Knightdale residents say the town is muzzling ways to speak out against rezoning

Investigators

KNIGHTDALE, N.C. (WNCN) – Frustration is growing in Knightdale where a group of residents say almost 300 homes are going to be packed into a subdivision and the town council is muzzling the way they can speak out.

Knightdale is growing and being developed at a rapid pace.

That’s causing the town to rethink some of its zonings.

But, changes in zoning call for public hearings, and a group opposed to one zoning change says the town is limiting its ability to complain.

“Knightdale has decided there won’t be any type of open two-way communication with citizens and the town council over the rezoning,” said group organizer Tim Shermer.

They are talking about 53 acres of land that will be subdivided into lots for 280 single family homes and other mixed use known as Forestville Village.

The residents opposing it say the town’s infrastructure can’t handle it.

They have created a presentation to show the impact of the project.

They say they were stunned when they found out the town’s virtual zoning board meeting won’t allow virtual live comments during its virtual hearings on the subject.

“They won’t let me go to a public hearing and say what I think is wrong with this proposal,” said Marvin Hillman.

Knightdale is allowing comments, but they have to be made on the town’s website.

There’s a tab at the top of the webpage which you can click to make a comment. The town will also accept comments Via E-mail, U.S. Mail, or voicemail.

Shermer said he would you rather do face-to-face virtual to “show our compassion, our emotion and just so they could see a face.”

Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia wanted to find out why the town has prohibited virtual face-to-face comments and went Town Manager Bill Summers for answers.

In an email, Summers said the decision was “The preference of our elected officials” who had “security concerns associated with Zoom and Webex as they were new platforms.”

He also claims during the pandemic written comments have generated “More general public comments and public hearings comments than we had historically.”

He said the written comments are “More comprehensive and thoughtful submissions.”

Shermer says he’s talked with 11 other municipalities in Wake County, and none are requiring written submissions only.

“All are allowing citizens to come in to talk or allowing zoom face-to-face or at least a telephone call,” he said.

Unless the town changes it mind about vital face-to-face comments, this group says they plan a series of protests outside town hall to make their point.

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