City Council will again consider public comment changes
By Josh Bergeron
SALISBURY — After failing to come to a consensus during a prior meeting, the Salisbury City Council on Tuesday will again consider making changes to public comment.
During City Council meetings, public comment periods currently occur at 6 p.m. Speakers are asked to provide a name and address before receiving three minutes to talk to the City Council. People in the audience have been allowed to yield their time to others.
Lately, public comment periods have been consumed by speakers advocating for an end to no-knock warrants and voicing concerns about violent crime.
On Feb. 21, the City Council discussed making changes to public comment that included a time limit of one hour, moving comments to the end of the meeting instead of at 6 p.m. and requiring people to sign up with their name and address before the meeting starts. During the prior meeting, the council didn’t vote on the proposed changes.
In Tuesday’s agenda packet, there are two proposed resolutions.
One resolution would set public comments to occur at the start of City Council meetings for 30 minutes. If more people want to speak after the time limit, another comment period would be held at the end of the meeting. It’s similar to the comment periods held by Rowan County commissioners. However, county commissioners don’t set a 30-minute limit on the comment period.
The second resolution sets public comment for the end of City Council meetings and does not include a time limit.
The Salisbury City Council’s meeting on Tuesday will start at 5 p.m. It will be held in the council’s chambers in City Hall — 217 South Main Street.
In other business on Tuesday’s agenda:
• Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes is scheduled to give an unspecified update immediately after the council approves its consent agenda.
The update is scheduled to be the first item on the regular business agenda. During a prior meeting, Stokes spoke extensively about action he has taken to deal with crime in the city limits. However, that update came near the end of the meeting, after most meeting attendees had left.
• The council will consider public hearings for two proposed changes to the City of Salisbury’s land development ordinance.
One change pertains to sign regulations in the city limits. The second pertains to additional use standards and home occupations. The sign changes would be the more significant of the two.
The sign changes amount to an entire rewrite of the city’s existing ordinance. The goal of a rewrite was to modernize the ordinance and address digital signs, according to Tuesday’s agenda documents.
Electronic signs would be allowed along non-residential streets. Video would not be permitted on electronic signs. Contained in the sign ordinance rewrite are regulations related to how bright electronic signs can be and specifications about light spilling onto adjacent property.
As part of the sign ordinance change, signs would be regulated based on road type and zoning. The city would not be able to regulate content through zoning laws.
For example, permanent banners could only be used in a mixed-use zoning district. Portable sandwich board signs wouldn’t require a permit, but also would only be allowed in certain districts. Illumination of temporary signs would be prohibited. Certain types of signs wouldn’t be allowed in historic districts — Brooklyn-South Square, downtown, Ellis Street Graded School, North Main and West Square. There are also provisions in the sign ordinance about the size of signs.
The sign ordinance passed by a unanimous count during the most recent Salisbury Planning Board meeting.
• As part of the consent agenda — used for items without opposition — the council is scheduled to allocate an additional $2 million toward the replacement of water meters
In January 2016, the council allocated $7.2 million from a capital reserve fund toward meter replacement. The council’s Tuesday agenda says the additional $2 million the additional $2 million will cover expenses for the remainder of the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The $2 million comes from an increase in revenue generated by the city’s water and sewer fund, according to Tuesday’s agenda documents.
• City Manager Lane Bailey is scheduled to talk about property for the relocation of fire station 3.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246