What are the City’s rules and practices regarding when and how to publish crucial public information?
Is there some written rule/policy/guideline that determines how and when the City must publish notice of a public hearing? What document governs this?
CityHallWatch asked City Hall and here below is the Corporate Communications Department’s response on January 3, 2018. And further below we also provide an excerpt of the Vancouver Charter prescribing what is required.
The sooner people know about a public hearing, meeting, open house, or public consultation the better. Conversely, delayed access to information can puts people and neighbourhoods at a disadvantage and reduce their chance to prepare, study up, and develop input to the City.
For example, a “Vancouver Matters” section in the Vancouver Courier typically carries information from City Hall, including consultation meetings and public hearing details.
Citizens of the city, take note below. These are the places for you to watch when you want to keep on top of things. Our conclusion from this inquiry is that the best place to watch for advance notice with the details on Public Hearings is the free weekly paper Vancouver Courier. Unfortunately the print version of the Courier has limited distribution around the city and it can be hit and miss as to whether you can find a paper in the box and even then, whether you happen to notice the City’s notice in the paper.
ACTION: Active citizens may wish to ask Council to post the exact same content (“Vancouver Matters”) online on the City website as soon as it goes out to the Courier.
Public hearing notifications currently are as follows:
Print ad notification – The Charter requires that two ad notices be placed in a locally circulated newspaper. The ads must appear in different weeks and the last ad must run at least 7 days prior to the public hearing. So the City generally runs two ads in the Vancouver Courier, one two Thursdays before the hearing and the other three Thursdays before. Sometimes Metro News Vancouver is used for one of the ads, as it publishes daily, but still within the time requirements of the Charter.
Postcard notification – Postcard notices are mailed at least two weeks prior to the hearing, to a notification area that is an approximate two-block radius of the rezoning site. Direct mail is used for property owners and, if an area is 50% rental, it is supplemented with unaddressed admail. Recently the City has started using Canada Post’s Postal Code Mail, which mails directly to every unit regardless of tenure or whether a mailbox has a red dot. Non-resident owners, located outside the postal code, receive direct mail. Mailing notices for hearings is not a Charter requirement, but has been the City’s standard practice for some time.
Website – The City’s “Rezapps” webpage (vancouver.ca/rezapps ) is updated for the items going to hearing 2 to 3 weeks prior to the hearing. [CityHallWatch note: This is the most extensive information about a specific rezoning and it builds up over time, but will only really be noticed by people who watch the exact web page for a specific rezoning.]
Sign on site – A 4×8-foot sign is required to be on the rezoning site during the rezoning application review period. The sign gets updated by the applicant 2 to 3 weeks prior to the hearing with the information about the hearing. The rezoning sign is not a requirement mandated by the Charter.
After the hearing, the outcome of the hearing is on the City’s website – in the Clerk’s Council meeting records and on the Rezapps page.
CityHallWatch also points out that encourages people to watch these two spots on the City website:
Calendar of events: http://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/calendar-of-events.aspx
City Council meetings and decisions (Agendas, minutes, and voting record), but note that the full agenda and documents usually just show up a few days before the public hearing or council meeting: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/city-council-meetings-and-decisions.aspx
In addition, the Development Permit Board (DPB), Urban Design Panel (UDP), Vancouver City Planning Commission (VCPC) and other committees and advisory bodies each have their own webpages and meeting schedules posted on line.
Below is an excerpt of the Vancouver Charter that stipulates the requirements:
Requirements for public notice
- (1) If this section applies, the applicable notice must be published in accordance with this section.
(2) Subject to subsection (4), publication
(a) must be in a newspaper that is distributed at least weekly
(i) in the area affected by the subject matter of the notice, and
(ii) if the area affected is not in the city, also in the city, and
(b) unless otherwise provided, must be once each week for 2 consecutive weeks.
(3) The obligation under subsection (2) may be met by publication of the notice in more than one newspaper, if this is in accordance with that subsection when the publications are considered together.
(4) If publication under subsection (2) is not practicable, the notice may be given in the areas by alternative means as long as the notice
(a) is given within the same time period as required for publication,
(b) is given with the same frequency as required for publication, and
(c) provides notice that the Council considers is reasonably equivalent to that which would be provided by newspaper publication if it were practicable.
(5) As an exception, subsection (4) (b) does not apply in relation to an area if the alternative means is by individual distribution to the persons resident in the area.
(6) If the same matter is subject to 2 or more requirements for publication in accordance with this section, the notices may be combined so long as the requirements of all applicable provisions are met.
(7) The Council may provide any additional notice respecting a matter that it considers appropriate, including by the Internet or other electronic means.