At the start of Wednesday’s ZBA meeting, the board granted the applicant’s request for a continuance until the next hearing on Wednesday, June 23. There was no presentation by the applicant and no public comments were accepted. Both will take place on the 23rd.
The 7:00pm June 23rd ZBA meeting is currently scheduled to be in-person only. Currently, there is no option for remote participation. Many residents have requested that the Town continue to provide this option. As noted below, there is a state-wide effort to extend, if not make permanent, the remote participation option.
In March 2020, Governor Baker issued an executive order that relaxed the requirements of the Open Meeting Law, requiring public bodies to provide “adequate, alternative means” for people to remotely participate in public meetings. In many cases, this meant the option to participate in meetings via Zoom.
The executive order is scheduled to expire on June 15th, after which the Open Meeting Law will be in full effect. The Open Meeting Law does not mandate that public bodies allow for remote participation. However, it does allow public bodies to adopt this option as described in 940 CMR 29.10 (see page 11).
The ability to participate in public meetings remotely has significantly increased transparency and the engagement of residents in local government. As such, there is a push to extend the requirement that public bodies allow for remote participation and, ideally, to make it a permanent option. Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate approved a bill that would, among other things, extend the option for remote participation until December 15, 2021. The hope is to get the bill on Governor Baker’s desk very soon.