Changes to Public Hearings
Friday, September 6, 2019
On September 1, Rocky View County adopted a new Procedures Bylaw to detail how Council and committee meetings are managed. As the name implies, most of the bylaw deals with background procedural matters, such as how agendas are created. But there are four changes that may be of particular interest to Rocky Viewers:
Under Rocky View County’s old system, First, Second, and Third (Final) readings for bylaws all happened at one Council meeting. Considerable time and money was spent by the County (and by applicants for planning matters) in preparing full reports, studies, and other materials, no matter what the likelihood of success for the bylaw.
Under the new system, First Reading becomes more of a screening process. A bylaw (such as a land use re-designation) goes before Council with basic information. The goal is to simply determine whether or not an item has any merit.
If Council believes there is no possible chance the bylaw will eventually pass, they can refuse First Reading. That ends the process before a great deal of time and money is invested.
If Council believes there may be some merit, they approve First Reading. This does not mean Council approves of the bylaw, only that they believe it is worth a closer look with a full report and a public hearing.
If a bylaw gets First Reading, a public hearing date (or an approximate time frame) is set and the regular process begins. Information is prepared, reports completed, and the public is given the opportunity to provide their input.
On the public hearing day, Council receives reports and presentations, including submissions from the public. They can then amend, delay, refuse, or approve the bylaw as normal.
This new process is the one followed by most Alberta municipalities. It can save time and money for Rocky View County and for applicants by separating First Reading from the full-on public hearing process.
Presenting to Council
Anyone who claims to represent a group when presenting to Council must now have specific permission from the group’s members to make the statements, and there must be at least three group members.
Late Written Submissions
Council will no longer accept late written submissions for public hearings. Late written submissions are not available for the public to see, which works against transparency in the process. Anyone who has missed a written submission deadline for a public hearing still has the option to attend the meeting and speak before Council and the public.
Recording how each individual councillor votes will no longer be done automatically. Under the Municipal Government Act, a council must speak with one voice so that the direction for the municipality is clear. What matters for good government is a council’s ultimate decision, not how individual councillors voted. A Rocky View County councillor can still request a recorded vote, but they must do so in advance of the vote. Any councillor is always welcome to tell the public how they voted and why, whether the vote was recorded or not.
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