of the meeting will be posted to the City’s website. All the normal requirements for such meetings will still apply.

The City will work to ensure information is available and accessible in a timely manner to ensure the public has access to these records so they can be reviewed. If additional discussion is needed on any agenda item, they will appear on a future agenda where the public can participate and ask questions or provide comments.