Saanich has cancelled all advisory committees, standing committees, board, foundation and commission meetings and public hearing – including the hearing on unrelated occupancy limits – until further notice. (Saanich Municipal Hall/Google Maps)

Saanich cancels public hearing on unrelated occupancy limits amid COVID-19 spread

Council doesn’t want residents’ opinions to go unheard, councillor says

Saanich has cancelled its public hearing on unrelated occupancy limits due to COVID-19.

The number of unrelated residents Saanich allows to share a home has been a controversial topic in the District. While some residents feel limiting the number of unrelated people allowed in a home should be increased, others feel increasing the number of unrelated occupants would cause problems for neighbourhoods.

READ ALSO: Saanich sets date for unrelated occupancy public hearing

In January, council voted to send the option of increasing the unrelated occupancy limit from four to six to a public hearing. The hearing was eventually scheduled for Saturday, March 28 at 10 a.m. at municipal hall, but some residents were concerned about having the hearing in March as it was expected to draw a large crowd and public health officials have warned against large gatherings as COVID-19 spreads.

In an email sent to Saanich council and Black Press Media on March 13, Saanich senior Brian Green said with the ongoing coronavirus situation in B.C., he felt it was a risk to ask people to congregate. He added that it would be unfair to those who wish to speak but choose not to attend for safety reasons.

READ ALSO: Saanich homeowner creates petition to abolish unrelated occupancy limits

In a Twitter post on March 17, Saanich announced all public hearings, advisory committees, standing committees, board, foundation and commission meetings are cancelled until further notice. Council meetings and committee of the whole meetings will, however, continue to take place in the council chambers.

Coun. Colin Plant explained that council made the decision to cancel most face-to-face meetings including the public hearing on unrelated occupancy after public health officials warned against gatherings of more than 50 people and most public hearings attract at least 50 residents.

READ ALSO: Saanich resident starts petition to oppose unrelated occupancy limit increase

“We cancelled these meetings out of an abundance of caution and to ensure those who wanted to participate would not have to make a decision that could jeopardize their health,” Plant said.

Plant emphasized that council is required to give residents notice of meetings and is also required to have a council resolution to cancel a meeting. This, he said, is why notice of the public hearing went out just a few days before it was cancelled.

The public hearing on unrelated occupancy limits has yet to be rescheduled, Plant said, because while it’s an important matter, it “takes a back seat to the current COVID-19 preparations the municipality is undertaking.”

A new date will be set once there are no health risks associated with large gatherings, he said.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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