What happens at a Public Hearing

Order of speakers

Speakers are called on to make their presentations in the order in which they are registered.

Speakers who are speaking on their own behalf or on behalf of an organization are limited to five minutes and can only speak once. To make a strong presentation, you will want to keep your comments concise.

If the speaker is speaking on behalf of 3 or more persons or 3 or more organizations, they may speak for up to 8 minutes but only once. The persons or a representative of the organizations must also be present.

Speakers may also submit public comments to Council.

Council will hear ALL registered speakers. If there are many people who have signed up to speak, you may have to attend more than one meeting.

Agenda package

Council may consider more than one application at a public hearing. Each application has its own agenda package, which contains:

  • The item number and title page (green paper).
  • A summary of the proposal and the staff recommendation, including details of any conditions of approval recommended to Council (white paper).
  • A draft bylaw, detailing the proposed changes to the existing bylaw (white paper).
  • A background report from City staff to Council, outlining and assessing the application (pink paper).
  • A copy of the courtesy notification letter (if applicable) that was sent to surrounding property owners advising them of the application and the Public Hearing (white paper).
  • Draft guidelines (if applicable) to augment administration of the bylaw changes, if approved (blue paper).
  • A memo to Council, providing information (if any) that arose after the background report or draft bylaw had been prepared (yellow paper).

Agenda packages are distributed to people arriving at the Public Hearing.

 At the Public Hearing

Council's role at a Public Hearing is to listen to the public. Council does not debate or challenge the comments being offered, but may question what they hear to make sure they understand what is being said. All comments presented to City Council are to be only to the merits of the application before Council.

This is what happens for each agenda item:

  1. The City Clerk reads the agenda item. The clerk also provides a summary to Council of all the written correspondence that has been received about the agenda item or the application.
  2. City Planning staff explain the application and the staff recommendation.
  3. The applicant is then called upon to add any further explanation or reasons why the application should be approved. They may also comment on the staff recommendation.
  4. The Mayor then calls on the people who have registered to speak to the agenda item. When the last person whose name is on the list has spoken, the Mayor will call three times for any others who wish to address Council on the application. Every person wishing to speak to Council is given an opportunity to do so.
  5. When staff, the applicant, or members of the public are commenting on an application, the Mayor asks Council members if they have any questions. Council members may also ask questions of staff or the applicant in response to comments made by the public.
  6. When the last speaker from the public has been heard, the applicant can make brief summary comments. Staff may also make brief summary comments.

After the Public Hearing

When the Public Hearing has concluded, Council frequently will proceed to immediately discuss the application and reach a decision. When this discussion happens, it is a discussion of City Council -- that is, the Public Hearing is over and no further public comments can be heard.

When Council members need more time to consider what they have heard, Council adjourns and conducts its discussion and decision at a later date, most often at the next Regular Council meeting.

Council discussion

During the Council discussion, Council members may ask for clarification or technical advice from staff in response to possible decisions Council may be considering.

Council discussion usually starts with a motion from a member of Council (to refuse or approve the application, or to approve it in an amended form). Some or all members of Council may comment on the application, providing reasons why they agree or disagree with the motion.

Council votes

After all members of Council wishing to speak have done so, the Mayor calls for a vote on the motion.

If it fails, other motions are often put forward and voted on. If the Council decision is to refuse the application, a similar application may not be submitted for one calendar year. Council may waive this period for consideration of a new application, if, in its opinion, circumstances have changed.

If Council votes to approve the application (with or without amendments), the approval commonly carries with it various conditions that the applicant has to fulfill before the bylaw that will finalize the change to the zoning is presented to Council for enactment.

In the period between Council approval and enactment of the bylaw, Council members attending cannot discuss the application with the applicant or the public. This is to prevent Council receiving information that would otherwise be unavailable to either the applicant or the public.