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Public must have chance to be heard

A public meeting loses some of its importance if citizens attending are not allowed to speak, especially when it involves an issue that could have great impact on them and their neighborhood.

We hope this doesn’t occur when the Ironton planning commission meets tonight to discuss a zoning variance for the former Whitwell Elementary School on Fifth Street in Ironton. The meeting is open to the public but isn’t designed to be a public forum for debate.

However, we hope the board will allow anyone who wants to speak that opportunity.

The hot issue has been debated for weeks and has generated somewhat of a controversy as property owner Jack Hager hopes to develop multiple apartments for senior citizens, a move that some residents oppose.

So far Hager has been rejected in his attempts to move forward with this development. The planning commission may have the ultimate say but that doesn’t mean that residents shouldn’t have a voice. Although some opportunity has been provided in prior meetings, the planning commission would be negligent if it made a decision tonight without hearing arguments from both sides.

Zoning changes should never be taken lightly and all factors must be considered. Essentially it comes down to a basic question: Does the economic development investment out weigh concerns by residents who often don’t want to see any changes they believe could negative impact their neighborhood.

This will likely be a decision the planning commission has to make but the body must get all the information possible before doing so.