Confusion over how a past meeting ended caused Lantzville council to have to cancel this week’s meeting.
On Monday, Feb. 20, Lantzville councillors voted 4-3 in favour of postponing their committee of the whole meeting in order to seek a legal opinion about whether they could vote on a motion that was not voted on in a previous COW meeting. Councillors Bob Colclough, Will Geselbracht and Dot Neary voted against the motion.
The issue stems from a committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 18, when Lantzville councillors voted in favour of a series of motions that paved the way for changes to the district’s draft OCP. But before councillors voted on adopting the changes into the OCP, they voted not to extend the meeting past 10 p.m., resulting in a situation in which councillors agreed to make changes but did not officially adopt those changes.
Lantzville COW meetings are scheduled to end at 10 p.m. and councillors must vote to extend the meeting beyond that time.
Councillors were expected to discuss official community plan changes on Monday night, but instead they ended up discussing procedure as there was some confusion around whether decisions made on Dec. 18 were still valid or voided because councillors had agreed to end the meeting.
Trudy Coates, the district’s director of corporate administration, told councillors that motions that are not voted on at meetings end up carrying over to the next meeting.
“It is business that you were in the middle of doing,” she said. “It’s the same as if you had to leave for an urgent matter, like say the [council] building was on fire, it is still unfinished business,” she said. “In this case the meeting ended because … it went past 10 p.m. and you didn’t vote to extend it.”
Coun. Dot Neary said she believed that decisions made at the Dec. 18 were still on the table over because councillors did not vote to cancel or void the decisions made in the meeting, but simply to end or pause it at 10 p.m.
“I would expect that the motion remains on the table,” Neary said.
However, Lantzville Mayor Colin Haime disagreed, believing that decisions made on Dec. 18 were voided because the meeting had ended.
“Boy, that is a new one for me,” he said.
Speaking to the News Bulletin afterward, Coates said the district is not pursuing a legal opinion at the moment because after Monday’s meeting Mayor Haime sent out an e-mail to staff and council agreeing with Coates and Neary’s understanding of the procedure.
“He did send out an e-mail … confirming that, yes, the motion would still be on the floor,” she said, adding that another COW meeting will be scheduled but no date has been confirmed.
Mayor Haime told the News Bulletin on Tuesday it wasn’t until after the meeting that he was able to verify that staff were correct. He said during the council meeting he believed the decisions made on Dec. 18 were not carried over into the meeting, adding that he opted to vote in favour of getting a legal opinion because he had conflicting information and wanted to seek advice from an alternate source.
“The advice from staff, although it is in conflict with the agenda they prepared, the advice about the survival of that motion is correct,” he said.
Haime said during his review of the agenda with staff, the focus was on the topics on the agenda, not process and procedure. He said he cannot recall a time where a meeting ended because councillors were not willing to extend the meeting.
Coun. Denise Haime, who made the motion to get a legal opinion, said she did so because she was confused, citing staff’s admission that the motion at hand should have been listed as unfinished business on the agenda.
“On such an important such as this … I think we had to protect the residents and get a legal opinion for the motion on the floor,” she said.
Coun. Will Geselbracht told the News Bulletin that he voted against getting a legal opinion because it was ludicrous and staff clearly indicated that the Dec. 18 meeting never ended with the sense that all decisions made in the meeting were voided.
“It’s just one more delay,” he said.
District staff confirmed that a meeting to discuss the OCP is being planned for early March. Nothing has been scheduled yet.