New provincial legislation means public hearings will no longer be held for residential or mixed-use development with at least 50 per cent housing, but Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens said there are still opportunities for people to have their say.
Bill 44 – an amendment to the Local Government Act – was recently adopted by the province. Part of the bill prohibits municipalities from holding public hearings for housing projects that fall within the official community plan (OCP).
Council on Monday (Dec. 4) approved revisions to its Development Application Procedures Bylaw to fall in line with the new legislation. The changes also remove the requirement for a council hearing for development variance permits and housing agreements. Previously, all zoning bylaw amendments required a public hearing before final approval to allow neighbours to express their views on a proposal’s benefits or impacts.
But the mayor pointed out public hearings must still be held for any OCP changes. “It’s when we do the official community plan updates that there’s a … robust public engagement component to that, and that’s why we would recommend people pay specific attention to because changes in their neighbourhoods will be part of that process,” Siemens said. He said the public will also have an opportunity to ask questions of city staff on any project once a development/zoning sign is placed on the development site.
Also under Bill 44, all municipalities must update OCPs every five years. As well, starting July 1, 2024, developers will be able to start building a minimum of three and up to six units (near transit) on lots currently zoned for single-family homes and duplexes in municipalities above 5,000 people. The legislation means that local governments can no longer exclusively zone neighbourhoods for single-family lots. The province predicts Bill 44 will create 130,000 homes in B.C. in 10 years.