Open the hearing to questions and comments from the public. Some ZBAs routinely set time limits on individual comments; others take a less formal approach and hold off on imposing time limits unless it becomes necessary. The board needs to strike a balance between provid¬ing enough time for people to be heard and avoiding needless repetition. Also, some questions from the public may need to be deferred until the ZBA receives peer review reports. For this reason, it makes sense to let abutters know as soon as possible what the ZBA’s project review schedule will be.
Schedule a site visit. Note that site visits should be open to the public, but they are not a “meet¬ing” under the Open Meeting Law as long as the ZBA does not deliberate during the visit. See the Attorney General’s Open Meeting Law Guide for more information.
Decide on a date to continue the public hearing (assuming it does not open and close on the same night), in consultation with the developer. Though some comprehensive permit hearings can be completed in one evening, most proposed developments need several sessions. For example, developers will often propose some changes to their original plans in response to concerns raised during the hearing. Furthermore, developers can use time between hearing sessions to obtain additional information for the ZBA and have informal discussions with city or town staff, consultants, or abutters to the site. Hearing continuances and extensions of the decision deadline must be approved in writing by the applicant and filed with the city or town clerk.