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Summerland considering fewer council meetings

Council to meet every three weeks instead of twice a month
Changes are in the works for the structure of Summerland council meetings. The proposed changes affect the Development Application Procedures Bylaw and the Council Procedures Bylaw. (Summerland Review file photo)

Summerland council is looking at potentially changing how often they meet and how those meetings will be structured.

Under the changes, introduced at the Nov. 14 council meeting, council would meet every three weeks instead of the present schedule of twice a month.

Graham Statt, chief administrative officer for Summerland, said the benefits of this switch would include a reduced demand on council time, additional time for council members to review materials and improvements to staff time.

Special meetings of council could still be held if needed.

This new schedule would start on a trial basis in March, 2023.

READ ALSO: Summerland council to continue online meetings

READ ALSO: Summerland council considers change to meeting schedule

Under the proposed change, council would have 18 scheduled meeting days in a year, down from 21 in 2022.

However, Coun. Richard Barkwill questioned whether the reduction in the number of meetings would benefit the council members.

“We wind up with fewer but longer meetings, and longer meetings are not good,” he said. “I don’t think you get good decisions out of a bunch of fatigued councillors who just want to end discussion and go home.”

Statt said the meetings would likely remain at the same length. At present, evening council meetings are scheduled for the second and fourth Mondays of the month, from 6 to 9 p.m.

He added that reducing the number of meetings would give staff additional time for preparation.

Coun. Janet Peake said the workload for members of council has been increasing over the years.

“I’d like to say with my experience of over 20 years doing council, that the work that’s required by councillors and staff has really increased,” she said. “The work of councils are becoming more full-time and less part-time.”

Other changes include delegating minor development variance permit items, adding a consent agenda to the agenda package and reviewing council committees.

Delegating minor development variances to the development services department could speed up the timeline for development projects, from the present length of six weeks to less than three weeks.

Adding a consent agenda would allow routine and non-controversial items to be accepted as a bundle, without discussion. At present, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen uses a consent agenda as part of its regular board meetings.

Reviewing the council committees, commissions and other bodies would allow council to set committees in line with its priorities.

Strategic planning for the new council will be held on Nov. 24 and 25, and will include highlighting areas where the committees may need to be reshaped or renewed, or new committees are added.

Municipal staff will now prepare the necessary amendments for the development application procedures bylaw and the council procedures bylaw. Committees except for the Board of Variance and the Advisory Planning Commission will be paused until council has made recommendations on the future of these committees.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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