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West Kelowna councillor warning residents to ‘wake up’ to public hearings

Council voted in favour of removing default public hearing requirement
West Kelowna councillor Rick de Jong is not in favour of getting rid of default public hearings. (Rick de Jong/Facebook)

West Kelowna councillor Rick de Jong is urging residents to pay closer attention to public hearings going forward.

Changes to the local government act state that public hearings are no longer needed for zoning bylaws if a development meets the requirements of a municipality’s Official Community Plan (OCP).

“Local residents pay very close attention, because that new OCP just got a whole lot heavier in its force,” said de Jong. “Wake up and continue to have input because if it’s aligned with the OCP, and you don’t happen to hear about notice of first read, it’s going through without a public hearing.”

de Jong added he believes the city will be hearing from residents if there isn’t a hearing on any particular development.

“So have your phones ready folks, if residents aren’t happy it’s not a default public hearing anymore, they’re going to be calling us first because we’re the go-to.”

A staff evaluation of the 12 public hearings held in 2022 showed that seven of them were not required under changes to the local government act.

“Of those seven public hearings that were not required, five of them had no public input at the hearing itself,” said Brent Magnan, planning manager.

Written submissions were received for five of the hearings. Even if a development meets OCP requirements council can still vote to hold a hearing.

“What we’re trying to do here is provide a means of engaging and receiving input from the public as early in the process as possible and that would be through that notification of first reading,” added Magnan.

Mayor Gord Milsom said council will be listening to the public.

“If there are any concerns when it comes time to make a decision I’m sure this council will provide the opportunity for a public hearing,” he said. “I’m confident of that.”

Council gave three readings to removing the default public hearing requirement with councillors de Jong and Carol Zanon opposed.

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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Recently joined Kelowna Capital News and WestK News as a multimedia journalist in January 2022. With almost 30 years of experience in news reporting and radio broadcasting...
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