Qualicum Beach Coun. Anne Skipsey tried to get council to amend a policy that would require developers to hold public information meetings prior to applying for development permits and zoning amendments.
At the last regular council meeting, Skipsey said she received concerns from the community that they’re often notified very late in the process about development plans occurring within the town.
“We’ve heard that over and over again when we’ve held public hearings, ‘how come I haven’t heard about this before? It’s already decided, it’s a done deal or whatever the comments are,’” said Skipsey. “Having a public information meeting at the beginning of the process, I think, creates more transparency and also a feeling like you can be part of the conversation and that it’s upfront with people.”
Skipsey cited as example the Berwick project. She said the developers did an excellent job of reaching out to the community before they even put in their application.
“They really did a good job of getting the community engaged in their project and understanding you know what it was going to look like, their business models, all of those things,” said Skipsey. “So when it came before council, there was a lot of support from the community. So actually having those conversations upfront are actually a benefit to the applicant as well.”
Skipsey made a motion to direct staff to prepare an amendment to the town’s policy on public information meetings for development applications
Mayor Brian Wiese was in not favour of the motion.
“I am not saying you can’t have public information prior and the Berwick chose to,” said Wiese. “We’re not saying you can’t. It is required between first and second reading currently is what we’re doing and I think it works great. We have an appropriate time to flush out any ideas or plans. Then it goes to second to the public hearing after that. There’s numerous opportunities.”
Coun. Teunis Westbroek indicated the town’s current policy is outdated as it was established more than 10 years ago and feels it is worth exploring.
“This is about communication,” said Westbroek. “And it’s a small town. This is what people like. They like to know what’s going on. So if they’re willing to share what they’re planning on doing, I think that’s a good process. And it actually creates support for a project rather than suspicion or opposition.”
Coun. Scott Harrison took issue with making it a requirement prior to the submission of the applicant..
“As such you’d be having someone doing a discussion about a development which is prior to actually receiving feedback perhaps from staff as to aspects of the application that actually might not be congruent with the process,” Harrison said. “So I think it’s better to actually have it done where they have the formal applications submitted.”
Wiese said he has no problem encouraging developers to hold public information meetings to talk about their plans and projects upfront.
“Requirement to come out before application, I don’t agree with,” he said.
The motion did not pass as the vote ended in a 2-2 tie. Coun. Robert Filmer was not present at the meeting.