BC Bill 26 received royal accent and became law on February 28th, 2022. The bill removes the requirement of city councils to conduct public hearings for zoning amendments if the council deems the changes are consistent with the Official Community Plan (OCP).
According to the Developer’s Approvals Process Review (DAPR) the intent of Bill 26 is to offer local governments more powers to simplify and reduce the delays in the development approval process. The DAPR suggests that “public hearings simply delay construction and cost the developer time and money.”
Closer to the truth, delays are often a result of developers submitting variance applications of existing zoning bylaws with incomplete reports. Through council's due diligence, the application is sent back to the developer for revisions and inclusion of the missing reports such as traffic, environmental and geo-technical reviews thus delaying the application process. Our city council is tasked with finding a balance between the additional tax dollars and DCCs that development brings versus the impact these developments will have on the community. That’s what makes the public voice through public hearings so important.
City of West Kelowna Bylaw No. 0260.02, 2023 (Development Application Procedures Amendment) and Bylaw No. 0303, 2023 (West Kelowna Public Notice) went in front of council for 3rd reading on February 28th. These amendments to our OCP and bylaws, if passed, would allow the City of West Kelowna council to approve developers’ requests for changes to zoning bylaws without the requirement of a public hearing.
As a result of receiving several letters from concerned residents prior to the February 28th City of West Kelowna council meeting, council deferred their decision on the bylaw amendments to allow city staff time to develop a mechanism that would automatically trigger a public hearing.
At the May 9th council meeting council voted in favour of a trigger mechanism of eight written submissions or a petition submission containing residents' signatures from eight unique addresses. It was also noted that council reserved the right to call a public hearing on any development application regardless of the number of written submissions. The responsibility still remains with West Kelowna residents to voice their concerns through a written submission to city council.