Procedures for land use within a municipality are set out in the Municipal Charter.
They are there to guide councils through rezoning of private property and publicly owned land. The regulations are very specific in how public hearings are to be conducted, they are there to protect elected councillors and municipality’s from neglecting their authority and being biased in their decision to either side of the application. The regulations specifically direct councils to go into a public hearing with an open mind.
I, along with many other residents at Monday’s public hearing to consider a private commercial development in Skaha Lake Park, certainly didn’t witness that open-minded approach to the decision made by this council.
Skaha Park has been expanded over the last 50 years by councils purchasing surrounding private properties. Millions of tax dollars have been spent over those years to expand the park. Past councils in their reasoning to expand the park recognized the need of the growing population of the city.
At the conclusion of the public hearing two councillors said their children wanted them to vote in favour of the waterpark and one councillor said she was influenced by people at the farmers’ market?
I’m not sure what persuaded the other councillors to vote in favour other than to suggest the waterpark would be good for tourism. That begs the question, don’t tourists like natural parks and open space (natural beauty)? It also begs the question why lose a large portion of the park for two months of the summer season?
Five councillors voted in favour, the other two were supportive but wanted staff to find ways to compensate public concerns.
It was obvious the majority of council did not go into the public hearing with an open mind. They certainly didn’t to the majority of the public who took the time to register their opposition to the encroachment of a commercial development into a publicly owned open green space.
Are we then, as concerned citizens wasting our time presenting our interests at public hearings in front of this council?
Is this council now going to conduct public process on land use by consulting with their children at their dinner table or at the farmers’ market? It would seem so!
The irony to councils decision, was to pass a motion that the city’s share of the profits from the waterpark would go towards the purchase of “new parkland.”
So you destroy established parkland to buy more parkland. Oh dear go figure!