Council reopens public hearing on Amacon building heights

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Amendment would allow developer five instead of four storeys on two buildings

City council will hold another public hearing to discuss a proposed amendment to a land use bylaw for the former Grandin mall site. The amendment would allow developer Amacon to build as high as five storeys on two condominium buildings instead of the initial four storeys.

Council had closed the public hearing on June 1 and postponed a decision to take time to reflect on concerns from residents. A final vote was to be held Monday but instead Coun. Sheena Hughes requested to reopen the public hearing.

The mayor had forwarded emails from people who wanted to participate in the public hearing process to all of council on Friday, she said. Official procedure, however, requires councillors to forward correspondence from the public to administration once a public hearing is closed.

Otherwise, it may compromise the process as councillors are not supposed to consider new information at this point. It could influence their opinion, she said. The emails they received were from developers but there were also questions specific to the buildings from residents, she said.

“When you send it to everyone else on council it cannot be part of the record,” she said. “Some of these emails that were forwarded, I had questions from what they had to say that I would like to have the developer respond to.”

The majority of councillors were in favour of reopening the public hearing. Coun. Cam McKay said in the “interest of transparency” council should hold another meeting.

Coun. Wes Brodhead and Coun. Tim Osborne also voted in favour of another meeting. Brodhead emphasized, however, that administration and council must consider how they receive correspondence in the future to make sure “we are all on the same page” once a hearing closes.

“I don’t know how to manage that now,” Brodhead said. “I honour transparency in government too and I think once this issue has been raised we have to put this down in a proper fashion.”

Mayor Nolan Crouse and Coun. Kathy Heron voted against reopening the public hearing. They wondered how much of the new information is relevant to this specific amendment. Hughes said that it’s not just about information but also about protocol.

“The problem was not that people sent an email. The problem was that the mayor forwarded the emails to the rest of council,” she said.

Crouse said he always forwards emails to councillors. He also said people in the community will want to voice their opinion, and you cannot ignore them even after a hearing has closed.

Administration agreed “you can’t walk around the community with your fingers in your ears.” But council procedures say that council cannot ask further questions for new, substantive information on the bylaw “without holding another public hearing.”

Crouse said that they will have to “have a substantial change” now that this has become an issue.

“I’ve interpreted it over the years that what comes to the mayor’s council is owned by all members of council,” he said. “I don’t know what we will do. This is serious now.”

A date for the public hearing will be advertised in the coming weeks.

The first public hearing heard concerns ranging from traffic congestion and noise, to the overall development time, and the developments impact on community services. Other complaints focused on possible damage to homes from vibrations caused by construction and the demolition of the former Grandin mall.

Amacon development manager Simon Taylor and his team quickly left city hall after council delayed the decision on the amendment. He said they were not available for comment.

“No. That was very disappointing,” he said.

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