For citizens to speak and hear others at a public hearing, they must first be able to see what is being proposed in their community. In District of North Vancouver, even that can be challenging at times, if you believe what Councillor Lisa Muri has to say.
At a council meeting in July, Muri expressed her frustration with public hearing signs that seem to be placed in such a way that they are hidden from the very public that is supposed to see and act on them. Muri said public hearing is part of a certain democratic process, in fact a quasi-judicial meeting required by legislation which can’t be compromised.
“It’s the best opportunity for the community to have their say. “You can’t interchange the process, it has to be respected, it has to have integrity and that is why we live in a democracy,” she said.
Muri said there have been several instances of public hearing signs not being properly placed, but she recently pointed the council towards a sign for a development in the Maplewood area of the district.
“I went down the Maplewood to see the public hearing sign and I couldn’t see it, it was nowhere to be seen. I drive the parkway several times a day but the public hearing sign was nowhere to be seen. So, I backtracked and went up Seymour Boulevard and past Maplewood Farm, and turned left at the T, and then drove down the lane and there I found a public hearing sign attached to the fence on a property line behind a bush,” an exasperated Muri said.
This wasn’t the first time the sign had been placed in such a casual way. She said the Maplewood area development was, in fact, the third time that she had complained for signage.
“The first one was for Emery Place when the public hearing signs were placed in the cul-de-sac on the back behind a maple tree. It took several phones to planning to get that sign moved. The sign for the Whiteley Court public hearing was also placed at the end of the street on a cul-de-sac,” she said.
Muri said in the last four years, the community has received continuous complaints about the illegible public hearing signs. She said citizens have to park their car and then go to the signs to see what is being proposed in the community.
“And now we have to search for the signs to actually even find them,” she added. In December, Muri also brought forward a motion to make the public hearing signs clear and more legible. Muri said she had worked with district staff to create signs that were readable and presented relevant information in a readable format. Her proposal was rejected with a majority vote of the previous council.