The public meeting in Summerland regarding the proposed Agricultural Land Reserve Land Swap was a disaster.
By 7 p.m. when the meeting was scheduled to begin, there were 47 members of the public locked out of the arena, unable to sign up on the speakers list, unable to be seen as interested parties in the argument, either for or against.
The number of persons prevented to access this public hearing ebbed and flowed for over an hour after the meeting commenced. No one in, no one out.
That’s pretty effective silencing when you think about it.
Yes, the fire marshal needs to uphold public safety by maintaining control of seating at the venue. But to hold a single meeting at a 225 capacity venue is silly, certainly when the petition against this proposal has over 2,000 signatures on it.
Is it legal for Summerland council to close a subject when there are that many persons who have not been given the opportunity to speak and voice their concerns or opinions?
Truthfully, no council member can honestly claim a fair and open-to-the-public hearing when such a situation occurs.
Locking the public out of a public meeting constitutes a non-public meeting.
Summerland council needs to allow this issue to be discussed. If one were to do the math, a 225-person venue would require 10 nights of meetings in order to properly and respectfully hear the concerns of (at least) the 2,000 persons who signed the petition.
This is not democracy.
But it is likely not democracy that has determined this ALR Land Swap in the first place, if one is to honestly look at the available residential building sites within Summerland proper such as the old RCMP building site, the vacant and bare Kelly Kare site across from the town park which is an excellent executive condo location, or even the now-abandoned packing house site in the very centre of the town.
There’s no need to rezone any agricultural land when these sites are more readily available, more centrally located, and more appropriate for increasing the town’s population and economic flow.
What happened at the meeting only shows how Summerland council has effectively stopped their ears, and simultaneously plugged the mouths of too many members of the public.
This was not a fair or reasonable public hearing. Offer the public more chances to speak out. Book some more hearings, and hear what the public has to say.
That would be the fair and democratic thing to do.