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Penn Twp. creates policy for public comment

| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

In establishing their first formal guidelines for public comments at board meetings, Penn Township commissioners decided to limit an individual taxpayer's or resident's comments to three minutes and the entire comment period to a maximum of 45 minutes during their board meetings.

The commissioners' vote Monday night to set up the rules comes as they anticipate holding a hearing in January or February on proposed changes to the township's zoning ordinance and map.

Penn Township's new policy doesn't differ drastically from the general practice over the past few years in which commissioners permitted taxpayers and taxpayers to address them about community matters or specific topics listed on the evening's agenda.

However, the resolution spells out that commissioners will not take comments on matters that already were resolved, such as a property owner's discontent with a zoning hearing board's decision. In that instance, commissioners would suggest the property owner could appeal the decision.

“If it's a point of law that's been resolved, then our time is better spent on listening to something that hasn't already been resolved,” Commissioner Chuck Horvat said.

Commissioner Larry Harrison, who offered an amendment to delete the section relating to previously resolved issues, cast the only vote against the resolution.

Manager Bruce Light said commissioners twice before proposed creating guidelines for public comment since he was hired in 1995 but nothing had been adopted formally.

Residents and taxpayers will be asked to sign their name and address on a list before the meeting to be able to comment. After they are recognized, those who haven't signed up will be given an opportunity to speak.

According to the resolution, the board chairman may “rule out scandalous, impertinent and redundant comments” during the comment period.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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