Our Call: Trakas’ idea for town halls is a rare winner in Clayton

Editorial

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Sometimes things never change in county government. In fact, more often than not, that is exactly what happens — the more things change in Clayton, the more they stay the same. And that’s how it’s been for decades.

So when we notice something changing for the better even in the middle of a pandemic — especially something that positively impacts South County residents — we simply have to stop to mention it.

As unincorporated residents know or eventually will find out, one of the most important powers of county government is the zoning power that county government holds over unincorporated areas. Nothing much had changed about that since 1989, when The Call first started covering county government. But especially over the last year, despite a pandemic that kept residents from being able to gather in person, many developers hoping to build in South County have held town halls for residents ahead of the county zoning process.

Whether by Zoom or in person, this is a trend we can all get behind. We applaud 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, who has at times encouraged the practice and often participated in the town halls.

The latest one happened last week at the former MetLife building, where a developer proposes a 100-acre mixed-use redevelopment. The engineer, George Stock, said this was “county government at its finest” and noted how rare it is to have a meeting about a development in the very building that is set to be developed.

So many projects are holding town halls that this newspaper has a good problem: There’s too many to report on at one time.

For years, The Call has asked candidates for county executive and County Council how to make zoning more responsive to the needs of South County. Some have proposed public hearings in South County, but no one ever knows how that would work or how much it would cost.

Trakas and these developers have found a way to do just that with minimal cost and the maximum benefit of residents, who can have their say before a plan gets to the zoning stage.

It’s rare that an idea coming out of Clayton is an all-around winner. This is one thing in county government we hope doesn’t change.