The Greensboro City Council held eight virtual public hearings at the meeting on Tuesday, April 21 in cyberspace.
There were 16 items on the agenda, one was continued and public hearings on the same topic were held together, which is the normal practice of the City Council.
Overall the City Council adjusted to the virtual public hearing format pretty well. Usually the City Council votes electronically, and it is noted at every meeting that no councilmember knows how any other councilmember has voted until the vote is displayed on the screen.
At this meeting the votes were mostly roll call, with Mayor Nancy Vaughan voting first by saying “I am a yes,” or “I am a no.”
As expected, there were a few glitches where speakers could not be heard, and after struggling with her microphone, City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson finally got it turned on and said, “I hate this. I just hate it.”
As you might expect, Councilmember Sharon Hightower didn’t seem to be able to vote without making a few comments about her vote, her personal philosophy on development or whatever popped into her head. In most cases the other councilmembers simply voted when called on by Vaughan.
Planning Manager Mike Kirkman had the considerable advantage having participated in the long Zoning Commission meeting on Monday night, April 20. The City Council meeting went a little smoother than the Zoning Commission meeting, although neither meeting had major problems. Both meetings had some delays in getting presentations posted, mics not being turned on or mics being left on creating background noise. Several speakers moved away from their mics making it difficult to hear their presentations, but that also happens at regular City Council meetings.
At this point nobody knows when the next meeting will be held in the Council Chamber, but it appears the city staff and City Council are getting the hang of virtual meetings.
For the public hearing on the controversial rezoning at the intersection of Lawndale Drive and Lake Jeanette Road, Mike Robinson speaking in opposition said that it was unfair that those who were opposed could not attend the public hearing. He said that half the Council Chamber had been filled with opponents to the rezoning when the item was continued at the Feb. 18 City Council meeting.
Otherwise both proponents and opponents seemed to accept that under the circumstances, the virtual public hearings were the best the City Council could do.