Public Meeting Procedures
Town officials must hold a variety of meetings. Most of these are public and there are rules about how they are conducted. Here is a handy guide for holding such meetings correctly.
Public meetings are the most common kind of meetings. These are meetings of any public body, which includes Selectboards, Development Review Boards (DRBs), Planning Commissions, Conservation Commissions and any other official body that has been appointed by the town, including subcommittees. These are all subject to Vermont’s Open Meeting Law. Meetings must have notice, an agenda, and a quorum present. For any motion to pass at a meeting a majority of the body (not a majority of those present) must vote in the affirmative. Emergency public meetings can be called on very short notice when needed.
Executive Sessions are a special kind of public meeting that is not open to the public. They can only be held for certain reasons.
Public hearings are used by review bodies, such as the DRB, or when Planning Commissions or Selectboards are adopting town plans or bylaws. Hearings have advance notices that include physical posting and a newspaper ad at least 15 days in advance. Some have mailings to abutters or surrounding towns. The purpose of a hearing is to hear comment on a subject. If a decision is expected to be made, it should made at a subsequent meeting. Here is a set of Procedural Tips for hearings on draft plans and bylaws.
Deliberative Sessions are similar to executive sessions, in that they are not public, however they are a distinct thing. These are used typically be review bodies such as the DRB after the final hearing is closed, all testimony and materials are submitted, and the body is ready to deliberate and make a decision.
Due to the pandemic, there have been temporary changes in things like the ability to hold remote votes and meetings. These may keep changing so it is best to try to stay on top of the latest guidance.
When in doubt, ask us.