CRESTVIEW — New statewide "public participation in public meetings" laws require the city to revisit its own policies, if only to bring them into compliance with state regulations, city attorney Jerry Miller said.
Speaking at a Monday evening City Council workshop, Miller emphasized that Crestview, unlike some municipalities, already has a "very liberal" public participation policy.
"It would appear in some jurisdictions they were not very gracious with their time and listening to public comment," Miller said.
The new legislation is an opportunity for Crestview to refresh several of its own rules, Miller said. On his advice, the council repealed policy 93-3, "Meeting General Rules of Order."
"I didn't find it a very useable document for most purposes," Miller said. "I found it way longer than it needs to be."
Under the legislation, the city should also revisit its rules for participation in quasi-judicial hearings, which, Miller said, by law should be limited to site-specific rezoning and project approvals.
The public can still attend quasi-judicial hearings, but only people "with standing," or involvement in the hearing, should be allowed to speak.
Miller said the council is involved in too many quasi-judicial hearings. Approving many projects brought before it shouldn't be the council's responsibility, Miller said.
By becoming enmeshed in considering projects already approved by various city boards, the council risks legal challenges if it disapproves a project that has met the city's requirements for approval.
Recently, for example, a city councilman voted against a project that had met the city's code requirements simply because he disapproved of its aesthetics.
"In property rights issues, we ought to have as much freedom as reasonable, and even some unreasonable," Miller said.
At its regular meeting of the evening, the council voted unanimously to repeal policies 93-3 and 09-01, which was also found to conflict with the new legislation.
Miller said he will have a new policy to present to the council at its Sept. 9 meeting.
"We will always do what we've always done and that is encourage and invite public participations in our meetings," Council President Robyn Helt said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.