Surrey city council’s regular meetings each Monday will now automatically end at 11 p.m. and be recessed to 1 p.m. Tuesday if there are still items to be considered, unless council decides otherwise.
Also, speakers at public hearings will be limited to three minutes instead of five to address council.
Council so decided on Monday, Jan. 30.
Bylaw amendments also approved by council will see public hearings be waived for subdivisions involving five or fewer single-family residential lots and authority delegated to city staff to issue development variance permits for “a variety of minor” variances including yards and setbacks, height of buildings, the siting of basement access and basement wells, landscaping and screening, off-street parking and loading/unloading requirements, and signage regulations.
Coun. Mandeep Nagra said this will streamline “a lot of process,” and make it “so much easier” for homeowners tackling smaller projects.
Coun. Doug Elford expressed “a mild concern” about the 11 p.m. cutoff.
“I guess my concern is if we’re at or very near the end of a meeting or on the agenda, I was hopefully that maybe the council would have the option of carrying it on if it’s only like a half an hour because to bring everything back the next day for a very small amount of agenda I think is not practical,” Elford told council. “It stresses the staff and of course many of the people in the public are there to speak and there’s a little unfairness so set it back the next day in the middle of the afternoon. Many people cannot come and speak to issues. So I’m looking for a little bit of leeway at that 11 o’clock cutoff time.”
Rob Costanzo, Surrey’s general manager of corporate services, replied that if council wants to stay longer, it can make that call. “But if it appears that it’s a stacked room and we’re going to be here until 4 in the morning,” he said, “then the call of the chair would be call a recess until 1 p.m. the next day. Again, conversely, if it looks like it make take another 45 minutes to an hour and council resolves to continue on with the process, you can certainly make that call.”
Coun. Linda Annis said she’s “so pleased” to see these amendments. “I think it’s going to help streamline a lot of the processes through the planning department and make it easier for people that are doing minor developments to be able to move forward much more quickly.”
The meeting cap, she added, is “long overdue” and “terrific.”
“I think of some of the marathon sessions that we sat through over the past four and a bit years and we’re not at our best to be making a decision at 2 a.m. and to ask our residents of Surrey to stay here until 2 or 3 in the morning knowing that they’ve got to get up and go to work the next morning to me just isn’t on so I’m very pleased to see this moving forward.”
Coun. Pardeep Kooner requested that city staff provide council with a regular report on development variances that have been issued, “just keeping us apprised of which ones have been approved” and if the planning department and resident can’t agree on a variance, that council can still vote on it.
Coun. Mike Bose said a bi-monthly report would work best. “Monthly I think is too often, quarterly stretches it out a little too far.”
City Manager Vince Lalonde said Kooner’s first ask is not an issue “but I’m not too sure about the mechanics of the second one, if it usurps essentially what you’re delegating.”
An applicant, if denied, can ask for reconsideration by council.
Meantime, council’s Monday night meeting came to an alarming end.
“Can you believe that?” Annis laughed. “We were just about to adjourn and we had to go out for the fire, there was no fire it was just a false alarm. It woke us all up, it was a little chilly out there.”
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