photo supplied Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The City of Port Moody has stopped recording and archiving the meetings of its land use committee (LUC), removing a long-time record keeping feature.

The public has been able to review LUC meetings since 2015, when the committee was permanently moved to council chambers.

Coun. Haven Lurbiecki spoke out against the decision on April 25, criticizing the lack of public notice or discussion.

“It’s a big deal. It should be open to the public and archived for reference as it has been for almost 10 years.,” Lurbiecki said. “I know that people care about this.”

The committee advises city staff about proposed land-use changes, such as allowing extra height or density in an area zoned for more modest development.

Lurbiecki submitted a notice of motion that the decision be discussed at the next council meeting, citing transparency and accountability concerns.

The decision was made by staff to “ensure fair and equitable treatment of all the city’s committees,” according to an email from Angie Parnell, general manager of corporate services.

She said no other council committee meetings are recorded and archived, and staff have been standardizing committee policies since the beginning of the year.

“This is consistent now with all other city committee meetings,” Parnell said.

While the public will still be able to livestream the meetings or attend in person at the Parkview or Provold rooms at city hall, any review of old meetings will no longer be possible outside of the minutes posted to the city website.

The decision was not well received by some members of the public.

Hazel Mason, a former member of the land use committee, spoke at council during the public input period.

She stressed that the LUC and advisory design panel (another committee), are not like the other committees. 

Mason cited Mayor Meghan Lahti’s post-election address, where a pause was announced to all committees until a new strategic plan was complete, with the exception of these two bodies.

“They had to have different measures taken because they’re not the same,” Mason said. “I sincerely hope the council sees fit to remedy the situation.”

A similar event occurred following the inaugural meeting of the last council in 2017, when the committee of the whole and the finance committee were relocated to the Brovold Room without any consultation with council or the public.

Coun. Diana Dilworth presented a report in 2019, which eventually reversed that move. 

The report cited the council code of conduct, which states public business should be conducted in a fair, honest and open manner.

It provided statistics showing archived videos were watched more than the livestreams. 

“The city has now taken a step back in its level of transparency,” the report stated. “There now exists a vacuum of information for residents in understanding the rationale behind why and how certain decisions are being made.”

A resolution was passed, which required these meetings – including the Community Planning Advisory Committee (CPAC), the precursor to the LUC – to be video recorded, live-streamed and archived for 2019.

Parnell said when CPAC was dissolved and replaced by the LUC in 2020, staff no longer needed to record or archive the meetings, even though the practice continued until recently.

“Staff noticed the discrepancy in providing archived video recordings for only one committee earlier this year when preparing for all committees to begin their new terms,” Parnell said. “As there was no applicable council direction for recording and archiving LUC meetings, staff made the change to ensure that access to information from all committees was consistent.”

Residents interested in development applications under review can still find information through the city’s website, Engage Port Moody and open council meetings, Parnell added.

When asked why the city was removing, rather than adding, record-keeping features to achieve consistency between committees, Parnell cited potential budgetary impacts.

Lurbiecki voiced other transparency concerns during the first six months of the term.

She said since the committee of the whole was restructured into three separate committees, not a single resident has come to speak during the public input period.

Further criticisms related to reduced speaking times on agenda items for councillors, and moving nearly all council business to consent agendas.

“That is definitely helpful for speeding meetings, but it means that we have not had built in discussions on important issues,” Lurbeicki said. 

By Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 01, 2023 at 10:44

This item reprinted with permission from   Tri-Cities Dispatch   Coquitlam, British Columbia

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