Council meetings often contain a number of different types of hearings. These hearings are held for specific purposes, most often to do with land use and development.
- Development permit hearings
Development permits are required by the City in special areas, designated by the City's Official Community Plan Bylaw No. 7281, 2001. (view the OCP, view the City of Prince George's Development Procedures Bylaw No. 7635, 2005, or view the relevant sections of the Local Government Act .) Hearings are sometimes required prior to the issuance of these permits to allow the applicant to convince Council to issue the permit, or to allow the owners or residents of adjacent properties to put forward arguments in favor of or against the issuance of the permit.
This hearing is a relatively informal process, during which the Mayor or Acting Mayor will call on the Corporate Officerto read into the record any correspondence received in regard to the application, ask the Director of Development Services for further information, and ask the applicant if there is anything to add to the information presented. The Mayor will then ask if there are any people in the gallery wishing to speak to the application. After the informal hearing is over, Council will move to approve or deny the application.
- Development variance permit hearings
Development variance permits allow for variances of certain provisions of the Zoning Bylaw or the Sign Bylaw; for instance, to allow a homeowner to build a sun deck or outbuilding closer to the property line than is allowed by the Zoning Bylaw, or to allow for additional signage on a piece of commercial property. Because the provisions of certain bylaws are being varied, a hearing must be held to allow both the applicant to make a case to Council and for other land owners and residents to speak to the application.
These hearings follow the same process as that followed for development permit hearings.
- Public hearings
Public hearings are “quasi-judicial” hearings during which the Local Government Act and common law require to be held whenever zoning or land use are being changed. Common law holds that anyone who feels their interest in property will be affected by such a change is entitled to be heard by Council during a public hearing.
Each rezoning is begun when the person wishing the land use change applies to the Development Services Department for the change. A report is brought to Council by that Department recommending that the application be approved or denied; if the Department recommends that the application be approved, a zoning amendment bylaw is drafted and placed on a Council agenda. After that bylaw gets first two readings, a public hearing is scheduled.
Public hearings are generally held as part of a regular Monday-night Council meeting, but are sometimes scheduled for other times or places if Council and Administration feel there are good reasons for doing so. The public hearing generally is the first or second item at the meeting, after adoption of the agenda.
The process for holding a hearing is as follows:
- The Mayor adjourns the regular meeting of Council and opens the Public Hearing.
- The Mayor asks the Corporate Officer to read into the record any items of correspondence received regarding the issue before Council.
- The Mayor asks the Director of Development Services for further information, and Council has the opportunity to ask questions of the Director.
- The Mayor then gives the applicant an opportunity to address Council; Council may ask questions of the applicant at this time.
- After the applicant's presentation, the Mayor turns to the gallery in Council Chambers to ask if anyone has any interest in speaking to the issue. Every person in attendance wishing to speak to the issue will be given an opportunity to do so; Council may ask questions of presenters.
- After comments from the Gallery are complete, the applicant is given an opportunity for a brief statement to answer questions.
- The hearing then closes.
After the hearing is closed, Council may consider giving the bylaw third reading, or choose to defer its discussion of the bylaw to a future meeting.
Here are a few guidelines regarding presentations at a public hearing:
- The purpose of a public hearing is to hear the concerns of those in attendance. There is no opportunity for debate between presenters, nor is it appropriate to question members of Council on the issue at hand. Council might wish to answer them but there is no requirement to do so.
- Every member of the gallery wishing to present should be able to do so without feeling intimidated. No applause, cheering or heckling will be permitted; persistent violators might be asked to leave Council Chambers.
- All presentations to Council during the public hearing must be relevant to the issue at hand. Presentations off the topic will not be permitted.
- Audio-visual equipment is available for those wishing to make presentations at public hearings. More information on this equipment is available by contacting the Legislative Services.
- Other Hearings
Council is required to hold a number of other hearings, which can follow different formats. These include hearings regarding:
- Unsightly premises
- Nuisance or dangerous property
- Appeals of denial of request for chauffeur's permit
- Appeals of denial of business permit
For more information about these hearings, please contact the Legislative Services.