Four Kelowna city councillors participating in a meeting by video conference on March 23. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Public hearings back to normal in Kelowna

As a pandemic measure, council was allowed to waive public hearings for what it considered minor rezoning applications

Public hearings will again be heard for all relevant applications in Kelowna council chambers.

Throughout the pandemic, council has had the option to waive public hearings for what it considered minor rezoning applications, in an effort to decrease the amount of people in council chambers at any given time.

Coun. Brad Sieben requested staff review the changes, which were made in March as the pandemic shutdowns began across the province.

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Since the changes to municipal process were made, planning staff reccommended hearings be waived for 12 applications, deputy city clerk Laura Bentley told council on Monday, July 27. Council moved just one of those applications forward to a public hearing.

Council agreed other measures it implemented were working well, such as the earlier start time and more rigidly scheduled items each with their own allotted start time.

However, council voted in favour of ensuring that all applications that needed it got the chance to go to a public hearing.

“It’s a fundamental right of democracy for people to be heard, that they have a place to express their opinions,” said Coun. Charlie Hodge.

Mayor Colin Basran took a different stance, saying he doesn’t believe the new process infringed upon the public’s opportunity to address council.

“But we all have our own definition of what that means to be able to address council,” he said. “I think the current system we have now is working. Particularly in light of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice in terms of ‘fewer faces, larger spaces.’”

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