May 20, 2022 – In a previous article, Kevin Monahan raised concerns about the Town’s attempt to eliminate, as a mere “housekeeping” task, one of the cornerstone policies in the 2018 Official Community Plan by-law, Town unilaterally erases OCP protection of QB’s rural properties.
In the same issue, we questioned why the Town’s Planning Department, headed by Luke Sales, reporting to then acting CAO Heather Svensen, at the last minute snuck a single paragraph into the fine print of their lengthy Todsen project report to Council just a couple of days before the Public Hearing.
This dispute is not going away, as reflected in the following written submission dated May 9, 2022, sent to Council by Charna MacFie on behalf of 20+ residents. The attempted repeal of the critical Policy #7 with no public consultation is one of several concerns they have raised about the conduct of the April 27th Public Hearing.
This is Qualicum Beach CAO Lou Varela’s first week on the job — this will be an early test of her leadership. — GS
Submission to Mayor and Council
Dear Mayor and Council,
We are writing with respect to the Public Hearing held on April 27th regarding the Official Community Plan and Zoning Amendments for 850 Eaglecrest Drive/2075 Island Highway.
We contend that there were serious breaches of procedural fairness, governed by the Local Government Act 465 (2), as well as infringements on freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The meeting Chair, Mayor Brian Wiese, disrespected due process and seriously compromised free speech through arbitrary actions and inconsistency in application of public hearing rules.
Section 465 (2) of the Local Government Act guarantees citizens the opportunity to express their point of view concerning a proposed development or change to the Official Community Plan. Limiting “input to new information” allowed at the sole discretion of the Chair stifles input and is in contradiction with the statute.
There has been no public consultation on the Repeal of the Rural Policy 7 OCP (section 2.2.6), which is required in accordance with the Local Government Act, Section 475 (1) and (3). Since the repeal has the potential for significant impact well beyond this rezoning, this is a serious omission.
The Mayor established ground rules for speakers at the start of the hearing: 3 minutes, and a further 3 minutes if desired. Participants were also asked “please try and keep your comments focused on the new information.”
Two opponents were interrupted by the Mayor (one of whom addressed the need to wait for the outcome of the pending defamation case before the BC Supreme Court) and were challenged for their comments. The Mayor as Chair of the Public Hearing must not debate presenters except on the matter of procedure.
It should also be noted, the applicant was allowed to reference the same case without interruption. If one person can reference the case, why cannot the other?
It was unclear what was considered “new information.” This condition was not stated in the notice of the public hearing. The last hearing was well over a year ago (February 10, 2021). The proposed third reading therefore was an opportunity for “sober second thought.” The Chair was not explicit in his direction, nor equitable in his treatment of the speakers.
The hearing was at 10:00 a.m., by in-person attendance only. While live electronic streaming and public recording of the meeting was available, the sound was of such poor quality that participants were unable to hear or understand properly (LGA 465, 1.2). A zoom option, along with a better time for working people, would have been more democratic.
This hearing was held in the context of unresolved defamation claims against two private citizens and a society, filed by the Rezoning Applicant. A dismissal of one of these lawsuits pursuant to the 2019 Protection of Public Participation Act is currently being adjudicated at the BC Supreme Court. Why hold a Public Hearing before this is resolved? The lack of resolution has effectively suppressed citizen participation in the hearing. It remains unclear what other impacts the pending judgement may have on the outcome of this application.
- A third “land lift” analysis to determine the Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) was the ”new information”. Why was this not confined to prior dialogue between Staff and the applicant, and guided by approved Council policy?
- Why was the timing of speakers not done by staff or time clock so the Chair could pay full attention to the citizens’ input?
- Why was third reading deferred to the next Council meeting?
- Where can the Town policy and procedure on public hearings be found?
We hereby request that this Public Hearing be re-scheduled but only after public consultation on Policy 7 regarding the protection of rural lands, and after pending litigation is resolved.
Charna Macfie, Qualicum Beach
Endorsed by residents of Qualicum Beach: Lois Eaton, Cameron Eaton, Bruce Fleming-Smith, Michael Goldman, David Golson, Eva T. Hilborn, David Hutchings, Pat Jacobson, Marilyn Hutson, Bing Jensen, Louella MacVicar, Glenn Mackenzie, Jo-Ann McNulty, John McNulty, Mary Merryweather, Lance Nater, Graham Riches, Anne Sharp, Petronella Vander Valk and Judy Wood.