It’s a question of getting everyone on the same page.
We don’t think we’ve ever seen a development proposal that’s had 100 per cent public support and approval.
It seems inevitable that there will be those in the community against whatever the project is, wherever it is proposed to be.
There can be a multitude of reasons from not-in-my-backyard to environmental damage, traffic worries, degradation of property values, noise, or smell. Sometimes people just don’t want change.
But whatever the reason is, residents want to feel like they have a fair chance to make their case before official decisions are made by council.
North Cowichan council has faced a few controversial decisions of late, from a proposed commercial development at Berkey’s Corner to a subdivision on Donnay Drive. The latest in the news is a proposal to rehabilitate and develop the former Cliffs Over Maple Bay site, now dubbed the Kingsview development.
It is a fact that developers will have spoken to staff and sometimes even politicians at North Cowichan long before a development proposal gets to the stage of a public hearing, or even comes to the council table.
There’s a bureaucratic process in place that requires the contact. Developers have the right to make their case in favour of their plan, just as people have the right to oppose it.
Councillor Maeve Maguire wants to make sure that everyone, from staff to councillors to the general public, know what rules govern pre-public hearing contact.
She wants to fight the perception that there can be some favouritism towards developers that can grow out of private meetings.
Basically, people shouldn’t feel like the decision has already been made before they have their chance to speak, and that a public hearing is just another hoop that must be jumped through rather than a true decision-making tool.
This is absolutely vital. These decisions are important ones that are often emotional for the people that will be affected, both positively and negatively. These decisions will shape the future of the municipality.
They must be, and be seen to be, made fairly.
Of course, a rule of thumb for councillors should be to do as much as possible in public.
North Cowichan’s councillors are not a shy bunch.
They should have no problem with the idea of greater transparency to banish the thought that untoward things are going on behind closed doors.