With a major decision on the Firmenich property proposal looming Monday, Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub is trying to make sure residents understand the format of the upcoming commission meeting.
Instead of operating under the guidelines of a traditional public hearing, this meeting qualifies as a quasi-judicial hearing, which carries different protocols and procedures than a public hearing and is run more like a court proceeding.
According to state guidelines, during a regular public hearing the decision-making body allows for public comment. With a quasi-judicial hearing, the decision-making body must swear in those who wish to testify, and certain rules and procedures must be followed.
Also, in a quasi-judicial hearing, "the decision making body is not allowed to use public sentiment or unsubstantiated evidence as the basis for making a decision."
“This is a standard meeting format for this type of issue,” Ayoub told Patch by phone. “Any type of zoning change has to go through this type of meeting.”
“I sent out a notice so people were aware of this in advance of the meeting on Monday. I’m trying to be pro-active about it.”
The guidelines state, “If the application involves an ordinance (such as rezoning or land use change) which requires two readings before the City Commission, then the quasi-judicial hearing will occur in conjunction with the first reading, or hearing, before the City Commission.”
Monday’s meeting will be the first before the commission since the Planning and Zoning Board approved the latest proposal from the Richman Group of Florida by a vote of 6-1 on Jan. 9.
“Florida law says we have to do it like this,” Ayoub said. “We don’t have a choice.”
“I’m trying to get people’s expectations in line in advance of the meeting. I want to make sure they knew what processes are being followed in advance.”
How do you feel about this meeting format, Harborites? Let us know in the comments below.
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