Lantzville development documents no longer accessible

Ryeland and Foothills project plans removed from public record.

Those wishing to view two development applications slated for Lantzville are now out of luck.

Development applications for the Ryeland Properties and Foothills Phase 1 projects are no longer accessible to members of the public. The decision to pull the applications from public record was made earlier this month by the District of Lantzville.

At Monday’s council meeting, motions that would have made the development applications public once again were defeated.

District of Lantzville interim chief administrative officer, Fred Manson, told councillors that approving the motions would potentially create the opportunity for people to pressure staff or council during the administrative process. He cited Section 153 of the Community Charter, which states that a person cannot interfere with the duties of an employee of a municipality.

“To advance such a proposal to make this available to the public is setting ourselves up for people to be petitioning, even council, to put pressure on staff in the administrative process in reviewing a development application or rezoning,” he said.

Coun. Denise Haime, who was in favour of the motions, said she found it “odd” that until a week ago those applications were perfectly fine for the public to view.

“Talking to past consultants, they have said they are public documents and anyone can go in and look at them,” she said.

Coun. Will Geselbracht said the release of the applications to the public is illegal.

“We open ourselves up to massive lawsuits by developers, who could say ‘you’re releasing that information before the application has been dealt with and changes made, you’re out there politicking in the community against something that hasn’t even been given birth yet.’ My God, big lawsuits,” he said.

Geselbracht said the district should play it safe.

“The way to protect that is to follow the Community Charter, the Freedom of Information Act, which states, once again, that those parties would have to be contacted in order to release any of that information and that hasn’t been done,” he said. “There has been a big breach of confidentiality.”

Coun. Bob Colclough said development applications can change all the time during the review process and should not be made available to the public until the application has been fully reviewed and gone to council.

“Why would you want to be putting out multiple applications to the residents when they may be concerned or upset or they may spend time or energy looking at it, when it is really irrelevant,” he said.

Coun. John Coulson said the decision to remove the applications from the public was wrong.

“This is a gross step backwards in transparency,” he said.

In the end, council voted in favour of having staff create a policy relating to releasing development applications documents to the public.

Speaking to the News Bulletin afterwards, Manson said documents were taken away because they had not gone through proper “administrative” processs, adding that taking the documents away from the public is a “procedural” matter and that they will return when the time is right, though there is no time frame.

“All of that information eventually will become public when it is appropriate for the document to go in front of council, a finished, completed, application with everything vetted in accordance to the district’s policies and bylaws to the extent that is appropriate for council to make a decision,” Manson said.