In an effort to avoid the kind of marathon public meetings that occurred several times last year, the Goochland Board of Supervisors voted last week to change to the way they had previously approached scheduling public hearings.

Now, instead of scheduling a slate of public hearings and then continuing their meeting until all have been completed — regardless of how long the process takes — board members can elect to reschedule any public hearing expected to begin after 11 p.m. to another date.

While supervisors are typically able to complete all agenda items in a single evening, last year saw more than one occasion where meetings did not end until well after midnight.

According to Goochland County Administrator John Budesky, who initially proposed the change to the board’s procedures, such meetings are hard on both residents and board members, and often mean that important issues are addressed when those involved are unable to devote the required energy to the task at hand.

The move also gives the board more flexibility from an initial scheduling standpoint, allowing them to avoid scheduling two controversial public hearings — which typically involve many comments from citizens and extended discussion by the board — on the same night. Moving one case to a second night ahead of time would also allow those involved in the case to be notified about the change ahead of the meeting, avoiding having residents wait hours only to be told at the end of a long evening that they would need to return on another night.

In response to concerns that the changes might inadvertently be seen as limiting to the citizens’ ability to comment on a given case, county attorney Tara McGee insisted that the new procedure was not intended to limit, but rather “to be able to appropriately schedule” matters before the board.

Board members would also be able to suspend the rule by majority vote if they deemed it necessary to begin a hearing after 11 p.m.

In addition to the changes to the hearing rules, the Board also voted to approve changes to its meeting start times. Beginning on Feb. 4, the Board’s afternoon meeting will begin at 2 p.m. rather than 3 p.m., and the evening meeting will begin at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

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