Editor, The Record:
There is a brand new municipal council in place and one could expect a break-in period for them, but if the Dec. 19 meeting is an indication that they are up to speed, they appear to have a distance to go.
A notice sent from the planning department to area residents regarding a development variance application from former Mission councillor John Pearson, indicated that the purpose of the application pertained to the development of a single-family residence; it did not state that there was an additional purpose for the variance — that of future townhouse development. The variance was not a simple one as it involved floodplain, land fill, setbacks and Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO) issues on the existing Gaudin ‘C’ Creek (The same creek that has been in the news lately for diversion cost overruns).
The planning department, in my opinion, was not much help in the process as they put out very little information to the public in the original notice and made an error in the closing date for public input. I believe this forced them to issue a revised notice with additional information (though still incomplete). This left concerned residents even less time to respond considering the approaching Christmas holiday.
The accepted procedure for Mr. Pearson’s appearance before council was for him to have the opportunity to present his variance plan and respond to council’s questions. Near the end, Mr. Pearson deviated into a protracted speech with negative comments made by him about a “flyer” that was delivered to a number of residents and that he did not want to wait for further public input (recommended to the council by the planning department). He strongly urged council to approve his application there and then.
I believe the council had two options: 1. With or without advisement of the planning department, postpone a decision until a meeting could be held for the purpose of further public input. 2. Immediately debate and vote for or against the application. The council voted to accept the variance.
I would say that Mr. Pearson threw away caution when he made his voting comments to the council but it also fell upon the mayor to remove all suspicion of bias in a democratic process by cautioning the council that they should not take Mr. Pearson’s voting remarks into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend the process to further public input.
Observing the decisions made at the meeting makes me question if such a rushed council decision, with important precedents being set, is in the public’s best interest.