Surrey city hall is looking at charging a $10 non-refundable application fee for Freedom of Information requests.
Council voted Monday for staff to bring forward for its consideration a bylaw to implement the fee. This is in line with Bill 22, which received royal assent on Nov. 25, 2021.
According to a report by Rob Costanzo, general manager of corporate services and Ron Gill, acting general manager of planning and development, the application fee intends to “reinforce the spirit and intent of FOIPPA by encouraging FOI applicants to be focused and purposeful when making requests unrelated to the applicant’s own personal information.
They explained to council that “clear requests help ensure more timely processing and keep the process working effectively for everyone.”
Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA), there is no fee for people who are requesting access to their own personal information.
The City of Surrey received 719 FOI requests in 2021, 552 in 2020 and 567 in 2019.
Councillors Brenda Locke and Linda Annis opposed the recommendation.
“I’m not going to support this because I don’t think we should be charging anything unless it’s a very, very large request,” Locke said. “I think access to information and transparency, especially in local government, is really important so I won’t be supporting this.”
Council also authorized staff, under a corporate report R010 Recent Amendments to Provincial Enactments Affecting Local Governments, to bring forward for consideration a bylaw to remove the requirement to hold public hearings when a proposed zoning bylaw amendment is consistent with the Official Community Plan and is “intended to facilitate a subdivision creating five or fewer new single family residential lots that are consistent with an approved Secondary Plan, and/or consistent with the existing zoning and lot pattern in the immediately surrounding neighbourhood.”
The report states that “since Council will no longer have to pass a resolution, the amendments may result in less controversy in cases where a public hearing is not held.” Last year there were 123 public hearings in Surrey, 92 of them involving zoning applications city staff said were consistent with the OCP.
Councillors Annis, Locke and Jack Hundial did not support this one either. Coun. Steven Pettigrew did not attend Monday’s meeting.
“I think adding an additional five applications into an existing neighbourhood can be quite problematic if the neighbours aren’t given the opportunity to express their opinions about it,” Annis said.
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