West Kelowna  

Legislation reducing public hearings slammed by West Kelowna council

Provincial policies slammed

West Kelowna council showed its collective disdain for provincial housing legislation which, in part, takes away a municipality's ability to hold public hearings.

Council's comments came as it was asked to amend its procedures bylaw to align with the provincial legislation.

Changes to the city's bylaws outlined by planning manager Brent Magnan include eliminating public hearings when residential development applications are consistent with the Official Community Plan.

Loosely defined, he says that is when projects are "in line with the city's land use plan."

That only applies to development when more than half of the project is residential. Public hearings can still be held for projects where the residential component is less than 50 per cent.

Magnan also brought in a change to the delegation policy removing an opportunity for delegations to speak on a project that would be prohibited from holding a public hearing at first reading.

"We don't want to indirectly hold a public hearing," said Magnan.

We have no choice: councillors

While council adopted the policy changes, it did so grudgingly.

Coun. Stephen Johnston, who will run under the BC United banner in the next provincial election, reminded council it has no choice but to endorse these changes.

"I want the community to know and I want to make sure we all understand, if we do not support this we run the risk of having someone appointed from the province come in, change our bylaws for us and say here is the way it's going to be," said Johnston."

Magnan added that even without adoption of the bylaw the city would still be forbidden from holding public hearings because of the provincial legislation.

"I think it's important for the community to know this is a strong-arm tactic. We are here as a matter of procedure tonight.

"I will support this because we don't have a choice. We can't run the risk of having someone coming in and making these decisions for us."

This is just wrong

Coun. Rick de Jong agreed while also tempering his comments after reminding himself the city does have an ethics policy.

de Jong applauded staff with carrying out changes mandated by the province while trying to stay within council's stated objectives and priorities.

"Public hearing are not the reason (housing) slow ups are there. It's the least of the things developers have to hop through," said de Jong.

"I appreciate this motion has to pass tonight but it will not pass with my vote.

"This is the loss of a public voice at the table, it is just simply wrong and I will not support it tonight."

Council voted 4-3 to approve the changes with councillors de Jong, Garrett Millsap and Carol Zanon voting against.

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