Nearly a year: review of COVID-19-Town gov’t
Here we are a month into the New Year with 2020 in the rearview mirror, but hopefully looking for a better 2021. Since Gov, (Bill) Lee issued an executive order allowing virtual meetings in March 2020, our lives as elected officials have changed radically.
The COVID-19 threat is still the number one concern for our staff and elected officials — we do not want to lose anyone. We continue virtual Town meetings, which are not ideal for any of us, but it’s the only way we can conduct Town of Farragut business safely at this time. Zoom, WebEx and Teams were not even part of our vocabulary a year ago.
Fortunately, 2020 was not a total loss and the pandemic has not stopped Farragut. We have utilized best practices to conduct Town business in a manner that is still open and accessible to the public, but in a virtual manner.
I want to thank our staff, the press and our citizens for their patience and participation during these challenging times. No one was prepared for this state of emergency and we have all had to learn as we faced each new day. As mayor, I have asked our Board and Planning Commission to look at each discussion item on the agenda with a clean sheet of paper.
I ask that they do their research on each topic prior to listening to the staff, the applicant and citizens during fact-finding presentations. As most have probably noticed, they each take notes in order to ask questions as they make decisions.
I then ask that they look at the data concerning the agenda item. It could be a traffic study, stormwater study or any other data that pertains to that item.
They also use the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, subdivision regulations, ordinances and zoning — as well as the property rights provided by the Constitution — as a guide during their decision-making process.
This process can take months, starting with staff/developer meetings, as the staff works with each landowner or developer on adjustments to their project.
An applicant can also go to the website to read about requirements prior to submitting their project to the Planning Commission. It usually takes a few trips to Town Hall to work out the kinks in a project before a vote takes place.
After getting past Staff/Developer meetings, the applicant goes before Planning Commission, where they may be advised to request a change or amendment to make their project work. This request is scrutinized as to why it is needed and if there is precedent for it.
If it conflicts with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, subdivision regulations, ordinances or zoning, more data is required before the change or amendment can be approved and sent to the Board of Mayor and Alderman for their review. This process goes slowly as we only have one Staff/Developer and Planning Commission meeting per month and two Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings per month.
During virtual meetings, citizens must send questions and concerns via e-mail to be read into the record for that agenda item. This is not ideal by any means, but it is currently the only way to do business. Once the staff, Planning Commission, Board and the public are vaccinated, the pandemic, and virtual meetings, will become part of our past.
For now, I ask that everyone sign up with the health department and patiently await their turn for the life-saving vaccine so that we can return to our life before COVID-19.
We do not know what the future holds, but we can hope 2021 will be what 2020 should have been.
Mayor Ron Williams
Town of Farragut