November 16, 2018

Duplex Rezoning: Consultation and Consequences

Petard, meet Hoist.

Dan Fumano at The Sun did a nice job reporting on Colleen Hardwick’s desire to quickly reverse the duplexing bylaw passed by the previous council.

She asked (Gil) Kelley, (chief planner), if she was correct in understanding it would be possible to get the duplex zoning reversed in as fast as 60 days.

Kelley replied that if council wishes, staff could get the matter to a public hearing as early as mid-February, “but that would skip the consultation process that we would normally do.”

“It is unusual for us to do that, but we would do that if that’s what the council’s desire is,” Kelley said.

“The risk, of course, we’re once again, in some people’s eyes, doing something without consultation. Just so you understand that risk.” …

OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle piped up: “Can I just clarify? The suggestion is that we would do less consultation in rescinding this, even though the critique of the decision was that there wasn’t sufficient and meaningful consultation in the first place?”

“I’m not keen on that,” she said.

“And I don’t see how we would publicly justify that without falling into the accusation that consultation wasn’t really why people are against duplexes,” she added.

I suppose one could argue that the public hearing on revising the duplex bylaw by itself would provide sufficient input to council.  But then one would have to acknowledge that the previous public hearing approving duplexing was sufficient consultation, which would contradict one’s original justification – “no meaningful public consultation prior to referral to public hearing” – for moving forward to a public hearing  without more consultation.  And so on.

Thus leading to another Price Tags Laws of Public Consultation:

If a decision requires thorough consultation, there will always be too much of it, and it will never be enough.

In the end, Hardwick, unhappy with the debate and an amendment to delay for more information, was the only vote against.


[Disclaimer: Colleen Hardwick is Founder and CEO of PlaceSpeak, a “location-based citizen engagement platform that is designed to facilitate high-quality, defensible public input processes.”  I was an initial investor in the company.]

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