By ROY WOOD
Public hearings around bylaw amendments, particularly for zoning, may become rarer following a couple of decisions by Oliver council today.
The first involved a proposed two-lot subdivision at the corner of Meadows Drive and Chardonnay Avenue.
The applicant seeks to split a large lot into two smaller ones and rezone the property to low-density residential from high-density.
Development services director Randy Houle said in a report to council the proposal “will convert an underutilized lot into two new single-family homes in a desirable area.”
Council agreed the proposal make sense because the surrounding area is predominantly single-family homes and the property is designated single-family in the town’s Official Community Plan (OCP). Council approved first and second readings of the zoning amendment.
Because of the OCP designation and because a recent rezoning on a parcel across the street faced virtually no public opposition, Houle recommended that council waive the public hearing, which would normally be held after second reading of the bylaw.
Such a waiving is permitted under the Local Government Act, provided there is an OCP in place and that the proposed change is consistent with it.
Council agreed to waive the public hearing, although Councillor Petra Veintimilla said she wouldn’t “want to give the impression that public opinion and input are not important.”
Later in the meeting, council concurred with a report from corporate officer Diane Vaykovich about a provincial emergency order stipulating that during the Covid-19 crisis any public hearings will be conducted on-line to avoid public gatherings.
In a report her council, Vaykovich pointed out: “The province expects local governments to adhere to the principles of procedural fairness when conducting public hearings electronically.”
Town staff is preparing processes to use Zoom virtual meeting technology to accommodate electronic meetings.
As well, the ministerial order urges councils to “consider waiving a public hearing if an amendment to (a) bylaw is aligned with the Official Community Plan.”