B.C. continues to allow local governments to hold public hearings electronically

B.C. continues to allow local governments to hold public hearings electronically
District of Lantzville/File
A District of Lantzville council meeting held electronically on April 27.

The B.C. government will continue to allow local governments to hold public hearings electronically during the current provincial state of emergency.

In a release issued on May 1, the province says it has repealed and replaced a ministerial order with a new one that allowing local governments to hold public hearings electronically.

“Amending this order will allow local governments to continue their work on land-use decision-making and keep building their communities for the people they serve,” Selina Robinson, minister municipal affairs and housing, said in the release.

The new order gives the Islands Trust the authority to hold meetings electronically without in-person public participation, allows for bylaws to be read and adopted in a single day and allows the use of electronic options for its public hearings.

In addition, the province has allowed improvement districts to hold trustee board meetings electronically to make financial decisions for their community and allows them to postpone their annual general meetings and elections until COVID-19 is no longer a public health threat.

“We are grateful to the Province for this direction because it means that council will be able to consider housing applications and that much needed housing can still be built around the city,” said Mayor Lisa Helps in a separate news release. “We know that housing options continue to be a challenge in Victoria. Many rental and affordable rental buildings are ready – or close to ready for a public hearing – and we are excited to keep things moving because everyone deserves a good home.”

Local governments are required to hold public hearings for some development applications before making a decision. They will also continue to be required to accept written submissions for public hearings, whether in-person or electronic.

The province also says a significant delay in processing development applications could result in cost increases or cancelled projects, and could negatively impact the province’s economic recovery.

Public input is an essential part of land-use decision-making, even for those decisions that do not require a public hearing, and local governments are still expected to find ways to encourage public participation, the province says.


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