Singh: Toward positive public hearings

Arjun Singh City Councillor / Kamloops Daily News
January 21, 2013 01:00 AM

A large rectangular white sign is erected nearby. A standard-sized envelope is dropped in your mailbox. Change is afoot in your neighbourhood and City council is asking for your input.

The scenario is played out at least a couple of dozen times a year in Kamloops. City hall receives an application from a property owner/user asking for a change with that property.

This might be a family wanting to put a rental unit in their house to supplement their income. It might be a developer proposing a townhouse complex in an open field. These situations are examples of what is known as rezoning.

So when a large white rezoning sign appears nearby or a certain envelope is dropped in your mailbox, this means council is asking for your input and inviting you to a public hearing to decide on the rezoning.

People often get concerned when they find out about a rezoning application nearby. This is understandable.

Change is many times viewed with suspicion. A home is not only usually the single biggest investment a person makes, a home is a place of sanctuary, enjoyment, private time and rest. On the other side, the rezoning applicant is typically pursuing changes in pursuit of dreams and aspirations.

Thus, public hearings on contentious rezoning applications are difficult meetings. Two opposing sides, both heartfelt and committed, feeling their fates hang in the balance. They know council will make a decision at that meeting and many arguments are made. Some arguments seem very reasonable to me and some not so much.

All hope is not lost, though. Over the four years I have served on council, I have noticed a few different elements that make a contentious public hearing a more positive experience.

First, it always impresses me when people have looked up the zoning of their property and of the surrounding properties. Some people, when they buy a property, don't understand what could happen around them. If you visit City hall's website, kamloops.ca, click on "online services" on the top menu, then "property information search," then "map." You can search for information about your property and surrounding properties.

Alternatively, you could call the good folks at Development and Engineering Services, 250-828-3561. They can also help get copies of neighbourhood plans. You can also search at kamloops.ca for "community planning" and look through the links for plans on the right-hand menu.

Second, I respond better to arguments that have supporting evidence. For example, people sometimes believe having rental housing in their neighbourhood lowers property values. My research tells me that is not the case, but I'm open to evidence that would change my mind.

I definitely feel for people who feel emotional and nervous during a public hearing, but I think the more reasonable and reasoned the input, the more responsive I am personally.

Third, and I mean no offence here, many times after a project is approved, the project is not as bad as people fear and probably not as good as others hoped. I guess this circles back to informed, reasoned, reasonable input, informed by emotion but not dominated by it.

Feel free to be in touch - 250-574-3509.

arjun@fullworld.com


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