CANMORE – As municipal officials across the province figure out best practices to conduct business during the COVID-19 public health crisis, Canmore council has decided to allow live public presentations during online public hearings.
Last week, municipal clerk Cheryl Hyde presented a new option for how to accept public submissions during public hearings and Subdivision and Development Appeal Board hearings that meet the requirements of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), while also respecting social distancing protocols from public health officials.
With council moving to hold its meetings online with Zoom, while also livestreaming the proceedings, Hyde said it is possible to allow the community to participate through that platform during public hearings as well.
"In normal times, as you know, the MGA allows for members of the public to attend meetings in person," she said.
"If there is a public hearing, which a person feels affects them, they have the right to make a submission to council. But in this [online] format, it is not possible for the public to attend in person any longer."
Originally, Hyde was going to recommend council take a wait and see approach, allowing only written submissions for public hearings.
But having held several meetings using Zoom already, Hyde said she is confident the technology can be successfully used to receive public input during public hearings, as well as SDAB hearings.
"We would require people who want to make a verbal submission to register in advance," she said. "When they register, we will provide them with details on how to participate. They will still have a five minute time limit and [we will provide] tips on how to participate in this format."
If for some reason the technology were to fail during the public submission, Hyde said the presenter would be given an option to also submit in writing afterwards.
"We are still learning every day about this technology and the technology itself keeps improving," she said.
Council unanimously voted in support of the motion. Mayor John Borrowman said it is incredibly important that council is able to hear from the community at this time, even though social distancing protocols are in place.
"We want to do the best job we can to include the public in these opportunities and I know everyone in the public is fully aware of how complicated things have become," Borrowman said. "I am confident the Zoom technology we have used for a number of these different meetings so far will fit the bill."
Currently, three public hearings are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. June 2 – two road closure bylaws and the area redevelopment plan for Teepee Town. There is also an SDAB meeting scheduled for Thursday (May 14) at 5:30 p.m.
Contact email@example.com or to register to present during a public hearing, or visit the Town's website for more information.