City may reduce time limit given to council presenters

City council is considering making changes to how it deals with presentations from the public in order to free up more time

City council is considering making changes to how it deals with presentations from the public in order to free up more time for priority items.

At the start of nearly every council meeting, there is typically at least one delegation, be it an organization, a developer, or an individual, presenting to council.

Often there are several delegations or presenters on the same night, despite attempts from staff to try and limit the amount of presentations per meeting, said City Clerk Peter Wipper.

“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,” Wipper said in a report to council. “Many councils across the province place restrictions on presentations so that they are left with sufficient time to address their priority issues.”

Wipper said city staff reviewed delegation procedures in Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Vernon, Victoria and Hilo, Hawaii to determine whether Campbell River could better streamline how it deals with its delegations.

From that process, city staff have come up with four recommendations which city council have asked staff to bring forward to a future council meeting for consideration.

In order to give council more time to spend on its strategic priorities, Wipper recommends

council reduce the amount of time given to each presenter, from 10 minutes to five minutes.

“It is estimated that the majority of presentations could occur within five minutes,” Wipper said. “Council always has the option of extending the time limit by majority vote.”

Wipper noted that in Victoria delegations are given five minutes while in Hilo, Hawaii presenters are only given three minutes.

Wipper also suggests that council consider moving delegations to the end of the meeting, with exceptions granted to developers or other delegates who are presenting information that council is scheduled to debate later on in the agenda.

“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 important issues. Council should not be required to rush important decisions towards the end of a meeting because of the time taken by delegations.”

In that same vein, Wipper also recommends that in order to save time, that development applicants only be permitted to speak to council if city staff are recommending council deny a development application.

“The City of Kelowna does not permit developers to present to council if staff have recommended approval of their application,” Wipper said. “This makes sense and would eliminate many delegations which do not provide any new information. In the case of rezoning applications, all applicants are afforded the opportunity to present at the public hearing.”

And finally, Wipper suggests that because it is often unclear what a presenter is requesting, that delegates use a standard form to make their intentions clear in writing.

“When members of council are approached by a member of the public requesting to present, it is preferable that they be asked to contact either the city clerk or deputy city clerk so that the appropriate information can be obtained using a standard form,” Wipper said. “Of the municipalities surveyed, all require requests to be made in writing using an application form that provides background information and specifies what action is requested of council.”

The recommended changes to how council deals with its delegations will be brought back to council within the next few weeks for consideration.