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Local News

Proposed Joliet limits on public comment put on hold

Former interim City Manager Martin Shanahan attends a June 17 pre-council meeting on at City Hall in Joliet.
Former interim City Manager Martin Shanahan attends a June 17 pre-council meeting on at City Hall in Joliet.

A proposal to put new limits on public comments at city of Joliet meetings has been put on hold.

City Attorney Martin Shanahan had proposed new time limits and other changes in the rules for public comment at meetings of the City Council, plan commission and other Joliet boards.

But Shanahan pulled the proposal off the agenda for the Joliet City Council Land Use and Legislative Committee when it met Thursday.

“It’s just being pulled, and it will be revisited,” Shanahan said.

In an email sent to the mayor and City Council on Wednesday, Shanahan said he was pulling the item off the agenda because of concerns expressed by council members “and the potential public backlash.”

Opponents of a NorthPoint Properties plan to develop 103 acres had expressed suspicion that the proposed rules would be used to limit public comments at a public hearing on the plan at the Oct. 17 meeting of the Plan Commission, although Shanahan had said the new rules would not be ready by then.

Proposed changes included a one-hour limit to the total time allowed for public comments at regular City Council meetings and a half-hour limit at pre-council workshop meetings.

Shanahan noted in his email that other municipalities have put limits on the total time allowed for public comments. Examples he cited included Chicago (30 minutes), Naperville (30 minutes) and Lockport (20 minutes).

Joliet limits individual speakers to four minutes but does not have a cap on the total time allowed for public comments.

Shanahan in his email said court decisions concerning the Illinois Open Meetings Act “have essentially held that councils do not have to allow indefinite public comment so long as the established rules are reasonable.”

While Joliet does not have a total time limit on public comment, presiding officers at city meetings have at times exerted their authority to limit repetitive comments.

The NorthPoint plan could create a challenging situation, however.

In Elwood, hundreds of people came out to oppose a larger NorthPoint plan to develop more than 2,000 acres for an industrial park, causing the plan commission hearing in that town to be moved to a school gymnasium, where it stretched out for three nights to accommodate the number of people speaking.

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