Any gathering of a quorum of HDC or HPC members in which they discuss a matter before the commission or any other commission business is considered a meeting, and is subject to public meeting and public record laws.
If an e-mail exchange or telephone call takes place in which three or more members participate and commission business is discussed, that is considered a quorum and a meeting,and is therefore subject to public meeting laws.
Meetings should not be confused with public hearings at which the HDC or HPCsolicits testimony on pending applications. Meetings are typically directed at the internal affairs and business of the HDC or HPC, including deliberation and voting on applications for a certificate of appropriateness.
HDCs or HPCs may hold public hearings before or in conjunction with the regular meetings. There are additional rules for public hearings that are detailed in the section dealing with certificates of appropriateness.
1. Public Hearings
Every application for a certificate of appropriateness requires a public hearing which must be noticed and posted according to the state enabling statute and the local ordinance. The hearing is intended to give members of the public, including the property owner, the opportunity to present and express their opinions regarding proposed changes to buildings in the district.
After the hearing, HDC or HPC members should be prepared to discuss the application as an agenda item at the regular meeting and deliver a vote on it.
2. Regular Meetings
The HDC or HPC must establish by ordinance the place for holding its regularly scheduled meetings. Such meetings may take place once a month or more frequently, depending on the nature and volume of business to be addressed.
For a meeting to take place, a quorum of members must be present. A quorum is generally defined as a voting majority of the HDC or HPC, typically at least three members, whether regular members or seated alternates.
A schedule for regular meetings must be filed with the municipal clerk in January of any given year. A meeting may not be held sooner than thirty days after the schedule has been filed.
The agenda identifies the items that will be discussed at the HDC or HPC meeting and that may be of interest to the public. An agenda must be filed with the municipal clerk’s office no less than twenty-four hours prior to the meeting. The agenda should also be made available to the public at the place and time of the meeting itself.
HDC or HPC members may vote to change the order of items on the agenda, but may not add or subtract any items once the agenda has been posted. Changes to the order of the agenda may be made during the meeting by a two-thirds majority vote. Such changes should be recorded in the minutes.
Any opportunity for public comment must be posted on the agenda in advance of the meeting. HDCs or HPCs may choose to include a “speak-out” or public comment period on the agenda of every regular meeting. Any correspondence sent or received should be included on the agenda of every meeting so that all members remain informed of news and opportunities.
d. Public and Media Access
Access to the meeting must be granted to members of the public and of the media. Any meeting may be recorded, photographed, or broadcast. Requiring members of the public to sign a register or identify themselves prior to being admitted is prohibited.
The record of any votes by the HDC or HPC must be made available to the public within forty-eight hours of the meeting at which the action was taken. The votes and decisions made by the members during the meeting must also be recorded in the minutes.
Minutes should be compiled by the HDC’s or HPC’s clerk and submitted to the municipal clerk within seven days of the session to which they refer (CGS, Section 1-225(a) (the Freedom of Information Act)). The minutes must include the deliberations and decisions of the HDC or HPC.
3. Special Meetings
Any meeting not listed on the schedule filed with the municipal clerk in January is considered a special meeting. Notice for such meetings listing the time and place and business to be transacted must be posted in the office of the municipal clerk at least twenty-four hours prior to the meeting. Every member of the HDC or HPC must be duly notified of the meeting. No divergence from the posted agenda is allowed.
4. Emergency Meetings
An emergency special meeting may dispense with the notification requirements listed above, but minutes detailing the precise nature of the emergency and the business transacted must be filed with the town clerk within seventy-two hours of the meeting.
5. Executive Session
An executive session is the only type of public meeting from which the public may be excluded. Executive session is not a meeting per se and can be a part of a regular or special meeting after an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members present and voting, stating the reasons for the session.
An HDC or HPC may only enter executive session for a very limited number of reasons – discussion concerning employment, evaluation, or dismissal of an employee or public officer; strategy regarding pending (not merely threatened) claims and litigation; or discussion of a matter which would result in disclosure of public records concerning pending claims or litigation.
Attendance at an executive session is limited to seated members (including anyalternates who have been seated in the absence of a regular member). Other persons may be invited to present testimony or opinion concerning the matter at hand, but their attendance is limited to the time their presence is necessary. The minutes must disclose every person in attendance except job applicants.
If a meeting is interrupted and becomes disorderly, the HDC or HPC may order the room cleared and continue in session, but only matters on the agenda may be discussed. Representatives of the media must be allowed to remain unless they have participated in the disturbance.