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Asharoken officials put 3-minute limit on speakers at public meetings

The Village of Asharoken has established new rules and time limits for residents who want to speak at government meetings.

The changes, which place a three-minute limit on speakers, follow several meetings when residents raised their voices and interrupted each other and village trustees.

Tensions have risen recently as the Army Corps of Engineers prepares to issue a formal proposal for an estimated $30 million project to replenish sand on the beaches. The issue has been contentious because federal law requires that anywhere taxpayer-funded sand is placed must provide public access. Some village residents have balked at being forced to sign easements allowing public access to their land.

"We have this project that has spurred passions on both sides, and mutual respect has been challenged at times," said trustee and Deputy Mayor Mary "Pam" Pierce. "It's a good time to implement" new rules.

Guidelines announced Tuesday call on residents to observe "commonly accepted rules of courtesy, decorum, dignity and good taste."

Speakers may participate only during the public comment period and only after they are recognized by the presiding officer. Residents now must approach a podium and state their name, address and organization. Speakers cannot yield their time to others.

The board also reserved the right to further limit speaking to two minutes if a large number of people want to participate.

Speakers may request more time for a formal presentation if they get permission in advance of the meeting.

Anyone who does not follow the new rules will be removed by the officer-in-charge.

The Town of Huntington unveiled new "rules of decorum" at its July meeting and recently announced plans to install metal detectors at Town Hall.

Mastic Beach started cracking down on meeting conduct in April, establishing a three-minute limit for speakers and a no-tolerance policy on interruptions.

That village also hired a court officer to control behavior at meetings and to halt access once the room is at capacity.

Glen Cove officials have considered limiting how long speakers can comment during public meetings.

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