Carmel City Council to review plan commission speaking times, approval process changes

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The Carmel City Council is set to decide on changes to speaking times at Carmel Plan Commission meetings.

Many of the ideas come from a Red Tape Committee, which was formed by OneZone, the combined chambers of commerce of Carmel and Fishers, to explore ways to streamline the government approval processes. The  changes were approved by the Carmel Plan Commission and have made their way to the Carmel City Council for final approval.

There are changes to how many meetings could be required for approvals. For example, the plan commission could decide at the end of a public meeting whether an item could be assigned to a committee with final voting authority, meaning the matter would not have to come back to the full Commission for a final vote.

There also could be changes to the time allowed for discussion. The proposal would eliminate the distinction between “favorable” and “unfavorable” comments in the public hearing process. Currently, five minutes are allocated each for “favorable” and “unfavorable” comments, and 15 minutes are allocated for general organized remonstrance, for 25 minutes total. Now, all of that time will be 20 minutes, and no more than half will be designated for groups. Public comments will be limited to three minutes per person. The petitioner gets 15 minutes to introduce the proposal and a five-minute rebuttal, which remains unchanged.

Some members of the public said this would stifle freedom of speech and eliminate  time for input, but Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said this will make meetings more efficient. He said often a group will send several neighbors repeating the same sentiments for the full three-minute time limit, making meetings longer than they need to be.

“There’s a saying, ‘You’ve heard this before but not from everybody,’” he said. “So there’s some of that.”

Brainard said there’s plenty of time for public input and neighbors can write as many remonstrance letters as they want.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for April 17.

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