Dozens of Jeffco residents recently got a reminder of just how problematic technology can be when a scheduled community meeting about a proposal to construct a wedding and event venue on a ranch in …
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Dozens of Jeffco residents recently got a reminder of just how problematic technology can be when a scheduled community meeting about a proposal to construct a wedding and event venue on a ranch in Golden Gate Canyon was beset by tech trouble.
The community meeting, which the county requires anyone who wants to rezone a property to hold prior to submitting a formal rezoning application, was to provide the owners with an opportunity to present their proposal to the community and answer questions about it.
But as the virtual meeting got underway, several residents called into it to report they were unable to access the Microsoft Teams platform. Further disruption ensued as a recorded voice announced the entry and exit of every new participant, which became increasingly disruptive as more people continued to call in.
As a result of those issues, which several participants reported prevented them from actually being able to see the presentation even as many were able to listen to it over the phone, Jeffco Planning and Zoning Director Chris O’Keefe said the county plans to require the owners of the ranch to hold a second community meeting.
“Based on the feedback we received, it is clear that the information that needed to be conveyed was not conveyed,” said O’Keefe, in explaining the decision to require a second meeting.
O’Keefe said it will be up to Carly and Tucker Wilde, the owners of the property which is known as Wilde Ranch, to set a new date for the meeting. However, the meeting won’t be able to happen for at least several weeks as the Wildes will have to comply with requirements that signs be posted for at least 21 days. Property neighbors will also need to be notified.
Dean Dalvit, a principal with the design firm EV Studio that is working with the Wildes on the project, said the Wildes have not decided on a date for the second meeting because they would first like to consider how to respond to the feedback they received at the first meeting.
According to Dalvit, the community meeting attendees log showed that over 100 people participated in the meeting while 80 stayed until the very end.
However, it was unclear if everyone who attempted to access the meeting was included in the log. The Golden Transcript was among those who had trouble accessing the meeting and were unable to view the presentation.
“While some may have had technical difficulties, most did not,” Dalvit said in an email.
Following the meeting, several frustrated residents took to the Golden Gate Canyon Neighbors and Friends Facebook page expressing frustration about both the meeting and the proposal.
For commenter Bryan Gamble, the access issues were “unacceptable.”
“We are furious listening to it,” Gamble wrote. “I am still in the lobby waiting to be let in for 45 minutes. We also called in but can’t unmute to speak.”
Another commenter, Steve Green, wrote that such a development did not make sense for the area.
“They are asking to make a non-commercial property commercial,” he wrote. “There is nothing on this property that makes it conducive to commercial usage or zoning. Access is terrible and there is not adequate water.”
O’Keefe, meanwhile, said this was the first time the county has had widespread technical difficulties with a community meeting since the county began holding such meetings, which are normally held virtually, last year.
Currently, the applicants are responsible for putting on the meeting themselves, although a county planner is present to take notes and answer questions. The county also allows the applicant to choose what type of meeting platform to hold the meeting in, although the county will suggest a different platform if it feels that the platform an applicant has chosen is not adequate.
O’Keefe attributed the problems with the meeting to issues with the Microsoft Teams platform, which he said “doesn’t seem to have some of the bells and whistles of other platforms like Zoom and WebEx.”
He also said that the county will look into options to try to prevent such an issue from happening again and will also likely require virtual community meetings be recorded going forward, which is not currently a requirement.
However, O’Keefe also said the county feels it is important that it not take up the role of putting on the meeting, which is intended to provide the applicant with an opportunity to inform the community about a rezoning proposal prior to submitting an application. No decisions are made at the meetings, which are informational in nature.
One challenge with holding a second meeting, O’Keefe said, is that the county will not have the ability to contact all of the residents who may have had trouble accessing the meeting. But he said the county is contacting every resident who has called his office to complain — a number which reached the double digits on March 31 — and that the applicant will be required to comply with all posting requirements for publicizing the meeting.
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