A small procedural change at county commission meetings may turn out to be one of those “small step,” “giant leap” kind of things. Or not.
County employees have always presented an applicant’s request for a land use change or a liquor license issue or any case in which staff has worked with an applicant who is seeking some approval from the county commission. The applicant gets to speak after county staff and answer any questions from the commissioners. Then the public is invited to weigh in.
At Thursday’s biweekly meeting, the applicant for a zoning request to expand the capacity of a retreat center in Black Forest made his case first, and then a county employee followed up with his presentation.
The switcheroo came at the request of county Administrator Jeff Greene, who said some staff believe that having the applicant give a presentation about the request first is more “objective” and “transparent.”
With staff presenting first, he said, some think that gives the impression that staff are supportive of the applicant and nonobjective.
Max Rothschild, director of the county’s development services department, said the change is intended to “make the applicant and a project the focus of the meetings.”
When there’s opposition to a request, such as one neighbor not wanting another neighbor to operate a home business, the impression is that county staff members are giving advice to the applicant.
“We’re not necessarily; we’re supporting that the applicant meets all the requirements,” Rothschild said.
The new procedure could result in excess duplication, he admits.
Commission Chair Amy Lathen said she thought the new order “went well,” the first time around, and wants to give Commissioner Dennis Hisey a chance to see how the process works before making a permanent change.
Hisey is on a church mission trip in Mexico for Spring Break.
Greene said it’s the board chair’s discretion, with a consensus of the board, to decide in what order information should be presented.
Will the order of presentation matter to applicants? Will it change their chances of getting approval for their request? Will it make staff seem more objective?