Middletown could change public comment rules after wave of skydiving business discussion

The Middletown City Council is considering changing its citizen comment rules after recent instances of the comment period running longer than current rules allow.

During a May 19 meeting, Council Clerk Amy Schenck read emailed comments into the record for 53 minutes, and attendees spoke for another 43 minutes. Some were not residents or business owners in the city and said they wanted to give up some of their individual time to others so they could speak longer.

Current rules say people have up to three minutes to speak, and the citizen comment period has been capped at 30 minutes. Ohio law gives each legislative authority, such as a school board or city council, the option of holding citizen or public comments during their meetings as well as the right to limit that time. For longer presentations, council can schedule them as part of the business meeting agenda.

Middletown began allowing emailed comments to be read into the record when meetings went virtual because of coronavirus restrictions.

The May 19 meeting drew a larger reaction because it was the first held in person after the council’s May 5 decision to relocate Start Skydiving’s landing zone at the Middletown Regional Airport. The decision has spurred disputes from the company and those who support it.

Council held a work session prior to Tuesday’s meeting to discuss its meeting rules concerning citizen comments, especially and how it could accommodate large groups who want to make the same point to continue hearing citizen concerns.

During the work session, Councilwoman Monica Nenni said council needs to enforce its rules and instead of allowing multiple speakers on one issue, ask that large groups on the same issue select one person to make their presentation with up to 10 minutes to speak.

Councilman Talbott Moon suggested that only Middletown residents, property owners or who have business interests in the city be permitted to make citizen comments.

Several council members suggested expanding the total time for citizens comments from 30 minutes to 60 minutes eliminating the yielding of time to extend comments. This was in addition to large groups having one speaker for up to 10 minutes.

Mayor Nicole Condrey said it was her preference “to hear from everyone.”

The council will have to vote to amend the Administrative Code for these changes.

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