North Cowichan’s council has decided to move the time for its public hearings to the evenings starting in 2019.
Council has been holding public hearings on development applications and land-use issues as part of its twice monthly council meetings, which usually occur on Wednesday afternoons beginning at 1:30 p.m., for years.
But Mayor Al Siebring said that, in an effort to make public hearings more accessible for people that work during the day, the plan is to try to hold them once a month in the evening.
He said it’s expected they will be held on the Thursday in the week between the two monthly council meetings.
“The issue came up during the election campaign,” Siebring said.
“We are mandated to get public input into land-use issues before council makes any decisions on them, and it’s been determined that holding these meetings at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays is not the best way to facilitate the best public input.”
Siebring said that years ago, public hearings were held in the evenings separately from council meetings, but the market crash in 2008 saw land-use applications dry up for a time.
He said it was decided that public hearings for the rare applications that were received were best dealt with at council meetings as a time-saving measure, but the economy has changed since then and the municipality is now receiving enough development applications to warrant separate meetings again.
As for requests from the public to hold council meetings in the evenings as well, Siebring said that will be discussed by council during 2019.
He said the municipality is mandated by the province to schedule all council meetings for the upcoming year by Dec. 21 in the previous year, and that work is well advanced.
“We’ve only had two council meetings since the election, and we’ve been busy dealing with other issues,” Siebring said.
“If council wants to begin holding council meetings in the evenings beginning in 2020, then those discussions should begin by September of next year.”