(My Kamloops News Column this week)
large rectangular white sign is erected nearby. A standard size
envelope is dropped in your home mailbox. Change is afoot in your
neighbourhood, likely even on your street. And your city council is
asking for your input.
The above scenario is played out at least a couple of dozen times a year in Kamloops. City hall receives an application from a property owner / user asking for a change in what can be done with that property.
This might be a family wanting to put a rental unit in their house to supplement their income. This might be a development company wanting proposing a townhouse complex in an open field. These situations are examples of what is known as rezoning.
So when a large white rezoning sign appears nearby or a certain standard size envelope is dropped in your mailbox, this means that council is asking for your input and inviting you to a public hearing scheduled to decide on the rezoning.
People often get concerned when they find out about a rezoning application nearby. This is very understandable. Change is many times viewed with suspicion. A home is not only usually the single biggest investment a person makes, a home is home - a place of sanctuary, of enjoyment, of private time, and of rest. On the other side, the rezoning applicant is typically pursuing these changes in pursuit of their dreams and aspirations.
Thus, public hearings on contentious rezoning applications are difficult meetings. Two opposing sides, both heartfelt and committed, feeling like their fates hang in the balance. They know council will make a decision at that same meeting and many arguments are made. Some arguments seem very reasonable to me and some not so much.
All hope is not lost though, by any means. Over the 4 years I have served on council, I have noticed a few different elements that make a contentious public hearing a more positive experience, at least for me :) .
First, it always impresses me when people have looked up the zoning of their property and the zoning of the surrounding properties. Some people, when they buy a property, don’t truly understand what could already happen around them. If you visit city hall’s website, kamloops.ca, click on ‘online services’ on the top menu, then click “property information search”, then click ‘map’, you can search for information about your property and surrounding properties.
Alternatively, you could call the good folks at the Development and Engineering Services Dept at city hall, 250-828-3561.
The Development Services folks can also be of help getting copies of neighbourhood plans. You can also search at kamloops.ca for ‘community planning’ and look through the links for plans on the right hand menu.
Second, I find I respond better to arguments that have some supporting evidence. For example, people sometimes believe having rental housing in their neighbourhood lowers property values. My research tells me that is not the case, but I’m certainly open to evidence that would change my mind.
I definitely feel for people who feel emotional and nervous during a public hearing but I think the more reasonable and reasoned the input, the more responsive I am personally. Emotion is still good but it’s hard for me when it takes over.
Third, and I mean no offence to anyone here, many times after a project is approved, the project is not as bad as people fear and probably not as good as others hoped. I guess this circles back to informed, reasoned, reasonable input, informed by emotion but not dominated by it.
Feel free to be in touch - 250 574 3509.