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UPDATED: Agenda error results in nullifying 5-hour public hearing in Abbotsford

Staff report says error relates to duplication of resolutions in agenda package
Matsqui Centennial Auditorium was packed on March 6 for a public hearing on the McKee Neighbourhood Plan. The five-hour meeting now has to be redone, due to what the city calls a “procedural error” during first and second reading. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

A five-hour public hearing that occurred at Abbotsford council on March 6 in relation to the McKee Neighbourhood Plan has to be redone due to a procedural error, according to the city.

The city issued a press release Thursday morning (March 23), saying the error occurred Jan. 30 during first and second reading of the pertinent bylaw.

A public hearing occurs after first and second reading is passed, but the error means that step has to be repeated and the previous public hearing is now null and void.

According to a staff report released Friday (March 24), the error related to a series of resolutions that was listed in the agenda packages for both the afternoon and evening meetings on Jan. 30 in relation to the McKee Neighbourhood Plan.

Council voted on those resolutions at the afternoon executive committee session, and a differently worded set of resolutions was to be included in the agenda package for the regular council meeting in the evening.

But the staff report indicates that the resolutions from the earlier meeting were inadvertently duplicated in the evening agenda package, and the error was not noticed until after the public hearing.

“As a result, the specific resolutions required by the Local Government Act to be approved at the regular council meeting were not formally before council when voting took place and the bylaw will need to be reintroduced again,” the staff report states.

The report calls the error “an unfortunate technical defect” and says a new public hearing is required before the bylaw can be considered for adoption.

“Staff deeply regret the error, recognizing that many residents have a vested interest in the future of the plan,” the report states.

RELATED: Dozens speak out at 5-hour hearing on McKee Neighbourhood Plan in Abbotsford

City manager Peter Sparanese said staff and council are “legislatively obligated and responsible” for ensuring that, when there are land-use changes proposed for the Official Community Plan (OCP),”the process is done in a legally binding manner.”

“We apologize to the residents of Abbotsford for this error, recognizing that many residents have a vested interest in the future of this plan,” he said.

City staff will present the report at council’s executive committee meeting on Monday (March 27) at 3 p.m. to “address the bylaw consideration process,” the press release states.

Council was initially supposed to take its final vote Monday on whether to adopt the bylaw that would see the OCP amended to include the McKee Neighbourhood Plan.

RELATED: Plan sees McKee Peak area as ‘outdoor adventure hub’ in Abbotsford

City spokesperson Aletta Vanderheyden said “council will determine the direction moving forward” – such as the date for the new public hearing – at Monday’s meeting.

The neighbourhood plan, if approved, will be used by council in making decisions about a 1,900-acres area (769 hectares) of McKee Peak on Sumas Mountain in terms of allowable uses, building forms and densities.

Mayor Ross Siemens told the packed Matsqui Centennial Auditorium at the March 6th public hearing, which ran almost five hours, that the plan will guide future development – including low-density housing – and environmental protection.

More than 50 speakers addressed council at the hearing, and their concerns included wildlife protection, trail preservation, and the need to prioritize First Nations consultation.

The city also received dozens of letters about the plan.

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Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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