The Studio Theatre in the new City Hall was planned as a two-for-one room, doubling as an artistic venue and the chamber for City Council and other official boards. But two government meetings have been bumped from the space since its opening in May, in one case due to conflict with a performance.
A July 24 Planning Commission meeting was moved due to work to “refinish” the theater’s floor,
according to city spokesperson Sharon Kraun. And an Aug. 14 Board of Appeals meeting was moved due to preparation for performances during the Performing Arts Center opening week, Kraun said. Both meetings were relocated to a second-floor meeting room within City Hall’s offices.
Kraun did not explain what “refinishing” meant or name what performance was scheduled. The next performance listed in the city’s calendar for the Studio Theatre was Aug. 16, two days after the meeting.
Tochie Blad of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods attended the August Board of Appeals meeting, and said the room was not set up with a microphone or podium as usual. But a recorder did capture all the comments from applicants and the public, she said.
“Regardless, these conflicts with events taking precedent over public meeting at City Hall is not good practice,” she said.
“If planning staff had objected, the meeting would have remained in the Studio Theatre,” Kraun said in an email, referring to both incidents. “In this case, the room change wasn’t a big deal, so they accommodated.”
The change was communicated to visitors and the boards by security guards when they arrived at City Springs, Kraun said.
Governments are required by the state’s Open Meetings Act to disclose the location, time and date of regular meetings at least one week beforehand. The location was not changed on the city’s public meetings calendar or on the agendas, but attendees were notified by security guards when they arrived, Kraun said.
David E. Hudson, an attorney who serves on the board of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said that likely meets the Open Meetings Act requirements.
“Since notice was provided at the site and the meeting was in the same building, I do not see how this could have impeded someone’s right to attend the meeting,” Hudson said in an email.
The second-floor meeting room is in a more secure area of City Hall, accessible only through the front desk, that often requires visitors to sign in, have their photo taken, and wear a nametag. For the relocated meetings, the city used the same screening process it does for meetings in the Studio Theatre, Kraun said, which only involves visitors walking through a metal detector and having their bags and other items scanned.
Ted Sandler, the chair of the Board of Appeals, said he hopes any visitors were able to find the meeting without trouble. He said he found out about the change in location when he arrived and was directed by a guard to the new room.