IMFG Paper | 2024

Reforming Statutory Public Hearings for Planning

Throughout Canada, provincial legislation requires municipal governments to hold public hearings on certain issues pertaining to land use planning, including amendments to official and comprehensive plans and zoning bylaws. The aim of these statutorily required public hearings is to provide concerned parties with a forum to comment on proposed developments and other land use matters in front of the body responsible for rendering planning decisions. However, many have criticized the effectiveness of statutory public hearings and questioned whether they should be reformed or removed altogether.

In a new paper for the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, Aaron A. Moore and Alexandra Caporale interviewed a variety of stakeholders to examine the entire rezoning and amendment process in four cities: Toronto and Brampton in Ontario, and Vancouver and Surrey in British Columbia. The authors acknowledge that public hearings are a necessary part of the planning process, but provide four recommendations to address what are often seen as ineffectual forums for public participation.  In brief, they recommend public hearings be held earlier in the planning process; be located in neighbourhoods where proposed developments will take place; are restructured to be less antagonistic and more amenable to open discussion; and include all members of the pertinent decision-making council or committee, or their representatives.

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