For the Planning Commission, the rapid spread of COVID-19 caused the cancellation of our March 4 meeting while we all tried to understand more about the disease and what we needed to do to protect ourselves, our families and our community.
On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. We canceled the scheduled March 18 Planning Commission meeting while staff worked on alternative ways to keep the commission’s business going during the pandemic.
On April 1, we held our first hearing via video conferencing with all staff and commissioners at their homes. We had a fairly full agenda, and one item in particular drew a substantial amount of public comments. But the forum for public comments was much different than it had been when our meetings were held in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
Community members used to be able to provide testimony in person a few feet away from the Planning Commission. In that venue, we could see people’s body language and read their emotions – providing an opportunity to better understand someone’s view on a matter. The new venue offers written form only. Community members send their comments to staff members, who then read them to the commissioners.
We received many public comments requesting that the agenda item be postponed until a time when the Planning Commission could hear the matter in the Council Chambers. I understand the request, and I also would much prefer to hear people’s comments in person. However, the timeline for when we may be able to hold regular hearings at Council Chambers is unknown. I think it could be sometime next year before we hold in-person meetings again.
In the meantime, we must continue to move forward with our business as a city – albeit in a different way. We’re all finding new ways to keep our lives functional.
Online meetings are the best we can do for the time being. My fellow commissioners and I will continue to do our best to listen and understand the views and comments of community members.
Jason Laub is Chief Operating Officer at RAD Urban and is a City of Concord Planning Commissioner. Email questions or comments to email@example.com