They complimented shoes, commented on the weather and conversed about their families.
In a move away from the recent “Hollywood Squares” Zoom era, Albemarle County’s first hybrid public meeting was held Wednesday, replete with the charm of chatter during breaks and only a handful of minor technology issues.
It was the Albemarle Board of Supervisors’ first in-person meeting in more than two years to be held in Lane Auditorium at the McIntire Road County Office Building. The board had moved meetings online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the public and presenters were still able to virtually comment, present or watch online, as will be the case for future board meetings.
Although the in-person meeting was a recent rarity, only a handful of community members attended it.
County Executive Jeff Richardson kicked off the day — which was a budget work session followed by a regular twice-monthly meeting — by announcing of the historic nature of the first hybrid public meeting.
“Thank you for your support and your patience today,” he said. “If things are not perfect it will not be for a lack of effort and focus over the last couple of weeks, and this board certainly knows that. But we work very hard today to meet the expectations of our community.”
“I just wanted to welcome everybody who came today,” Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley said. “It’s wonderful to be back in-person, to see so many people and for all of us to be together.”
A cord came unplugged from one of the monitors in front of two board members, but that was a simple fix. One of the presenters for a special use permit application who spoke over Zoom got dropped from the call, but he was able to quickly reconnect.
Supervisors received mugs to commemorate the event, which Albemarle spokesperson Emily Kilroy said were funded out of the Office of Communications and Public Engagement’s budget.
Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, who stayed for the whole afternoon session, said he was “thrilled” to be back in Lane Auditorium.
For NBC29 reporter Elizabeth Holmes, it was the first Albemarle Board of Supervisors meeting she has been able to attend in person. When she walked into the building, she said the security staff member at the front desk assumed Holmes knew where she was going.
“I said, ‘No, I actually have no clue where I’m going,’ and he had to direct me where to go,” she said. “But it’s nice. It’s interesting being around here and seeing people in person for the first time.”
In the afternoon’s matters-from-the-public commenting period, just two people spoke in person. John and Barbara Cruickshank spoke against adding turf fields in the county. The board had previously included in past budgets adding turf fields at Darden Towe Park, but that has since been removed. Supervisors are currently working through how to improve the fields.
During the evening public comment period, Kent Schlussel spoke via Zoom, which was broadcast through the speakers. He expressed concerns about a workgroup for the county’s Comprehensive Plan update.
The board’s Rules of Procedures were updated during the meeting to match a portion of state code that allows individual members of Virginia public bodies to participate virtually for 25% of meetings in specific circumstances.
At the next Board of Supervisors meeting, board members will vote on whether to keep or remove other changes to the rules that were added to matters from the public during the pandemic. Those include a 10-person speaker limit; limiting speakers to items not listed for public hearing on the agenda, matters previously considered by the board or matters pending before the board; requiring that any presentations from those speakers be received by the board clerk at least 48 hours in advance; and when to close the signup period.
The next hybrid meeting in Lane Auditorium is a Planning Commission regular meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday, which will be its first time meeting in-person since 2020.