A Public Hearing is a meeting of Council which is held to provide the public with an opportunity to convey their views and values on matters that affect them. Put simply it is an opportunity for Council to hear from the Community. Public hearings generally fall into two types.
Type 1. Some public hearings occur when council is seeking input from citizens on financial plans, budget matters, local improvements, development plans, and so on, public hearings of this type tend to affect a wider number of citizens, possibly the entire municipality. At these types of public hearings, Council might state its position on a certain matter, or present its plans, for the purpose of obtaining public input. After obtaining public input, council will be in a better position to make an informed decision.
According to The Municipal Act, a public hearing must be held for:
- The Presentation of the Municipality’s annual financial plan
- To announce revisions to the operating budget that increases transfers from surplus and reserves, increases tax revenue, or increases estimates in the capital budget
- To announce intention to use funds from a special purpose reserve for a different purpose
- A proposal to close a municipal road
- A proposal for local improvements or special services.
Type 2. A different kind of public hearing occurs when Council sits in an administration tribunal-like capacity to hear positions related to a specific matter, for example, an application to vary zoning or for a conditional use application. In situations such as these, Council makes their decision based on the information presented by parties and witnesses at the hearing.
According to The Planning Act, formal public hearings must be held for:
- A proposal to adopt or amend a development plan
- A proposal to adopt or amend a zoning by-law
- An application to subdivide property that results in a new public road being created
- An application to vary requirements of a zoning by-law
- An application for conditional use.
Rules of Procedure for Conducting Conditional Use or Variation (Type 2) Public Hearings
- To begin a public hearing, the Mayor calls the hearing to order.
- The Mayor introduces the matter and explains the purpose of the Hearing as well explain some of the procedural requirements or rules of order to be observed.
- If required, the Mayor or Administrator reads into the record and for the information of those present in the Council Chamber, the receipt of any representations received by Council in writing on the issue under consideration.
- All persons wishing to address Council on the issue are then permitted to speak. The Mayor asks if anyone present in the Council Chambers wants to speak on the matter to be considered at the hearing. The speaker states their name for the record. Usually, the applicant speaks first followed by those in favour and then those opposed.
- After a person has spoken, any member of Council may ask that speaker relevant questions concerning the issue ensuring that: (a) questions are asked in a courteous and respectful manner; (b) he/she does not engage in any debate or argument with the person; and (c) he/she refrains from making any derogatory or inflammatory remarks.
- Any member of Council may ask the Administration relevant questions after all persons who wish to speak have been heard.
- The Mayor then allows an opportunity for all persons to respond to any new information that has been introduced.
- Following the conclusion of all questions and representations on the issue the Mayor declares the hearing closed.
- At times, Council may decide not to conclude the hearing until further information or representations are received, and therefore recess the hearing to a future date and time.
- Following the hearing being concluded, Council may decide to: reject or approve the application whereby the approval may be with or without conditions; or refer the application to another meeting for further consideration and final decision.
Please note that for Type 2 Hearings (Conditional Use and Variation) presentations to Council, whether verbal or written, become part of the public record.
Those making a presentation before Council at a Type 2 Public Hearing are asked to provide a copy of all documents for the official record.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (on Type 2 Public Hearings)
What is a public hearing?
This is an opportunity for Council to hear feedback or information on the proposal being considered. The applicant will be able to present to Council the proposal, followed by the public's opportunity to present comments and/or concerns to Council.
Please note that Council is to receive information and ask questions for clarification only, not to enter into a dialogue or debate with any member of the public.
Where can I get additional information on the hearing before it occurs?
A copy of the application as well as additional information is available at the municipal office. Please contact the municipal office during normal business hours, by phone, email, fax or in person. Council is not permitted under The Planning Act to discuss applications with the public prior to the public hearing.
What if I want to speak at the public hearing?
Attend the public hearing. Please note that you must arrive before the public hearing begins and speak before the public hearing closes for your input to be considered. The chair of the meeting may place a time limit on presentations from the public based on the attendance of the public hearing. If you have written material or submissions as part of your presentation, please consider sending it in prior to the meeting or bring enough copies for each member of the Council. Please note that you may only bring up comments or concerns in relation to the application being considered.
Can anyone attend the public hearing?
Yes, the meeting is public and anyone can attend, whether they are a resident of the community or not. You do not need an appointment to speak at the hearing; however, to speak at the public hearing you must provide your name and address to Council.
What if I want to provide input but cannot attend in person?
You may send your comments in writing to the municipality by e-mail, fax, mail or in person prior to the Public Hearing during normal business hours. Comments received after the public hearing has adjourned will not be considered. You may also send someone on your behalf to the hearing, but they must provide their name and address.
What are the responsibilities of the applicant?
The applicant is encouraged to attend the hearing and to supply any additional information to Council they feel is required in order for Council to make an informed decision. Council may ask for additional information or clarification from the applicant.
How will I find out the result of the Public Hearing?
After the public hearing is closed, Council will either make a decision or table (postpone) their decision for a future meeting. The Council decision will be sent to all those that made representation at the public hearing, and the decision is contained in meeting minutes posted on the website.