EDITORIAL: Waiving public hearings an idea worth abandoning

Process part of long-standing system of democratic checks and balances

The District of Mission’s downtown revitalization plan is slowly but surely coming together, one bylaw and political step at a time.

We, like most Mission residents, are eager to see work begin and the project to take shape. With years of lip service being given to the idea of downtown revitalization, it’s refreshing to see definitive forward movement by the municipality.

At council Monday evening, politicians gave three readings to a bylaw that offers aggressive incentives to prompt private sector investment in the downtown area.

That is absolutely needed. Weary taxpayers cannot finance the reshaping of an entire city core, nor should they.

However, what are the boundaries of expediency?

One of the bylaws states that if the development proposal matches with the district’s plans, public hearings could be waived, something the mayor touts as the first instance of such in British Columbia.

While fast-tracking projects that will ultimately benefit the District of Mission is a laudable objective, removing a key piece of the approval mechanism is not advisable.

Public hearings are a vital part of the development process which ensures that residents have an opportunity to voice their concerns, and challenge and/or support projects that, particularly in this case, will have public impact. While the municipality states that comments from the residents can still be forwarded after the proposal is advertised, as per the Local Government Act, this is not the same as a formal hearing at which voices can be heard.

Residents are entitled to that public forum.

The public hearing process is part of a longstanding system of democratic checks and balances that tests both private and political ideas and agendas.

It should not be compromised.