Planners spurn anonymous letters

Published 10:24 pm Friday, March 15, 2013

Anonymous communications to the Suffolk Planning Commission would be unwelcome under proposed new bylaws set for the commission to consider at its Tuesday meeting.

Commissioners have long wanted to make a rule dealing with the letters and emails they sometimes receive commenting on projects under consideration by the commission. The communications are not frequent, but they do occur — most often when the writer of the missive does not want his or her neighbors to know who is against their project.

During a discussion in last month’s Planning Commission meeting, the topic failed to draw any ire from commissioners. City Attorney Helivi Holland said it’s a matter of fairness to applicants.

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Commissioners agreed.

“I think we can see the need for what we’re talking about here and have an understanding of why it’s in place,” Chairman Howard Benton said at the meeting.

If the bylaws pass, city planning staff simply would not introduce anonymous correspondence to the commissioners, Holland said. Citizens who cannot attend a public hearing, but still want to make their opinion known, would still have the option of sending signed correspondence.

Commissioner Ronnie Rountree elaborated on his position this week.

“We had one situation that somebody sent something in, and I thought they had a legitimate request, but they wouldn’t sign their name and wouldn’t put the address,” Rountree said. “I feel like if you can’t say who’s sending it in, it really can’t be brought up.”

Other proposed changes to the bylaws include establishing “Robert’s Rules of Order” as the rules of procedure for the commission and setting a deadline for signed communication about projects to be received — again, a matter of fairness to the applicants so they will know what information the commissioners have before them, Holland said.

Also at Tuesday’s 2 p.m. meeting in City Council chambers, the commission will consider a request for Dominion Virginia Power to expand its substation on Hosier Road and a request to allow a daycare at Saint Paul Baptist Church on Lincoln Avenue.