A public hearing has been scheduled by Wheatland County council regarding Bylaw 2023-22 for Oct. 17, which is to address a potential process improvement for non-complex planning applications.
The matter to hold the public hearing was brought forward to council during a special meeting, held Sept. 12, and discussion at the time was limited to that agenda item.
Administration presented the proposal before council for the potential process improvement and bylaw reading process, with respect only to planning bylaws.
Current process considers first reading separately from the public hearing and subsequent readings of bylaws. The presentation suggested this can be simplified to streamline and decrease application processing timelines for non-complicated applications.
This is particularly significant at the moment to the county, as an amendment to the Direct Control District DC-7 is required in order to allow further development within the Lakes of Muirfield.
Considering all three readings in one council meeting would allow a proposed amendment to the direct control bylaw to be approved as early as Oct. 17 regarding this particular instance.
Section 692-1 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) requires that a public hearing is required before giving second reading to a planning bylaw, however, it does not require first reading to begin prior to the public hearing.
Section 187-4 of the MGA states that a proposed bylaw must not have more than two readings at a council meeting unless the counselors present unanimously agree to consider third reading.
In order to hold a public hearing prior to first reading of a bylaw, council would proceed with the hearing as per the current process, then consider four resolutions following the closure of the public hearing in order to proceed.
These, being to move to first reading, move to second reading, grant permission to hold third and final reading, which would need to be passed unanimously, then finally to move third reading of the bylaw.
Administration explained it is important to note voting in favour of considering third reading does not constitute endorsement of the proposed bylaw.
An opposed counselor may vote against it in first and second reading, vote in favour of considering third reading, then once again vote against third reading in the event of unanimous approval to have the third reading.
In the event unanimous approval to have the third reading is not granted for a bylaw, it would need to be brought back to council at a later date for third reading.
Administration’s proposal to council to amend the process of considering planning and development bylaws was approved unanimously by county council.
By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 21, 2023