The Study Committee must conduct a public hearing to receive comment on the proposed establishment of an LHD or LHP designation not less than sixty-five or more thanone hundred thirty days after the Study Committee Report is submitted to CCT and the local planning and zoning authority.
Specific rules and procedures govern the advertisement and conduct of public hearings. Failure to adhere to and enforce these rules would not only reflect poorly on the Study Committee and its work, but could potentially invalidate any subsequent actions including designation of the LHD or LHP. The Connecticut enabling statute requires that notice of the time and place of the hearing shall be advertised in the following ways:
1. Written Notice
Written notice must be given to all property owners of record included in the proposedLHD or LHP, as they appear on the last completed grand list, at least fifteen days before the hearing. Written notice includes:
a. The preliminary report of the Study Committee (or a substantial synopsis)
b. All recommendations made by the planning and zoning authority and CCT
c. A map showing the boundaries of the proposed LHD or LHP
d. The proposed LHD or LHP ordinance
2. Legal Advertisement
A legal advertisement for the public hearing must be published twice in the local newspaper, the first time between ten and fifteen days preceding the hearing, and the second at least two days after the first notice but more than two days prior to the hearing.
The public hearing represents the final and most important presentation that will be made to property owners, local officials, residents, and the general public regarding the proposed LHD or LHP designation prior to the vote of property owners. Prior to scheduling the meeting, the Study Committee should have completed its public outreach, resolved any major differences of opinion, and garnered significant public support for the proposed historic preservation designation.
The Freedom of Information Act applies to all municipal public hearings. In addition to the written notice and legal advertisement, detailed minutes should provide a record of the public hearing, including a list of speakers and a summary of public comments, discussion, or requests for information. The minutes should be submitted to the town clerk as a part of the public record within one week of the public hearing.
By the time of the hearing, the Study Committee will be well versed in the details of the proposal and should be prepared to offer coherent and persuasive information on the benefits of LHD or LHP designation. The chair or moderator of the meeting should set a courteous, thoughtful, and controlled tone for the meeting, and allow ample time for public comment and discussion. Occasionally, the moderator may need to intervene to keep the meeting on topic and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak.
Members of the local legislative body and other municipal leaders should be encouraged to attend the public hearing, since they will be responsible for formally receiving the Study Committee Report and voting to enact or reject the proposed ordinance. The local legislative body will need to understand the nature and benefits of LHD or LHP designation and be aware of public sentiment for the proposed designation.
The public hearing itself should be conducted in a professional and effective manner. It represents the greatest opportunity to make the case for the historic preservation regulations in the community. The Study Committee members must be well-prepared, well-informed,and open to all comments. Inadequate preparation, poorly organized presentations, or lack of civility can seriously undermine the work of the Study Committee in promoting the LHD or LHP designation.
At the public hearing, a representative of the Study Committee should make a brief presentation addressing the points below, then open the floor for questions and discussion. A slide show or PowerPoint presentation may be an effective way to present some of the information. The Study Committee may also wish to distribute a one-page handout that summarizes the concept and anticipated benefits of the LHD or LHP designation.
Sidebar: The summary presentation of the Study Committee at the public hearing should include:
A general introduction and welcome A summary of the history and significance of the district or property The challenges facing the historic resources The benefits of LHD or LHP designation How an LHD or LHP works and its legal basis What is and is not reviewed in an LHD or LHP A description of the proposed boundaries A description of the provisions of the local ordinance How an LHD or LHP would address the issues facing the community Examples of nearby towns with LHDs or LHPs
Members of the Study Committee should be prepared to answer questions and address any concerns expressed by property owners and residents. The Study Committee may want to invite members of HDCs or HPCs from nearby towns, members of the local historical society, and other people knowledgeable about local history and LHDs or LHPs to participate. Supporters of the LHD or LHP may be contacted in advance and invited to speak as well.
The local media should be notified of the public hearing and may be given copies of the Study Committee Report. Having a follow-up article or letter to the editor after the meeting is a good way of perpetuating the momentum of the Study Committee’s work.