Those planning to make their case on whether the city should allow a women's treatment centre in the city were blindsided by a recently imposed time limit for tonight's public hearing.
On Friday, the lawyer representing the group of neighbours in the Haldi Road area who oppose the proposed Northern Supportive Recovery Centre for Women received word that Mayor Shari Green had set a five-minute time limit for public presentations on the amendments to the official community plan and zoning bylaws.
According to a letter from Roy Stewart to city legislative clerk Walter Babicz, the public hearings at council meetings are quasi-judicial activities and that the Local Government Act specifies that "those who believe their interest in land is affected by the proposed land use bylaw shall be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard."
Haldi Road Committee member and area resident Jack Nylund said the group was "absolutely shocked" by the restriction.
While he said he doesn't believe the limit was imposed with the objective to stifle the exchange of information, five minutes is also not enough for someone to present the necessary material properly.
"When you prepare your presentation you want to clear, you want to be concise and you want to be complete. When you start trying to jam things in to a short period of time, it doesn't work," said Nylund, who will be addressing council on land use issues. "That's not what you want to do in something that has major impact for a large community and the city as a whole."
Stewart, who will also be making a presentation on behalf of the committee, called the five-minute limit arbitrary.
"If city council fails to act reasonably or fairly in the carrying out of its quasi-judicial function, it exposes itself to a challenge to set aside the matter based on such a breach," he wrote. "If more time is not available, I will seek instructions to initiate legal proceedings on behalf of all those who have not been given a reasonable opportunity to be heard."