City of Revelstoke introduces new public participation policy

City of Revelstoke Public Participation Policy sets guidelines for city hall engagement with public.

Revelstoke residents take part in the Nov. 24 public hearing for the Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre proposal.

Revelstoke residents take part in the Nov. 24 public hearing for the Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre proposal.

The City of Revelstoke has proposed a new public participation policy that “formalizes a commitment to citizen engagement on decision making based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, access, respect and honesty.”

The policy begins by saying, “The city is committed to: transparent and inclusive processes that are supported by adequate information; are inclusive and considerate of the diversity of Revelstoke and its citizens; appropriate to the decision or issue at hand; and are within the city’s ability to finance and resource.”

“It seems to fit well with the other initiatives we’re making trying to enhance citizen engagement, respond to citizen complaints and so forth,” said Allan Chabot, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer.  “It seems like it would provide a good framework for staff to assess decisions they might be making and determining what level, if any, public participation might be required or might be advisable.”

The policy provides a framework for how the public is engaged with different city initiatives and is based on the International Association for Public Participation’s framework for participation spectrum.

The framework calls on the city to inform, consult, involve, collaborate or empower the community depending on the issue at stake.

At the most basic level, something like a road closure would require the city to to simply inform the public.

At the other end of the spectrum are more complicated and critical processes, such as the city takeover of the Big Eddy water system, which the policy calls for the city to empower residents by placing the final decision in their hands.

Planning work, like updating the Official Community Plan or rezoning applications, calls for the city to collaborate with the public by facilitating “discussions and agreements between public parties to identify common ground for action and solutions.”

“We’re doing an awful lot of this already,” said Chabot. “It formalizes the commitment to community engagement and helps people discern what level it should be.”

The policy also sets expectations of the public to become informed, provide feedback, be open to other points of view, participate in discussions and work to implement decisions — all depending on what level of public participation is required.

The policy is being presented to council a month after the contentious shopping centre was defeated. The city came under criticism for its handling of the process. Chabot said the policy was being contemplated before the debate. “That certainly illustrated the need to be clear on the framework for citizen engagement,” he said.