Charlottesville may drop pandemic meeting restrictions

Among localities in the region, Charlottesville is the only one still operating with pandemic-era restrictions on who can attend meetings and what bodies can have in-person ones. That’s despite ending the local COVID-19 emergency meeting at their meeting on September 6, 2022. 

That action allowed meetings to only be held in-person meetings if there is appropriate space on city properties, sufficient staff are on hand to maintain distancing protocols, and measures are in place to stop the spread of COVID. 

Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers announced last night at City Council that those restrictions will soon be removed. 

“We are currently working to remove the continuing resolution which has  been active since September 6, 2022,” Rogers said. “The resolution was issued to preserve Council’s ability to maintain safety protocols for all meetings of the government while balancing the ongoing concerns with COVID-19.” 

A new resolution will come before Council at their April 17 meeting that will set new protocols for all boards and commissions. 

“We will propose the return to in-person meeting effective May 1, or your first meeting of the month,” Rogers said. 

Councilor Michael Payne asked if the forthcoming end of the federal public health emergency on May 11 would prevent the city from using virtual meetings going forward. Staff with the city attorney’s office said they would need to do further research. 

Like all localities in Virginia, Charlottesville is governed by the open meetings provision in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The General Assembly amended the law in 2022 to permit some bodies to have two virtual meetings per year. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors were among groups that have asked for further flexibility. (read the story)

The legality of virtual meetings and actions approved during them is perhaps an open question in the Commonwealth since the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Fairfax County lacked authority to adopt an updated zoning code at a virtual meeting in the spring of 2021. (read the story)

The criteria currently in place for a meeting can be in-person in Charlottesville. Read the September 6, 2022 minutes on cvillepedia to learn more, as I don’t seem to be able to provide you a direct link through the city’s website. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the April 4, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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