Saanich councillors have unanimously adopted new guidelines to streamline meetings and align with best practices for municipal governments across B.C.
On May 11, council received a report from Angila Bains, manager of legislative services, presenting the new council procedure bylaw and committee of the whole terms of reference, and explaining the changes – based on recommendations from council early in their term.
The bylaw dictates how council governs itself and is based on the best practices from across B.C. to ensure efficiency, Bains said. The new bylaw was several years in the making and staff conducted a full legal review to ensure it aligned with the Community Charter and the province’s guide for municipal councils.
Some changes were small – such as making councillors’ speaking time at both council meetings and committee of the whole consistent – while others may be more noticeable. The addition of a consent agenda will allow non-controversial business items to be grouped together and voted on all at once to save time. If residents or councillors want an item in the consent agenda debated separately, it can be pulled out.
Council also agreed to amend what matters come to committee of the whole and do away with the “mini public hearings” that were taking place.
Council meetings are where decisions are made and committee is meant for less formal, in-depth discussions, Bains said. Now, only long-term planning, policy development, budget deliberations, zoning and land development strategies and other matters that require in-depth consideration and community input will come to committee of the whole. Land-use matters such as rezoning applications will be dealt with at council meetings.
Bains said there is no legal requirement to send these applications to committee of the whole and doing so was prolonging the process. In the past, the applications would come to the committee of the whole, receive input, be sent back for changes, then come to council for first reading and be sent to a public hearing.
Now, the applications will come to a council meeting then go to a public hearing for input. Saanich residents will still have the opportunity to weigh in on these matters both at council meetings and at public hearings, Bains said.
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