I attended the Feb. 13 Sidney town council meeting because council had invited public input on a purportedly “required” variance for the 16-unit housing project proposed for the southeast corner of Fifth Street and Malaview, where there are now two houses and one duplex.
Like a number of other attendees, I rose to oppose the granting of a setback variance along Fifth Street. There were also six written submissions to council similarly expressing concerns and opposition.
Short version: with very little discussion or debate, council unanimously approved the project and the variance.
It was clear that, in requesting citizen input, council was actually interested not in any neighbourhood response but only in “ticking a box” to indicate public consultation. It was also clear that the project is so far along in the approval process that modifying it at this stage was just not in the cards – which makes me reluctantly question council’s good faith in requesting public comment.
In the past and in a different municipality, I have been part of public input opposing aspects of a particular development, and the result was that the mayor and council “pushed the pause button” and sent the proposal back to staff and the developer for revision. In that case the public was “heard.” At the Feb. 13 meeting of Sidney town council, there was apparently no such inclination to “hear” the very input they had requested.
This was extremely disappointing.
Because there will surely be a next time – another inevitable push for further densification and development – I urge my Sidney neighbours to be more alert and more prepared in advance than I and others were in this case.
We need proactively to seek opportunities for engagement much earlier in the process so as to avoid a situation in which council, late in the development stage, merely goes through the motions of public consultation.