During its February 2nd, Conshohocken’s Borough Council voted 6-0 to advertise an ordinance that could result in the eminent domain of the Outbound Station property at 2 Harry Street. Karen Tutino (ward 1) was absent.
As MoreThanTheCurve.com reported prior to this meeting, due to the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, the borough must show that there is a “public use” that the property is needed for. The use mentioned last evening was a Conshohocken history museum (but that this was a not set in stone).
The property owner, Joe Collins, attempted to offer public comment prior to the vote. When he continued to protest not being allowed to speak, Borough Manager Stephanie Cecco suggested he leave the meeting until the public comment portion that would be offered later in the meeting.
According to the agenda (see page 2) for the meeting, the public should be allowed to comment prior to any vote. From the agenda:
Public Comment is taken before a vote is taken on each item. All other public comment(s) are to be presented at the end of the public meeting prior to adjournment including executive sessions; if any.
According to the Office of Open Records, the Sunshine Act provides the public the right to comment on an issue before a decision is made. It reads:
The Sunshine Act gives the public the right to comment on issues “that are or may be before the board.” Agencies must provide a reasonable opportunity for residents and/or taxpayers to comment on an issue before a decision takes place.
During this meeting, the borough council took four votes on advertising ordinances without offering the public the opportunity for public comment prior to any of these votes.
The question is whether there is a difference between a vote to advertise an ordinance versus a vote to adopt an ordinance. MoreThanTheCurve.com has sought clarification from the Office of Open Records.
Collins was allowed to offer public comment at the end of the meeting. He pointed out what the borough’s agenda states about the opportunity to make public comment before a vote is taken and that he will resist any effort to take the property.
The property is currently under a long-term lease (18 years) with the Couch Tomato. The restaurant received its construction permit last week and had planned to begin construction on February 1st.
You can watch the discussion on this issue here (it starts at 1:19:55).
More to come (a lot more).