Half of all council meetings next year will be held in North Delta.
At its Nov. 26 meeting, council unanimously approved its schedule for next year, which will have 12 of 24 meetings held in North Delta. In addition, the schedule provides for 12 public hearings — one per month, and one more than was held in 2018 — to be held at city hall in Ladner. Additional public hearings can be scheduled as needed by council resolution.
“I’m very pleased — and all the members of council are — that we are showing respect for the North Delta community and that we will be having every other council meeting in North Delta. I’m very happy that we moved so fast to make that happen,” Mayor George Harvie said at council.
Increasing the number of meetings held in North Delta fulfills one of Harvie’s early campaign promises during the municipal election.
“It’s all about fairness and showing respect,” Harvie said at a campaign event on May 29. “There’s over 60 per cent of our population in North Delta now, and this is one way we can show we’re bringing government to them, getting them involved and getting them engaged.”
According to Statistics Canada census data, North Delta’s population was 55,842 in 2016, which equates to about 54.6 per cent of Delta’s total population (102,238). Those numbers have likely increased since then.
Despite more than half of the city living east of Highway 91, the vast majority of council meetings in 2018 were held at Delta Municipal Hall in Ladner (24 of 28 meetings). The remaining four were held at North Delta’s Kennedy Seniors’ Recreation Centre.
Moving forward, half of council’s meetings will be held at the Kennedy before moving over to the new North Delta Arts Centre once it opens in the new year.
The centre was designed so it could be used for public gatherings and meetings of council in a “very formalized location similar to what we have here in the council chambers,” director of parks, recreation and culture Ken Kuntz told council on Nov. 29. “The new facility will be equipped with the appropriate apparatus and the appropriate seating, and it will be open sometime in the spring of 2019.”
Unlike meetings held in council chambers, those held at the Kennedy are not broadcast live online due to technical limitations of the space. Instead, the video is available to view online at 3 p.m. the Tuesday following. (Regular council meetings happen on Monday nights.) The new arts centre will have the necessary infrastructure to live stream the meetings held there.
In an email to the North Delta Reporter, Kuntz said the city is “hoping to have the facility open earlier in the spring than later, however, I am reluctant to provide a specific date at this moment as equipment supplier times can change without notice and it is important to finish the project correctly as opposed to rushing things.”
In the meantime, half of council’s meetings will no longer be viewable live online. From December 2018 to the end of April 2019, five of 10 will be held in North Delta. Only one meeting was held at the Kennedy during the same period last winter/spring.
In an email the North Delta Reporter, Kuntz said that, on average, less than 100 people watch the meetings live online, “but it very much depends on what is on the agenda on any given night.”
He added that once meeting videos are posted online, anyone with an internet connection can watch council meetings anytime, regardless of where they live. All regular council meetings, including those in North Delta, are broadcast live on television by Delta Cable.
During Monday’s meeting, Coun. Lois Jackson said she hoped reducing the number of meetings wouldn’t “bulk up” future agendas, noting they can already be “quite long,” and that the increased number of council meetings in North Delta doesn’t make it harder for the public to attend.
In response, Harvie said the reduction in scheduled meetings leaves room for more public hearings to be added as required, adding the city doesn’t want to have developments “waiting any longer than they have to.”
“When we have large projects that are of interest either to South Delta or North Delta community, we will be having special [public hearing] days in those times available. So although we might be reducing the number of meetings of the regular council, we’ll probably end up with the same amount of meetings over the year as we do now,” Harvie said.
Council also voted to rescind a set scheduling guidelines so as to “allow for greater flexibility in scheduling council meetings,” according to staff report.
Those guidelines included not scheduling meetings during the week of a statutory holiday, the week prior to Christmas, the weeks designated as spring break for schools, or the weeks when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Union of B.C. Municipalities conventions are held, as well as scheduling four meetings per year in North Delta.
The guidelines also stated all regular and executive meetings of council be held on Mondays and all public hearings on Tuesdays, no more than four regular meetings could be held in a row, and meetings would be held bi-weekly during the months of July and August.
The report adds the acting mayor schedule for 2019 is currently under review and will be brought forward at a later date.
— with files from Grace Kennedy