Public Hearings

    Elected officials have the authority to make decisions about how land will be used or developed. They can make long-range plans for the greater community as well as decisions that affect neighbourhoods or individual properties. In order to balance these powers, elected officials are required to hear the views of residents and other interested parties.

    Where a local government intends to consider an Official Community Plan (OCP) or zoning bylaw, a public hearing must be held for the purpose of allowing the public to make representations to the local government concerning the matters contained in the OCP or bylaw. At the public hearing, all persons who believe that their interest in property is affected by the proposed OCP or bylaw must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard or to present written submissions. It is not necessary for all members of a municipal council or regional district board to attend the public hearing.

    Notice of the public hearing must be advertised in a newspaper prior to the hearing. If the bylaw alters the permitted use or density of any area, the notice must be mailed or otherwise delivered to parcels of land that are affected by the alteration or is within a distance of the area affected by the alteration that is specified by the local government. This requirement does not apply if the alteration affects ten or more parcels of land owned by ten or more persons.

    After the close of the public hearing (either the same day or at a later meeting), each of the council members or regional board members must decide how they wish to vote on the bylaw. However, if all members were not present at the public hearing, they must not vote on the adoption of the bylaw until they have been presented with a report that contains the views expressed at the public hearing. There is no requirement that they must vote in accordance with the wishes of the majority of opinions expressed at the public hearing.

    In certain circumstances, a public hearing can be waived. For example, a hearing can be waived where an OCP has been adopted and a zoning bylaw is proposed that is consistent with the OCP. These circumstances are outlined within the Local Government Act (LGA).