Billing it as the biggest news at a meeting that included votes on Catesby Farm and the county’s workaround to the state’s new proffer law, County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) on Dec. 6 announced a change to how items can make their way onto the Board of Supervisors’ meeting agenda.
From now on, with rare exception, Randall said, anything that doesn’t make it in time to be included in the agenda packet that is published a week in advance of every regular board meeting won’t be added afterward.
The change, she said, is intended to give the public more transparency and supervisors enough time to deliberate their decisions. Currently, changes made after the packet deadline often are not available to members of the public until they walk into the boardroom at the time of the meeting.
“The bigger issue is giving supervisors enough time to digest the information and the fact that, why do we put information out to the public if it’s going to often change?” Randall said. “It’s not really transparent if at the time of the vote, nobody knows what the new amendments are, except for the nine people who are voting.”
Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), one of the board’s four second-term supervisors, said the board has seen an uptick in last-minute changes this term. Late changes to agenda items, he said, don’t give supervisors or the county staff enough time to review new information and deliberate.
Buona said the changes usually come either as applicants for permits or zoning exceptions made as 11th-hour efforts to secure enough votes to approve their application, or supervisors take meetings with applicants that spur them. Cracking down on last-minute changes to agenda items, he said, may change how applicants approach the board.
“They’re going to have to come with their best deal sooner in the process, because the chair and the vice chair are in total sync that we are going to start deferring things left and right because we are not going to do last-minute changes,” Buona said. “The only exception is going to be if there’s something super critical. We plan on enforcing this strictly on both applicants and the board.”
“I have a feeling that I’ll probably be tested a couple of times, and after a couple of times of me saying ‘yeah, that’s not going on the agenda,’ what will be on the agenda will be what’s in the package,” Randall said.