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Mancos planning commission approves meeting protocols

New rules regulate discussion time, communication

The Mancos Planning and Zoning Commission approved a set of meeting protocols for the first time on Wednesday.

The protocols cover issues like conflict of interest, discussions during meetings, communication with the media and agenda posting. They were first brought before the commission at its Oct. 18 meeting, where board members discussed them at length and asked for further review by the town attorney. Modeled after protocols adopted by the town board in 2014, these are the first rules the town has adopted specifically for the commission, which previously conducted meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Order.

Board chair Regina Roberts asked to clarify several of the protocols, particularly those that deal with email and social media communication. Many of those rules are designed to prevent board members from having private discussions about planning and zoning issues without notifying the public. For example, board members are discouraged from emailing each other about planning and zoning issues except in emergencies.

“You cannot discuss back and forth via email, because that’s a meeting that the public doesn’t have a chance to participate in,” town administrator Heather Alvarez told the board.

The new rules also include methods for discussing issues at planning and zoning meetings, requiring each member of the board to speak in turn without interruptions. Each member will get three minutes to speak at a time, and they must keep all discussion relevant to the item currently on the agenda. In the past, planning and zoning meetings have regularly spent more than an hour on a single discussion topic.

Board members are required to recuse themselves from discussions on any issue from which they could benefit financially, under the new conflict of interest protocols. If they have any other personal connection with the topic, they are required to inform Alvarez and the rest of the board members.

Mayor Queenie Barz said that when in doubt, board members should recuse themselves even from issues that might not financially impact them.

“The perception, especially in a small town, is it’s best to be on the side of caution and recuse yourself and leave the room,” she said.

The board approved the protocols unanimously, with Alexander Costen absent, on the condition that several mentions of executive sessions left over from the town board protocols be removed, since the commission cannot hold those meetings.

During the meeting, the board also approved special exceptions for four accessory dwelling units on Menefee Street and Grand Avenue. Board members discussed Chapter 6 of the town’s comprehensive plan, which deals with the town’s goals for economic development. They agreed they would need to research data from Region 9 and other organizations in order to learn whether the information in the chapter is still accurate.

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