When Are Public Hearings Required

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David Lawrence

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A recurrent point of confusion is when must a city council or board of county commissioners hold a public hearing.  Many governing boards spend a lot of time on zoning map amendments, and those actions require a public hearing, so a notion arises that other sorts of ordinances surely require a public hearing as well.  But in fact they don’t.  Apart from ordinances involving land-use regulation, public hearings are required on only one other sort of ordinance – Sunday closing ordinances adopted by cities.  In general, apart from actions involving service districts and authorization of borrowing, statutorily-required public hearings are fairly rare.  Unless the statute that authorizes a particular sort of action requires a public hearing as a condition of acting, a board is under no compulsion to hold a hearing.  (Many boards voluntarily hold public hearings in controversial situations even though the law does not require them.)  Here’s a list of those statutes that I know of that require a city council or board of county commissioners to hold a public hearing:

Measure County  Cite City Cite
Adopting Regulatory Ordinances
Development ordinances 153A-323 160A-364
Sunday closing ordinances 160A-191
Government Structure
Form of government 160A-102
Fire district expansion 69-25.11
Sanitary district creation 130A-48
City parking auth. creation 160A-552
Service District Matters
Establishing districts 153A-302 160A-537
Expanding districts 153A-303 160A-538
Deleting territory 160A-538.1
Consolidating districts 153A-304 160A-539
Adjusting boundaries 153A-304.3
Abolishing districts 153A-306 160A-541
Establishing some fire dists. 153A-309.2
Establishing indust. fire dists. 153A-309.3
Establishing some EMS dists. 153A-310
Establishing res/prod. dists. 153A-312
Expanding res/prod. dists. 153A-314
Deleting territory 153A-314.1
Abolishing res/prod. dists. 153A-316
Estab. econ.dev./training dists. 153A-317.12
Expan. econ.dev./training dists 153A-317.14
Abol. econ.dev./training dists. 153A-317.16
Municipal Annexation
Voluntary contiguous 160A-31
Voluntary satellite 160A-58.2
Involuntary 160A-58.55
Annexation agreements 160A-58.24
Financial matters
Annual budget ordinance 159-12 159-12
General obligation bonds 159-57 159-57
Installment financings 160A-20 160A-20
Acquiring college property 153A-158.2
Levy of occupancy taxes 153A-155 160A-215
Establishing stormwater fees 153A-277 160A-314
Special assessments
Preliminary resolution 153A-192 160A-225
Prelim. assessment roll 153A-195 160A-228
Streets and Roads
Closing streets and roads 153A-241 160A-299
Naming roads, assigning nos. 153A-239.1
Permitting bridges 153A-243
Transportation corridor map 136-44.50 See county
Transportation plan 136-66.2
Miscellaneous
Economic devel. incentives 158-7.1 158-7.1
Solid waste management plans 130A-309.09A See county
Coastal area land use plans 113-110(e) See county
Landfill site selection 153A-136(c) 160A-325(a)
Ambulance service ordinances 153A-250 153A-250
Location of ABC stores 18B-801
MBE goals 143-128.2 143-128.2

Do you know of a public hearing requirement that isn’t on this chart? If so, please send it in a comment on this blog post and we’ll add it in.

David Lawrence is retired from the faculty of the School of Government. For questions about the subject of this blog post, please refer to our list of faculty expertise to identify the appropriate faculty member to contact.

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