In Mayor Larry Cross’ time on the Sidney political scene, never has he seen such an emotional reaction as Monday night’s.
“I’ve never let something like that go ahead,” he said Tuesday. “It was hard to control it.”
About 60 residents booed, sneered, shouted and threatened legal action after council approved its zoning bylaw in a 5-1 vote. (Coun. Melissa Hailey was absent.)
Cross called the reaction, especially interruptions while councillors spoke, disrespectful.
The crowd came in response to a campaign by First Street resident Ray Headrick and neighbours who sought to inform others about possible effects of the zoning bylaw. In some cases, rezoning will make properties non-conforming, such as where properties with single-family houses will be automatically rezoned to multifamily use.
Headrick said, and Coun. Tim Chad who voted against the bylaw agreed, this could impact a property owner’s chances at getting a mortgage, ability to make structural changes or additions and get insurance.
Several residents stepped up to address council, but according to laws in the community charter, council wasn’t allowed to take feedback on the zoning bylaw issue. Instead, many expressed their anger over lack of communication about what the changes would mean.
Comments from residents got heated.
“Why don’t we just stop right now, because you’re not about to listen,” Headrick said to Cross.
“I’m very sad to see your attitude toward the people who live here,” Murray Pettinger added.
Jeers and shouting toward council prompted Cross to nearly end public input, but he relented.
“I was a resident that submitted my objections to this particular issue before the deadline,” Debbie Sherwood said. “Don’t you think that more effort should have been made to reach out to homeowners, particularly those who are negatively affected?”
Cross then closed the public participation without asking for more speakers.
“I believe we have a situation of unintended consequences,” Chad said. Public notices “have worked well until now. We have assumed that all our notices have reached our residents. At this time I no longer believe they did.”
Cross said on Tuesday that council could have voted against the bylaw and started over with more open houses and public hearings. Moving ahead was the right decision, he said.
“The idea here is we’ve got a general document which we think is really good. We were concerned about what appears to be, from our perspective, the misunderstandings or misinformation people are operating on.”
Cross encouraged concerned residents to “contact our office, speak to a planner. They can explain clearly what it means and what it doesn’t mean.”
For Headrick, the push against the rezoning “isn’t over. We got the point across and the council and mayor revealed their true colours, [but we’re] not sure where to go from here.”
• Original article: Sidney considers new housing rules