Rocky View County (RVC) council found itself in full-on planning mode March 23, as members dealt with an item to add additional council meetings to its calendar to accommodate a large number of public hearings before the next municipal election.
“There is a significant number of planning applications with applicants who wish to proceed to public hearings in 2021, with many applicants also requesting that their applications be scheduled prior to the municipal election in October,” the agenda report for the March 23 council meeting stated.
According to Tyler Andreasen with the County’s legislative services, administration sought to include an additional special council meeting each month this year to accommodate the heightened demand for public hearings. So far, he noted council has held three such meetings to facilitate public hearings that were cancelled or postponed last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Based on the length of the three special council meetings held this year, there are a number of upcoming public hearings that may require an entire day or more to be heard,” he warned.
The agenda report stated there are 65 applications for council to consider before the municipal election on Oct. 18, totalling an estimated 181 hours of public hearing time. There are only nine scheduled council meetings leading up to the municipal elections.
“For context, if council considered nothing but public hearings at the remaining nine regular meetings, and if those meetings lasted 8.5 hours, there would be 67.5 hours (subtracting a one-hour lunch break) of public hearing time available in total,” the report stated. “This would allow for completion of approximately 37 per cent of public hearing demand.”
Additionally, the report stated if council considered nothing but public hearings during the next nine meetings, and if the meetings lasted for 12 hours each, there would be 94.5 hours (subtracting one-hour lunch breaks and half-hour dinner breaks) of public hearing time available. The schedule would allow for completion of approximately 52 per cent of the current public hearing demand.
Deputy Reeve Kim McKylor noted there is a high amount of extra work that goes into public hearings, not only for council but County staff, as well.
“It is probably less work in the long run if we schedule a meeting every week, than we can deal with some of these and save public hearings for certain days,” she said.
Coun. Al Schule agreed with McKylor, stating holding meetings every Tuesday would be easier on everyone.
“You can plan in advance and know what your schedule is like,” he said. “I would totally be in favour of the meeting every week and if we don’t need it, we just cancel.”
Coun. Kevin Hanson spoke to the contrary and said it might be easier to simply stick with the special council meetings.
“We can schedule as many meetings as we want, it doesn’t mean we are going to conduct that business,” he said. “Given the realities of COVID-19 and staff availability, it’s not just up to us – we are a part of a machine here.”
A motion to add one additional special meeting a month until September was defeated by a vote of 5-4, with Couns. Hanson, Samanntha Wright, Mark Kamachi and Reeve Daniel Henn in favour.
A motion from Boehkle to add an additional meeting every Tuesday starting May 4 and ending Sept. 21, excluding the month of August, passed unanimously.