Kelowna city council has carried through with its plan to kill off three of its 14 committees and review the mandates of the rest.
Council voted unanimously Monday to rescind the terms of reference of the Advisory Planning Commission, the Housing Committee and the Women’s and Community Committee, saying in the case of the APC, it was a duplication of what council already does when development applications are presented for approval.
“(The APC) has provided good input in the past,” said Coun. Andre Blanleil. “But in the end it comes down to council (to make decisions).”
The APC was the mandated first stop for development proposals, with the volunteer commission members hearing from the developer and the public and making recommendations to council.
Most municipalities have an APC and it Kelowna, it cost the city $17,000 per year to operate its APC.
Blanleil said dumping the APC will also save the city valuable staff time and money, but still give the pubic opportunities to have their say, both early in the process and later, during a public hearing.
His council colleague Coun. Robert Hobson said in future council will expect developers to show that they consulted with residents of the neighbourhood where they want to build and gathered local input.
City manager Ron Mattiussi said the city is also looking at ways of increasing public input through technology such as the city’s website and social media.
While he supported the elimination of the APC, Hobson did ask for, and received, support from his fellow council members for a review of the move to eliminate the APC in 18 months time to make sure the new way of dealing with development proposals is working.
Another move by the city in a bid to dull the loss of the APC is a plan to establish an in-house design panel to look at the design of development proposals.
In the case of the housing and women’s and community committees, Hobson said both have pushed the council to take their respective issues so seriously that council itself will now take over addressing the areas of concern as a committee of the whole.
“Council will directly sit down and discuss these issues itself. There is no greater way to show how seriously council takes their work,” he said.
Coun. Luke Stack, who has sat on the APC and the housing committee in the past, said he was taken aback in December when incoming Mayor Walter Gray surprised many by announcing all city committees would be reviewed with an eye to disbanding some. In his inaugural speech, Gray specifically mentioned the APC.
But Stack said during the review process, he came to support the move and feels the right decision was made.
“I found the review process to be a very healthy exercise,” he told council Monday afternoon.
As for the decision to have council meet as a committee-of-the-whole to deal with recommendations of the former housing committee and safety and social issues affecting everyone in the community, not just women, Stack said it puts council “in the driver’s seat.”
In addition to the elimination of the three committees, council also appointed its representatives to some of the other committees that were spared the axe and directed staff to report back with recommendations about changing the terms of reference for others, such as the agricultural advisory committee and the community heritage committee.
Other committees, like the public art and Communities in Bloom committees are currently undergoing a review that is separate from the one initiated by the new council.