May 6, 2007

Due process denied
By Briggs Cunningham

To the Editor,

At the WOWMD 1041 water permit hearing on March 28, 2007, people wishing to express opposition were denied due process.

At previous Planning Commission and BOCC hearings, speakers have been allowed to make their points. Even on well-attended hearings, the unwritten practice was for the public to sign up and donate time to other speakers. On March 28, during lunch, just prior to Public Comment, a new rule was imposed: "10 minutes for organizations, 3 minutes for individuals." Even worse, this rule was not applied equally.

The applicant's paid consultant was allowed to speak at leisure about how trout death caused by lack of water was not all that bad because trout will "come back." Some opposing speakers were allowed to discuss general topics for more than 10 minutes. Other speakers trying to illustrate specific deficiencies were forced to describe complex subjects in less than 10 minutes.

The BOCC has the difficult task of presiding over land use decisions. Care must be taken to create a record, follow LURs, and allow due process. But the ultimate purpose of a hearing is the presentation of all pertinent facts and opinions so that commissioners can make the most informed decision possible. Speakers should not be challenged to reduce complex ideas to 30-second sound bites.

In January, Commissioner Tighe asked, "Where are all the people who live along Elk Creek?" Well, those people showed up almost 100 strong on Wednesday and because of their large turnout, testimony was limited.

It is ironic that the fact of 100 people showing up was used by the BOCC to limit testimony for their point of view.

There are significant facts on this issue that have not been discussed. I hope that the BOCC would consider reopening Public Comment at the next 1041 hearing.

Let the people speak.

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