The Planning department will start holding its meetings with the home building industry in public forums.
By Ryan McGreal
Published December 12, 2014
The City's Planning Department is retiring its current practice of holding private monthly meetings with the home building industry. Instead, planners and home builders will meet in two annual forums that are open to the public.
Back in September, Citizens At City Hall (CATCH) posted an article on the cosy relationship between the Hamilton Halton Home builders Association (HHHBA) and staff from the City's Department of Planning and Economic Development.
The home builders lobby group has enjoyed monthly private meetings with planners for years, and neither agendas nor minutes are published. When CATCH asked to observe the meetings, the city denied their request.
This kind of arrangement may be common across municipalities, but it's also common that developers, and particularly suburban home builders, seem to wield outside influence on planning policies and decisions. In any case, the optics are terrible.
The good news is that this will be changing in the new year. Last Tuesday's Planning Committee meeting closed with an update from Jason Thorne, the General Manager of Planning and Economic Development:
I just want to advise Committee of some changes we've made to the structure and format of our liaison group with the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association. We had in the past been meeting on approximately a monthly basis with the group. Going forward, in consultation with the Home Builders Association, we have a new - we're putting in place a new structure.
We're going to have twice per year a public forum with the development industry where we would have our staff present on some key issues that are of interest to the development community, and presentations from the development industry as well, in a forum that is open to any member of the public to attend. We'll of course advise committee members if they would like to attend as well and observe those presentations.
We don't yet have a firm date as to when the first one will be. We're aiming for some time in February and we're meeting shortly with the Home Builders to devise an agenda for that. So we'll be doing that twice per year going forward.
In a follow-up email reply, Thorne confirmed that the biannual public forums are replacing the monthly private meetings.
This is a really encouraging step for the department to take. Planning policy affect all of us, and it's exciting to see staff take an important step away from the old way of doing business, in which too many decisions were made behind closed doors.
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