Columbia Valley Pioneer staff

Get ready for changes to the public hearing process courtesy of provincial amendments to the Local Government Act.

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) says recent legislative changes are going to impact public hearings and the way some bylaw amendments are considered.

“These changes are part of the province’s ongoing efforts to encourage residential development in the province,” said RDEK Planning Supervisor Karen MacLeod. 

She noted one of the big changes that residents will notice immediately is how the RDEK board considers certain zoning bylaw amendments because the province is now preventing regional districts from holding public hearings on applications that meet certain criteria. “This impacts not only how the board considers the applications, but also the timing of the public’s ability to comment on affected applications,” MacLeod said.

Under the new legislation, regional districts are “prohibited” from holding public hearings when a proposed zoning amendment application is consistent with an Official Community Plan (OCP), and when the residential portion of the development accounts for 50 per cent or more of the total development area.  

In these circumstances, the RDEK will follow the new requirements and provide a notice prior to the board meeting where the application will be considered. These notices will be posted on the RDEK’s website on the meetings and notices page under the ‘bylaw amendment notices – not requiring public hearing’ section.

MacLeod said public hearings will still be required when amendment applications are not consistent with an existing OCP or do not meet the 50 per cent residential coverage guidelines. These notices will be posted prior to the public hearing and will be listed on the meetings and notices page on the RDEK website under the ‘bylaw amendment public hearing notices’ section.

MacLeod pointed out these changes will also impact the timing for people to submit written comments on proposed applications. 

The planning supervisor acknowledged that all of this may be a bit complex to navigate, but “the important thing for the public to know is that while the process might look a little different for some applications, the ability for the public to engage and provide comment remains available.”

To view current bylaw amendment notices, visit the Meetings and Notices page at   www.rdek.bc.ca.