Over the last few weeks, I have attended two committee meetings. The first, being a Planning and Development Committee meeting, took place at 1pm on Tuesday, September 26. Here, the possible expansion of an automotive dealership (Mercedes Benz) located on 441 North Service Road was discussed. The second, taking place Thursday, September 28, discussed the new draft for the Downtown Mobility Hub Plan.
I found both meetings quite interesting, as they were both very different, yet involved all of the same people; Councillor Rick Craven, Councillor Marianne Meed Ward, Councillor John Taylor, Mayor Rick Goldring, Councillor Jack Dennison, Councillor Paul Sharman, and Councillor Blair Lancaster. I’ve recently learned that whether a councillor is part of the ward or not, they have a say in each decision that is to be made across the city.
Because the public is unable to register as delegations for Committee of the Whole Workshops, two of which I attended, I found it difficult to listen to a group of people talk for so long, without having the opportunity myself to ask questions. Meetings in which residents are not able to participate and council members are not permitted to create dialogue can be quite frustrating, as councillors would probably like to actually interact with the people who delegate, including developers and residents who will be affected by the development.
I do understand however, the purpose of a committee meeting and why the public is not allowed to disrupt; developers/planners have an opportunity to get their ideas across to those who will be making the decisions, without being bombarded with questions and concerns from some who might not be in total agreeance with what they have to say. Thankfully though, the councillors were there to voice the opinions of the public.
Neighbourhood meetings on the other hand, I find absolutely amazing. Everyone in the room has a voice, as the setting is much less formal and not as structured. This means that councillors, residents, developers and planners all have opportunities to interact with each other, without the same restrictions as a formal committee meeting – where delegations can’t ask questions of councillors, staff or developers.
Over the course of the last month, I have learned a lot about not only the expansion of car dealerships, but about committee meetings themselves. The first meeting I attended, classified under planning and development, was a meeting in which I learned that both the planning/building and transportation departments are required to attend. Here, zoning by-law amendments and official plans are discussed, while the public is open to voicing its opinion.
The second meeting was a Committee of the Whole workshop, where time is spent in a more informal setting to discuss issues without making decisions. Discussions among other levels of government and outside agencies occur as well, as everyone’s opinion counts, and it is important that business’/buildings that may be affected by the a new development are listened to and heard.
All in all, it was a very interesting and informative experience.