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Council moves forward to enhance public consultation

Councillors will move forward with a request to direct staff to provide a report on how to enhance the public consultation process on issues of broad public interest.

Councillor Steve Ferguson opened the discussion at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, citing recent examples where the public expressed its concerns there was not enough time to learn information before the matter went to council.

“This is a result of what really happened with the short-term accommodation meeting held in September, when the public was given exactly 40 hours, as was council, to read extensive reports – which I think was disrespectful,” said Ferguson, noting other recent examples include the proposed expansion at Quinte’s Isle and before that, the issue surrounding concerts in Cherry Valley.

Councillor Jamie Forrester agreed, noting public perception of “behind-the-scenes” activity expressed to him over how lengthy reports come out late in the week that come to council the following Tuesday.

Councillor Janice Maynard expressed concern that a lengthened period of consultation shouldn’t result in impacting how quickly council gets things done.

County CAO James Hepburn said he understands the concerns from both sides.

“It is certainly staff’s intent that we don’t load up a council agenda and that most of the work comes to committee of the whole first,” he said, noting that balancing of agendas battles with Murphy’s Law “but it should be an interesting report to see what we can come up with.”

Robert McAuley, Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works, noted a middle-ground alternative to slowing the process down “should council be aware of an issue brewing, or have the desire to send the matter to broader public review, the matter be referred.”

“It is the purview of the council, at any time, to defer a report with instructions to publish it, circulate it, make the public aware and bring it forward at a future date,” he said. “I had that happen on a number of municipal act-driven projects, such as licencing, property standards and these kinds of things where having a report available for a period of time was desirable.”

Forrester also suggested mirroring Belleville council’s practise of having a monthly report noting the stage of various planning applications listed on their website.

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  1. Gary Mooney says:

    As part of this initiative, the County should publish announcements of topics of significant public interest in advance of a Council or Committee of the Whole meeting at the same time as the agenda for the meeting is published.

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