Appoint a neutral chair

The residents of Peachland are finally getting the public hearing they have always wanted. When last spring’s flooding paralyzed the entire down town core, municipal life stopped. Mayor Fortin claimed even the rewriting of the Official Community Plan had to be put on hold” due to mudslides and extreme flooding”, all municipal business as usual was halted to deal with the emergency situation, all business except for the PeachTree development public hearing.

This statement reveals two facts, the first is Peachland’s OCP was in the process of a 2 year review where stakeholder input, public engagement and community vision was encouraged, mandatory to the process. Today we are told by Councillor Kent that the above is not true, public disengagement is acceptable, all that matters in OCP amendments is what council thinks is best. The second is the June 13 PeachTree open house was a poorly attended event, overlooked by many who live in the area. Only a handful of Rotarians and Chamber of Commerce lobbied, attended and this disproportional support swayed council, still confirming that the PeachTree open house” displayed overwhelming public support for the project! ”.

Today Council now says the number of supporters at a public hearing has no validity in their final vote, the sole factor is their opinion of what is best for the Municipality. While it appears council’s mind is already made up and constituents’ voices do not need to be recognized, The Peachland community still has an opportunity to comment on the process that is encouraging 5 and 6 storey high rises all along the down town core. The question remains, can they be heard fairly?

In order for the Peachland residents labelled as unruly and insulting by their elected officials to regain their council’s respect and in order for the Peachland council labelled liars and untrustworthy by their constituents to regain the respect of those residents, a suggestion would be appointing a neutral chair for the Jan 30 public hearing.

The Sept 5-17 council meeting and Jan 9-18 COTW and council meetings clearly exhibited disorganization, lack of control and showcased how out of touch council is with their constituents. The Mayor can use her prerogative to appoint an experienced chair or professional facilitator to run the meeting. School Trustee, Moira Baxter, has been suggested as an excellent candidate. These propositions will surly assist in a fair and judicious public hearing for the benefit of all. After the emergency call out for the RCMP at last week’s regular council meeting, it can be anticipated the attendance for this week’s public hearing will swell considerably, clearly the taxpayers of Peachland have a great deal to say on the issue of a five storey high rise on Beach Avenue and they plan to attend, not only to state their opposition for amending the OCP, but to enjoy the coffee and doughnuts!

With the reality of the 6 storey seniors housing looming on the horizon, it is doubtful any residents can stand up at a microphone and openly admit they want the same facade lining Beach Avenue, blocking the lake. Unlike what Council is telling its voters, a public hearing is indeed a numbers game, and if the results are not immediately apparent by third and final reading, they become crystal clear come Municipal re-election day.

Taryn Skalbania

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