On April 6th the City of Jacksonville adopted Ordinance 2020-200 which sets forth policies and procedures for public attendance and participation in City public “open meetings” during the COVID-19 state of emergency. When members of the City Council are not physically gathered in one location, or when the public is not permitted to be present due to emergency limitations, then the Council will take the necessary steps to ensure that the public is able to listen and observe the public meetings. Notices for public meetings which will be conducted by telephone, videoconference, or other web-based platforms will include the date, time, and general substance of the meeting, as well as the internet website address or link from which the meeting will broadcast and directions explaining how to access the website. Additionally, a method for electronically accessing the agenda, the agenda packet and copies of all presentation materials for any such meeting will be included in the notice.

For quasi-judicial hearings, applicants may request a deferral until the conclusion of the emergency or may elect to proceed forward. Applicants are warned that if they choose to proceed forward under the emergency procedures, the action and/or the procedures may be subject to legal challenge by an affected party. The Council will permit the public to participate in the meeting by providing comments by email, or by submitting written comments. Instructions for providing comments will be included in the notice. The communications will be read in the record (up to the 3 minute time limit) prior to the Council taking action on the item. For statements to be read at a regularly noticed City Council meeting scheduled for 5:00 p.m., comments must be received no later than noon of the same day. For Committee meetings, the comments must be received no later than noon on the prior business day. For example, Monday committee meeting comments must be submitted no later than noon on the Friday before. Public comments not related to quasi-judicial hearings or other statutorily required hearings will be accepted by the Council, but will not be read out loud during the meeting.

Based on posted notices for upcoming City Council meetings, it also appears that applicants and members of the public will have the opportunity to speak during public hearings by using the electronic “raise hand” feature in Zoom.

A complete copy of Ordinance 2020-200 is available can be found here.


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