The March 24 Glendale City Council meeting was the first under the city’s new guidelines for social distancing at public meetings.
Public members were not permitted to attend the meeting, though they were invited to watch online and participate by phoning or emailing questions and comments.
Several said they were not happy about being shut out.
Near the end of the meeting, City Clerk Julie Bower read three emails and played a voicemail.
The first email, from Chuck Jared, complained of a bicycle being stolen in front of a grocery store “with no police in the area.”
The other two emails and voicemail vehemently protested the city not allowing citizens to be present at the meetings.
David Mednansky’s email called the move “a violation of the public’s rights under the Arizona Open Meeting Act. The act has no provision to allow the city council to replace our attendance with email comments.
“You are in violation of Arizona state law. I’ve heard of a banana republic,. What is Glendale becoming—the cactus republic?”
Stella Greazzo also emailed her protest, stating, “I’m not at all comfortable that the Glendale City Council meetings will be closed to the public. … Why the urgency to carry on the meetings without the public present? The meetings should be on hold until the public can be present.”
Phil Erickson left a voicemail that agreed that “this greatly reduces citizen input.” He asked that council “table all items that have an impact on the citizens of Glendale …
“I hope this coronavirus does not open the door for the mayor and city council to push through their agenda without citizen input … we need council transparency,” he said.
(In an informal legal opinion issued March 14, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the state's Open Meeting Law actually allows public bodies to hold remote meetings. "All of our public meetings are being held consistent with the state’s open meeting law and in accordance with the Attorney General's recent guidance," Mat Droge, Glendale spokesman, said after the March 24 meeting. "While the public is temporarily restricted from attending the meetings in person, due to COVID-19 CDC guidelines, we have provided multiple opportunities for the public to follow and participate in the meetings.")
In less than an hour, council unanimously approved 32 resolutions, including one that increased a senior housing project to expand from 40 to 80 units.
The 5-acre site of the Montebello Seniors Project being developed by the Cesar Chavez Foundation is at 5619 N. 67th Avenue.
Another resolution instituted “a temporary moratorium on evictions from city of Glendale public housing for nonpayment of rent due to impacts of the COVID-19 virus.”
(Gov. Doug Ducey later placed a temporary moratorium on statewide evictions due to impacts of COVID-19.)
Council also unanimously approved yet another Glendale annexation, this one 76 acres at the southeast corner of Maryland and Sarival avenues near Loop 303. According to agenda materials, the owner is planning a “1.25 million-square-foot industrial complex.”
The land will become part of Glendale April 24.
At a city council workshop March 24, city staff educated council on several more potential annexation.
The largest is 865 acres west of Loop 303, bordered by Camelback on the south and Bethany Home Road on the north.
“The proposed development would include an industrial development on 614.6 acres and a single-family on 250 acres,” according to agenda material.
Several on the council expressed concern that this would create a “city island.”
At the April 2 Planning Commission meeting, a request by the owners of the recently annexed Cotton Properties for rezoning was tabled until the May 7 Planning Commission meeting.
Cotton Properties plans a Love’s Travel Stop, which a group of residents of Waddell and Litchfield Park is protesting.
The next Glendale City Council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14.
The agenda was not posted at press time, but a document titled “City Council Upcoming Agenda Items” states two more annexations will be voted on at the April 14 meeting.
To submit comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submitting comments is 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14.
Residents can submit recorded comments by calling 623-930-2686 and leaving a voicemail recording by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14.
To watch or listen to the meeting live visit facebook.com/glendaleaz.
Videos of meetings are also posted at glendaleaz.com.