In April 2018, Council asked Planning Director Glenn McGlashon to produce a report about what notifications to the public were used and how they could be improved. In April 2019 Glenn produced a comprehensive report (see link below) and Council directed that this should be followed up with an online survey and a Public meeting. The survey closed May 27 and the meeting was held on Monday June 3.
Cobourg already provides more notifications than many municipalities but there’s always room for improvement. The results of the online survey were not discussed but were simply published in the meeting Agenda (see link below). Three speakers spoke from the floor and no written submissions were made. When the meeting started, there were 4 people in the gallery. It seems that setting policies and procedures does not generate much public interest in contrast to uproar when unpopular decisions are made per existing policies.
At the Committee of the Whole Council meeting on Monday June 3, Glenn used a slide show to present his report, generally as described in the post on 29 April – see link below. The only change from the earlier report was the addition of using TV for notifications (Cogeco’s Community channel). Glenn noted that TV and Radio would be more appropriate to Town wide issues. Glenn expressed concern with the changes proposed by the current Conservative Government which set the earliest dates when an appeal could be made. The changes would be to reduce the period allowed for municipalities to respond with the goal of improving the supply of housing. This reverts the intervals to those specified by the previous Conservative Government. Unfortunately, the time frames may not always be met because of the amount of work required – so the effect may simply be to increase the number of appeals. Even so, Glenn said that there was only one instance (in his time) that an appeal had been made with Cobourg.
In response to a question from Councillor Emily Chorley, Glenn said that when mailouts are used, only owners are advised. Renters are not included – that’s one reason signs are useful. Also, Condo owners are advised via their Management company and not directly.
Three residents came to the podium:
His point is summarized with one of his statements:
What citizens want when they come before Council is to know what they say matters. Too many times, they feel as if what they have to say does not matter.
This is because in the past, at public meetings: 1) comprehensive staff reports are given along with recommendations then 2) straight after the public meeting, a council meeting is held where the staff report is endorsed with no chance of public feedback being acted on.
Dennis recommended more posting of signs and more open houses and that planning decisions and recommendations should be made after public meetings and not before. Dennis’s full presentation is available from the link below.
Virginia asked that signposting be used more often – mailouts don’t always reach everyone interested.
The sequence of staff reporting needs to be changed so that staff reports are given after Public meetings, not before unless there was a compelling reason and if so, this should be explained.
The results of online surveys were not discussed. There were 12 responses and they are all listed in the results available from the link below. They only add a few ideas to the concerns expressed by the above presenters.
There was no decision at the end of the meeting nor in the following Committee of the Whole meeting. Presumably at some point Glenn will come back to Council with a specific recommendation – hopefully incorporating citizen input.
- Council Planning to upgrade notifications to residents – 29 April 2019 – includes details of Glenn’s report.
- Dennis Nabieszko Presentation
- Survey Results