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LETTER: No more public hearings?

Recent bylaw changes ‘another nail in the coffin of public engagement,’ writes Pat Zawalykut
Delta city hall. (James Smith photo)

On Dec. 12, Delta council approved, without discussion, two bylaws that significantly alter the public hearing process.

The [first] bylaw states that “The Director (of Community Planning and Development) may exercise all the powers and perform the duties of council in deciding whether to hold a public hearing where a proposed zoning bylaw is consistent with the Official Community Plan.”

This puts the decision on one position at city hall. With this in place, there is the potential for councillors to rely on a project being studied by the director in isolation and then accept the recommendation of the director. This on projects that may significantly affect a property by changing the character of the area and affect the property values of adjacent properties.

The people of Delta elected council to perform the duties of council — we did not elect city officials to perform [council’s] duties.

It is stated [in the second bylaw] that council may intervene if, for example, one councillor decided that a public hearing is warranted, but then it would take a majority of council to agree to make a public hearing necessary.

This is another nail in the coffin of public engagement in projects that affect the residents of Delta. There are no guidelines to determine whether a public hearing would be necessary. The residents of Delta lose again to Mayor Harvie and now his newly-elected “team.”

Councillors must remember that they are elected by the people of Delta and are accountable only to the people of Delta. They do not work for, report to and are not accountable to the mayor, staff or developers. Mayor and council must listen to the people they represent.

Pat Zawalykut, North Delta


Editor’s note: Council’s decision on Dec. 12 is in line with recent changes to B.C.’s Local Government Act removing the default public hearing requirement for zoning bylaws that are consistent with an Official Community Plan (OCP). The move was made to streamline local government development approval processes, with the aim of speeding up construction of new housing.

According to a Nov. 23 report to council outlining those changes and recommending the bylaw amendments adopted Dec. 12, the city typically processes 30-40 zoning bylaw amendment applications each year, of which around five to 10 require OCP amendments.

“By not requiring public hearings for projects that are consistent with Delta’s OCP, it is therefore estimated that approximately 20 to 35 projects per year would have the possibility of proceeding without a public hearing,” the report states. “All OCP amendment applications would continue to require a public hearing.”

As noted in Pat Zawalykut’s letter, council will retain the ability to reconsider a staff decision not to hold a public hearing.

SEE ALSO: Delta council sunsetting most committees in favour of a ‘Committee of the Whole’

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