Gilbert Town Council tabled a series of code changes to the rules of order and procedure for council meetings after some strenuous objections from members of the public and some council members.
The decision to table came during the public hearing portion at the end of council’s Aug. 3 meeting.
The area that attracted most objections regarded the public comment period known on agendas as “communications from citizens.”
Current code, adopted in 1985, calls for a limit of three minutes per speaker and 15 minutes total unless extended by council.
The proposed change at the hearing called for the time limits to be set by the mayor.
Mayor Brigette Peterson said that in response to questions from a council member and members of the public, Peterson had asked Town Attorney Chris Payne to review the code and suggest changes. She said she noticed council’s longtime procedure on public comments was not aligned with the code and wanted code to be in flexible to allow for more participants.
Payne said he tried to make code align better with state law and Robert’s Rules of Order.
However, speakers from the public during the hearing’s open comment period, including her mayoral opponent from last fall, Matt Nielsen, accused the mayor of a power play and trying to limit public participation at meetings.
Council Member Laurin Hendrix said he believed council members would be abdicating their responsibility if they ceded their authority to set the time limits to the mayoral position, regardless who was mayor.
Hendrix said that regardless of the reasoning, he also believed the optics to be bad to be making a change at this time, and any changes should be dropped until later. Peterson has had four ethics complaints filed against her since she took office in January.
In response, Peterson said she had no malicious intent behind the changes, only wanting to bring current practice into alignment with the code. She noted that she said early in the hearing that no decision had to be made at the meeting.
Council’s decision to table the matter and have staff further study it had no date attached to it for the matter to return to council.
The meeting was the first held for fiscal year 2021-22 and the first one in the Atlas Auditorium of the Gilbert Public Safety Training Facility. Council has moved meetings there for about a year while Gilbert Municipal Building I, where Council Chambers are, is being renovated.
Council studied two matters before its regular meeting, the regional transportation tax and the town’s noise ordinance.
Rob Bohr, Gilbert’s intergovernmental relations director, told council that as Proposition 400, which authorized a half-cent sales tax for 20 years to fund transportation items, expires in 2025, a consensus is building around a proposition for another half-cent sales tax that would last 25 years.
The proposition would have to pass through the Legislature next spring as well as the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors before going to voters in November 2022.
Assistant Town Attorney Alena Jorquez led council through a review of the town’s noise ordinances, after which council asked staff to review other jurisdiction’s ordnances. The discussion came after the ordinances came under scrutiny during the approval in June of plans for San Tan Adventure Park, which include a gas-powered go-kart track near two residential neighborhoods. Residents then had objected to the noise the park would bring to the neighborhoods.