Statutory Public Meeting
It has been some time since we discussed the steps involved in the development approvals process. To refresh your memory, here are the first two steps. As you may recall, pre-consultation involves meeting with municipal staff and any external agencies (i.e. conservation authority, health unit), as required, to discuss a proposed development and the requirements involved to submit a complete application. After pre-consultation and all necessary supporting documents to be submitted with the application are finalized, a Planning Act application must be completed and submitted to the municipality. The municipality then reviews the application to ensure compliance with all applicable policies and regulations that govern the municipality. This now takes us to the third step in the development approval process: ‘Statutory Public Meeting’.
The Planning Act requires that the Council of a municipality hold a Statutory Public Meeting upon receipt of certain types of development applications made under the Planning Act. The purpose of the Statutory Public Meeting is to give the public an opportunity to speak to the proposed development application(s). A notice of public meeting is prepared by the municipality and circulated to all property owners within 120m of the development lands and is posted on the municipality’s website. Where a development application affects the Municipality as a whole, the Municipality will often publish the notice in the newspaper. In all cases, a development sign is also installed on the development lands.
At the Statutory Public Meeting, the public is provided an opportunity to comment (verbal or written), either in support or opposition, on the proposed development. No decisions are made by Council at this time. The Statutory Public Meeting provides members of Council – who will facilitate the meeting as a Committee** – the ability to hear the views from the public and any comments from various agencies before a decision is made on the application.
Prior to the public meeting, Council is provided with a report prepared by municipal staff. The report explains the proposed development with respect to municipal policies and regulations and any comments received from the public or various agencies prior to the meeting. The report also gives a recommendation to Council with respect to the application. Staff will recommend that Council approve, deny or defer an application.
Staff often recommend to defer the decision on an application in order to continue processing the application and answer any outstanding questions or comments that may arise from the public meeting. In many cases, there are detailed studies that still need to be submitted and reviewed. Often there will be an iterative process where changes are made to the development proposal to address specific issues raised by residents or public agencies. It often takes some time before staff is in a position to make a recommendation to Council regarding the approval/denial of the application.
It is at this stage in the process where unexpected outcomes may arise. If the public is not in favour of the proposed development application, their voice can sometimes sway the decision of Council. This is where having a Professional Planner to justify a development application can come in handy. To read more about surviving the political side of planning see our blog entry Politics as Usual.
**Technically, Council is not responsible for facilitating a public meeting. Municipal Council members wear many hats in their day-to-day jobs as elected officials. Each member of Council will be on various committees that oversee daily operations of the municipality. In the case of making decisions related to planning, many municipalities have a Planning Committee that is made up of some, or all members of Council. The Planning Committee does not have the power to make decisions on applications. Rather, the Committee discusses the application and makes a recommendation to Council, who will in turn make a decision. In other words, members of Council are essentially making a recommendation to themselves. Other municipalities may address planning applications as part of the Committee of the Whole, where all Council committees are rolled into one session and a multitude of items are discussed. Although different in name, the Committee of the Whole follows the same procedure as the Planning Committee model.