vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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Changes coming to public hearing schedule for Stafford Planning Commission

Times and dates for public hearings and public comment before Stafford County’s Planning Commission will likely change this fall. Commissioners will vote on revised bylaws at their Aug. 15 meeting.

The seven members agreed on the changes earlier this summer, but had to wait 30 days before formally adopting them.

Similar to how Board of Supervisors meetings are conducted, time for three-minute public comment will be moved to the start of the agenda, to be followed by any public hearings that are planned. Currently, meetings begin at 6:30 p.m., but public items are held until 7:30 p.m. At that time, other agenda items get halted until later in the evening—sometimes in the middle of discussions.

That causes meetings to be disjointed, Planning Director Jeff Harvey said at the June meeting. “By reordering the agenda, there’s the ability to get the public to provide your input early on in the meeting and be able to go home at a more reasonable hour,” Harvey said.

Unfinished items and new business would follow.

Meetings would also alternate weeks with board meetings, on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Now, they’re typically back-to-back nights, which can cause some busy weeks for staff members. “What we’re also trying to do is not have staff spend their whole week, every night, with us til midnight, night after night, which I know has happened,” Commissioner Holly Hazard said.

Bylaws would also mandate that meetings end at 10 p.m., unless a majority votes otherwise.

Commissioners have not decided when the new bylaws would go into effect, whether immediately in September, later in the fall or at the start of the new year.