The town’s first Public Comprehensive Plan Workshop is planned for the evening of Thursday, April 20 (the day this week’s Johnston Sun Rise hits the streets).
The meeting was advertised online — on the town’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and website.
Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena Jr. says there is “no legal advertising requirement” for the meeting.
“I think that this is the Administration’s attempt to get public input on the comprehensive plan,” said Town Council member Robert J. Civetti. “If you read the State Law I do not think that the Town did enough to seek input from the public, rather they let the Planning Board act as the body in charge of the comprehensive plan.”
Residents contacted the Johnston Sun Rise, expressing frustration with the town’s Comprehensive Plan update process. Some said they were blind-sided by the meeting.
“I would have also hoped that the Town would have sent a mailing to all Town Residents letting them know this meeting was taking place,” Civetti said. “I am not sure what their means was for advertising for this important meeting but I am willing to bet that very few people are aware of the meeting. I can tell you that I was not even notified of the meeting and I would have thought that they would notify ALL of the council members.”
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Johnston Senior Center. According to the online post, officials plan a discussion of “land use development, environmental development issues, land usage and more.”
“Thom (Thomas) Deller, the Director of Planning and Public Services, is in charge of the process,” Polisena said. “There is no legal advertising requirement. The information for the meeting was posted on Town’s website, where we post all events and upcoming meetings, at the beginning of the month. Social media is just in addition to what we post on the website to serve as an additional reminder, due to their newsfeed capabilities.”
For the town’s older residents, especially, online only notifications can be problematic, according to Civetti.
“Nice, so for all the folks that do not go on Twitter or Facebook, they have no clue,” Civetti said earlier this week. “ I for one have never been on Twitter and get on Facebook very seldom. My parents and in-laws have never been on either.”
Johnston residents Chris and Bonnie Dibble have attended numerous Town Council and Planning Board meetings as outspoken opponents of industrial-scale solar development in residential neighborhoods. They’ve also expressed interest in delivering public comment on a revised town-wide Comprehensive Plan.
Dibble can’t make Thursday’s meeting, but hopes to attend future workshops. Thursday’s meeting is expected to be the first of many.
“I hope the town takes this process seriously,” Chris Dibble said on Tuesday. “The people of Johnston care about this process and want to be involved, but they need to be told why it’s important and how it’s happening, across a variety of media platforms. I look forward to the various plans and proposals being readily available online so the town can solicit and incorporate valuable taxpayer feedback.”