Many of us who have participated in County Planning Commission meetings agree that there should be a better way to have our voices heard, have confidence that our concerns matter, and balance the time and process given to the applicant and the public.

The Planning Commission met on Dec 20, 2017, intending to devise a more efficient process. Sadly the process they agreed upon is not one that encourages and facilitates public participation.

The outcome of the Dec 20th meeting is a revised set of rules. Here are just a few:

*Codifies timelines for both the applicant and the public. Applicant has a cumulative 15 minutes, with an option to extend upon request. Applicant may make a presentation and then rebut information presented by the public. In contrast, the public has no right to rebut the Applicant’s points.The public has 3 minutes with an option to be reduced to 2 minutes. The public is not notified of the reduction in speaker time until the public speaking segment of the hearing begins.

*Applicant and the public must submit electronic material (most often PowerPoint presentations) 24 hours in advance of the meeting. BUT only the applicant has an option to submit a supplement to the clerk prior to the meeting.
There is no provision for public sharing of electronic material submitted 24 hours in advance. This allows for sharing only upon request, such as by the Applicant, with an opportunity for the Applicant to comment on public presentations before they occur.

*Prevents public speakers from allocating their time to another speaker. This has traditionally been done to designate experts to speak more effectively about the subject.

One change not included is to expand the noticing timeline. Today, regardless of when notices go out, agendas are published on the County website on Fridays. – This often leaves little time to contact staff, applicants, or other concerned members of the public. This can lead to the late delivery of relevant documents necessary for public input and sometimes leads to delays in decisions.

We wonder: Are the changes really aimed at streamlining the process—or stifling public participation?

Napa Vision 2050