Looking for ways to help keep the public safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to temporarily delay all public hearings by both the board of commissioners and boards appointed by the commissioners.
After amending the agenda to discuss the resolution, Commission Chairman Harry Johnston said the county had prepared a draft resolution for the commissioners to consider, while also looking for additional input for edits that could improve what was initially proposed.
In the resolution, the board of commissioners stated that they “are charged with the protection of the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Cherokee County,” and in order to more effectively practice social distancing, “in order to slow and prevent the transmission of the disease, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners hereby desire to enact certain provisions and changes to the immediate operations of the county.”
These changes include staying all public hearings before the board of commissioners or other boards appointed by the board of commissioners, allowing existing regulatory permits that may lapse without a public hearing to continue until such hearings resume, suspending zoning and other land-use decision making, along with all other non-essential business, such as proclamations and presentations. These protocols will remain in effect until April 21, or until lifted by the board of commissioners, while the resolution stated that actions such as this are allowable under Section 38 of the Official Code of Georgia.
While public hearings before the board of commissioners and other county boards have been suspended for the time being, meetings of the board of commissioners will continue for the purpose of addressing items necessary to the effective governing of the county. However, the resolution strongly encouraged county residents to observe meetings through live streaming them on the county’s website, and asking those who choose to be at meetings in person to practice social distancing while in the auditorium.
“I think the point is that we really can’t call the public before us to conduct a hearing or before an appointed board,” Johnston said. “That’s not really fair to them or the members of those other boards.”
Commissioner Corey Ragsdale added, “In my mind, mostly consent agenda items, county operations, specific items are obviously critical. But other than that, public hearings, zoning matters, planning commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, all that I feel can be suspended.”
Commissioner Ray Gunnin concurred, explaining that, although this is an area the county had never planned for and had never dreamed would happen, it was in the best interest that the board do what it can to follow guidelines from agencies like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and limit public contact.
Following the discussion, the board of commissioners unanimously approved adopting the resolution.