The introduction earlier this year of a set period for the public council sessions for public participation was one noted by Mayor Herb Pond a few weeks ago as a welcome thing, with residents coming to City Hall in recent months to speak to issues listed on the Council Agenda for each session.
"I gotta tell you, I love this process, this democracy in action. So thank you all for being here and part of it" -- Mayor Herb Pond at the May 8th Council session
However, as the process has evolved since introduced at the start of the year, the chance to participate has also provided some glimpses into where the City Council members are falling short of the public's expectations when it comes to information sharing, particularly in the always sure to gain notice area of proposed housing.
We charted two areas for public frustration this week on that theme, one related to the proposed housing plans for an area adjacent to Prince Rupert Middle School which was on the agenda following a public hearing earlier in the night.
The other related to a proposed apartment building for the Hays Cove Area, which wasn't on the agenda but through some guidance from City Councillor Nick Adey, who while serving as chair on the night, managed to shape into a discussion on Council and city process on notifications for the public.
What seems to have come from all of that is a fair bit of confusion for the public and indeed for some of the council members as to what their role is in the evolution of housing plans.
The Ninth Avenue West proposal in particular seemed to highlight that Council members weren't really clear on the procedure, or what might come next following the zoning topic of the night.
With some suggesting that the project would come back for another look at the variance stage, only to be reminded by Mayor Pond that if the proponents requested no variance, then for the most part the plans would move ahead.
"I just want to correct Councillor Forster, this is actually a rezoning bylaw, so we're changing the zoning on that property ... you're correct it comes with a height restriction that's lower than what the new zoning would normally allow.
But technically speaking, I think we have to be aware that if you approve the zoning change and if the developer brings a project forward that requires no new variances, this could be the approval that allows them to go ahead with the project.
And I'll just tell you, that while I appreciate the concern of the neighbours in that neighbourhood, my experience has been that every project in every neighbourhood has concerns and I expect that staff working with the developer will be able to overcome them.
We desperately need the housing and so I'm certainly voting in favour of the bylaw rezoning"