You can fight city hall; but be brief

Council’s new procedure amendments are based on provincial Best Practices Guide and procedure bylaws from other communities

City council has cut in half the amount of time presenters from the community are allotted after council approved a list of changes to how it conducts its meetings.

At last week’s Tuesday meeting, council adopted a set of bylaw amendments that will alter how long and when public delegations appear.

Delegations will now be afforded just five minutes instead of 10.

In addition, council has also re-structured how presentations will be heard.

The practise has been to have all delegations at the start of the council meeting. Under the new rules, council will set aside 30 minutes at the beginning of its meetings to listen to as many delegations as possible and, if at the end of that half hour there are delegates still left to present, they will be moved to the end of the meeting. City staff first presented the changes to city council over one year ago, in June, 2015 after the city clerk began noticing that several presenters were coming forward to speak to council on the same night, making it challenging for staff to try and limit the amount of meeting time delegations were occupying.

“On evenings when several delegations are presenting, it can sometimes take more than an hour for them to be heard which reduces the amount of time that council has to address its own business,” City Clerk Peter Wipper said at the time. “Many councils across the province place restrictions on presentations so that they are left with sufficient time to address their priority issues.”

Wipper said that by tweaking the system in Campbell River’s council chambers, it will give council more time to focus on its own pressing issues.

“A fundamental tenet of any meeting agenda should be to debate priority issues first,” Wipper said. “This way council has sufficient time to devote to its strategic priorities. Council should not be in a position of having to rush important decisions at the end of a meeting because of the time taken by delegations at the beginning of a meeting.”

Wipper added that city staff reviewed past presentations to council and came to the conclusion that almost all could easily present and make their requests in less than five minutes.

He added that council always has the option of extending the time limit by majority vote.

In addition to the new time allotment, anyone who wants to appear before council will now have to complete an application form with their name, the name of the organization they’re representing and their position in the organization (if applicable), as well as their topic and discussion points, and the action requested of council.

Council is also attempting to reduce the number of people who have to address council by no longer requiring every person who applies for a development permit to present.

Instead, development applicants and/or their representative will only be allowed to address council if city staff is recommending that council deny their land use development application, or it has received some other negative recommendation.

Council’s new procedure amendments are based on the Ministry of Community Services Best Practices Guide and procedure bylaws from other communities including Burnaby, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Saanich, Surrey and Victoria.