Public Hearings

A public hearing is a public meeting, required by the Local Government Act of BC, held by a local government to allow affected citizens to provide their views to their elected representatives on the adoption of new or amended official community plan bylaws, zoning bylaws, phased development agreement bylaws and bylaws for the early termination of land use contracts.

Frequently Asked Questions about Public Hearings

Local government elected officials have the authority to make decisions about how land will be used in their communities. These decisions can affect long-term plans for the entire community as well as neighbourhoods and individual properties. In order to balance their broad powers, elected officials are required to provide the opportunity for residents and other interested parties to share their views on the bylaws through a statutory public hearing process.

When a local government is creating or amending a bylaw for an official community plan, zoning bylaw, phased development agreement or to terminate a land use contract, a public hearing must be held after first reading of the bylaw and before third reading. Public hearings are not required for other types of bylaws and permits (Local Government Act Section 464).

A public hearing can be waived for certain zoning bylaws. For example, a hearing can be waived where an official community plan has been adopted and a proposed zoning bylaw is consistent with the official community plan (Local Government Act Section 464.2).

Notice is required in the newspaper and it may be mailed to owners and tenants depending on the number of parcels or persons affected (Local Government Act Section 467).

The holding of a public hearing is delegated to members of a council or regional district board. It is not necessary for all members of a municipal council or regional district board to attend the public hearing. A local government may delegate the holding of a hearing (by resolution or bylaw) to one or more councillors or board members (Local Government Act Section 469).

Copies of the proposed bylaws, Board resolutions to delegate the holding of the hearing, and all reports, plans and other documents in the SCRD’s possession, that have been or will be considered by the SCRD Board, are available for inspection electronically on the SCRD website, or physically at the office of the SCRD located at 1975 Field Road, Sechelt, BC, between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding statutory holidays), from the date of notification of the public hearing to the date of the hearing.

Notice of the public hearing must be given in the newspaper prior to the hearing. The notice must be in at least two consecutive issues of the newspaper, with the last publication to appear not less than three days and not more than 10 days before the public hearing. The notice must state:

  • the time, date and place of the hearing;
  • if the hearing is conducted electronically or by other communication facilities, the way in which the hearing is to be conducted by those means;
  • in general terms, the purpose of the bylaw;
  • the land or lands that are the subject of the bylaw; and
  • the place, time and dates where the bylaw and related materials may be viewed (often the municipal hall or regional district office).

If the bylaw alters the permitted use or density of any area, then the notice must be mailed to owners and occupants within 100 metres that is specified in SCRD Planning and Development Procedures and Fees Bylaw. The requirement for individual mail-outs does not apply if 10 or more parcels owned by 10 or more persons are the subject of the bylaw alteration (Local Government Act Section 466).

The SCRD also posts information and notice about public hearings on this website.

Procedural rules may be established and announced by the Chair at a public hearing (Local Government Act Section 465). For example, the Chair may determine how long someone may speak or what process is to be followed if someone wishes to speak more than once.

A public hearing is not an information meeting to learn about the proposed bylaw. Members of the public are expected to learn about the bylaw and direct questions to SCRD staff before the public hearing. The purpose of a public hearing is for members of the public to present their views and opinions on the bylaw. The function of the Board at the public hearing is to listen to public representations, rather than to debate the merits of the bylaw, to make a decision on the bylaw, or to have a dialogue with the public.

More than one bylaw may be considered at a public hearing and more than one bylaw may be included in the public hearing notice.

Sometimes more people want to speak than time allows. In that case, the public hearing can be adjourned and resumed at a specified future time and date. No further notice is required if an announcement is made at the public hearing as to the time, date, place, and means by which the hearing is to be conducted (i.e. in person and/or electronically or other communication facility) for the resumption of the hearing (Local Government Act Section 465).

A summary report of the representations made at the public hearing must be prepared for each bylaw and maintained as a public record. This report must be certified as fair and accurate by the person preparing it and, if applicable, by the person to whom the hearing was delegated. All written submissions received after the SCRD Board’s passing of a resolution to hold a public hearing and before the close of the public hearing will be attached as an appendix to the report.

After the close of the public hearing (either the same day or at a later meeting), the council or board may do one of the following without holding another hearing (Local Government Act Section 470):

  • Adopt or defeat the bylaw;
  • Alter and then adopt the bylaw (as long as the changes do not alter use, or increase density or decrease density without the consent of the landowner).

After the hearing, council or board members may not hear from or receive correspondence from interested parties relating to the bylaw except from the council or board members’ staff, lawyers and consultants.