SUMMERVILLE -- A final vote on limiting public comment at Town Council meetings comes Wednesday night.
The vote is scheduled right before a final vote on a proposed town law permitting beer and wine at public events, and could be drawn into an anticipated controversy over that law.
A divided Summerville Town Council will vote on a set of rules that would require out-of-towners to sign up in person at least two days before a meeting and state what they want to talk about, if they want to address council members during the meeting-opening comment session. Town residents now just have to sign up at the meeting.
A preliminary vote split council members 5-2, in favor of the move. Some council members say the comment session is for residents to speak about town matters. Others say the restriction would hamper others wanting to make comments, and could keep members from hearing ideas important to the debate.
Interest from people wanting to speak about the beer and wine proposal seems to have exacerbated the split.
Councilman Aaron Brown said public comment is one of the most important things the council does every month because it gives members an ear into the community. Out-of-town residents might have good ideas to contribute, he said.
Last year and earlier this year, council sat through repeated sessions orchestrated by groups advocating a smoking ban. The groups lined up speakers by the dozens and dragged on public comments sometimes for an hour or more at meetings that usually don't last an hour in entirety.