A Public Hearing for the City of Kimberley’s Official Community Plan (OCP) is taking place on Monday, Feb. 19 at 7p.m. at McKim Theatre.
The purpose of the public hearing is to allow residents to speak their minds with regards to the entire OCP, before it goes to a third vote at a later City Council Meeting.
City CAO, Scott Sommerville says that the public hearing is an opportunity for members of the public to give feedback about all of the proposed changes in the OCP, including the zoning of the Marysville Bench Lands.
“This isn’t an opportunity to ask questions, or for debate,” explained Sommerville. “This is really an opportunity for people to voice their opinions on the entire community plan, and for Mayor and Council to hear those opinions.”
Manager of Planning Services, Troy Pollock says that Council will likely be on the stage at McKim, to hear from everyone and there will be a microphone set up for speakers. There will be a sign-up sheet, where speakers are required to put their name and address for minute-taking and documentation purposes. There is no sign-up required for those who wish to attend the meeting and not speak, however. There will be a statement from Mayor and Council prior to the hearing, explaining the instructions and procedures for the entire evening.
Sommerville referred to the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Public Hearing document, that states the following:
“Where a local government intends to consider an Official Community Plan (OCP) or zoning bylaw, a public hearing must be held for the purpose of allowing the public to make representations to the local government concerning the matters contained in the OCP or bylaw. At the public hearing, all persons who believe that their interest in property is affected by the proposed OCP or bylaw must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard or to present written submissions. It is not necessary for all members of a municipal council or regional district board to attend the public hearing.”
“The hearing is not a forum in which elected officials should be debating among themselves or with the proponents or opponents; they should hear and (if necessary for clarification of a speaker’s point) ask questions – council or board debate takes place after the hearing has closed,” said Sommerville. “Elected officials should be reasonably attentive and considerate of the public; attention to non-relevant written material, mobile phone, personal digital assistants, pagers and private discussions between officials should be deferred until after the hearing or breaks called by the chair.
“The meeting must be run in an evenhanded and fair way – for example in Ross vs. Oak Bay (1965) the Mayor asked the people not to speak unless they had something new to say that hadn’t been said by previous speakers. This intimidated some members of the public and they didn’t speak. The bylaw was struck down. Rhetorical or confrontational questions from members of council should also be avoided, as they can intimidate others who might wish to avoid the same treatment.”
Sommerville adds that if the hearing becomes rowdy or emotional, the Chairperson has considerable leeway to keep order, make reasonable rules governing the hearing and put out speakers, interrupters and hecklers in their seats, again to ensure that others are not intimidated from participating.
As the Government’s Public Hearing document states, “after the close of the public hearing (either the same day or at a later meeting), each of the council members or regional board members must decide how they wish to vote on the bylaw. However, if all members were not present at the public hearing, they must not vote on the adoption of the bylaw until they have been presented with a report that contains the views expressed at the public hearing. There is no requirement that they must vote in accordance with the wishes of the majority of opinions expressed at the public hearing.”
The current OCP dates back to 2005 and City Staff have been working on upgrading the plan for over a year. As stated in the OCP document, an OCP is intended as a general statement of objectives and policies to guide planning and land use. The Province’s Local Government Act states that the OCP must include consideration of regional context to ensure that local objectives and values coordinate with regional goals and directions. The OCP has been through both first and second reading, and the next step after the public hearing is for council to vote on a third reading.
Kimberley’s proposed OCP covers various aspects of community planning from land use and development to public safety and education, infrastructure, the environment and more. A complete overview of the entire OCP can be found on the City’s Website under City Services > Long-Range Planning & Sustainability > Official Community Plan.