Council takes step to changing public notice procedure following complaints about lack of consultation on new developments

Prince Albert City Hall/Daily Herald File Photo

Prince Albert city council has voted to change the way it sends out public notices allow more time for community feedback, and increase the number of properties who receive notices about new developments that might be controversial.

Planning and Development Director Craig Guidinger told council it’s no secret the City’s current bylaw has been a controversial topic. On Monday, he submitted a plan that would give residents one month to respond to a proposed development in their neighbourhood, and solicit feedback from residents who live within 150 meters of the property.

Previously, residents only had 10 days to respond, and only residents who lived within 75 meters received notice. The existing bylaw gives administration discretion as to how much notice to give and to whom. Should council approve the motion at a regular meeting, it will be used as direction for administration for uses that might be controversial, such as care facilities or care homes.

The change was tentatively approved at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

“We hear all the time that 75 meters is too small of an area,” Guidinger said during Monday’s meeting. “Where did 75 meters come from? We get complaints (like that) all the time….. To be honest, there’s no perfect solution.”

Guidinger said the goal of public consultation is to make sure all concerns are properly addressed, and administration needs to take a serious look when residents say their voices aren’t being heard. However, he also said increasing the distance and timeline requirements won’t cause all those complaints to go away.

“That distance will never be perfect,” he told council. “Every jurisdiction you go to will always have public notice issues, but I feel like 150 meters for those more contentious land usages certainly gets us to where we want to be.

“I realize people like to write letters. They like to make phone calls. They like to contact (the City). I support that, but I think 150 meters absolutely gets us to (a place where) the neighbourhood is well represented, and that is my goal as a planner,” he added.

The changes also require developers to describe their plans for the property, and outline how it will affect the neighbourhood. Previously, the City only recommended that developers include that information as part of their proposal.

Mayor Greg Dionne said he supported the changes, but added that the City needs to realize that one size doesn’t fit all, since some developments may require even more consultation than is legally required.

“I agree with the 150 (meter notice area) at this point, but we also have to keep our eyes open,” he explained.

Community feedback has been front and centre on a number of issues that have come before council in the past year. The most recent came in March, when council voted against a joint residential care home application from the John Howard Society and River Bank Development. During that debate, more than one councillor said they were concerned residents who lived more than 75 meters away from the proposed site had not been consulted.

** this is a corrected story. This story originally stated council would be changing the bylaw. In fact, because the bylaw already allows administration to use its discretion, council’s vote would only set the expanded distance as the direction for administration. No bylaw amendment is needed. The Herald regrets the error.