Dear Councillor [Al] Siebring:
I am addressing you, given your expressed objection to allowing communications between the public and the mayor and council regarding a subject that has been reviewed at a public hearing and may even have received, as a bylaw, its third reading. As you so well appreciate, in a democratic society, the probability of achieving optimum decisions, especially of a policy orientation, can best be achieved as a consequence of all pertinent information being shared with everyone but particularly with decision makers, such as yourself.
Accordingly, I have taken it upon myself to obtain legal clarification as to the restrictiveness or non-restrictiveness regarding communications between the public and elected municipal officials in B.C. — particularly following a rezoning public hearing and its third reading. My source is none other than a senior lawyer with the firm Owen Bird, who specializes in municipal law but also happens to be a registered urban planner and a registered architect. I quote: “There is no statutory prohibition against a person communicating with their Mayor or members of Council after a public hearing is held. The legal issue is whether by hearing any subsequent arguments or issues, a local government Mayor, or members of Council may hear new arguments. New arguments would then require another public hearing before the bylaw could then proceed back to third reading and if third reading is adopted it can still proceed on with details to facilitate fourth and final reading.”
“Case Law says in brief that Council may have rules for conduct at public hearings and may hear further on matters raised in the public hearing, especially if that communication is through staff, without being required by the Courts to hold another public hearing. Even if they do hear further issues, the solution is simply to have another public hearing, which is possible, even if there are monetary and time repercussions. You are always at liberty to communicate with Mayor and Council if they will hear you. The question is what the effect of that communication may have on the process. There should not be any valid bylaw provision capable of preventing the public from making a request to the Mayor to exercise the power to require a rehearing of any Council resolution.”
I trust that the foregoing may prove to be of some value and that you and members of council will see the benefit of allowing for open discourse with the public following a rezoning bylaw’s public hearing.
V. Philip Boname