Many people lined up to speak at the packed public hearing on the controversial rezoning application in Cowichan Bay last March. (File photo)

Editorial: CVRD puts expedience above transparency

It is incredibly shady that this information is being kept from the public.

It boils down to this: there is new information and everyone should be allowed to look at it.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District board has made a decision that seems to be putting expedience above transparency. At a meeting last week the board voted 7-2 to proceed with the controversial zoning amendment for Crown leases at Westcan Terminal in Cowichan Bay. The proponent wants the zoning change so an industrial business that has been operating there for years is in compliance. Opponents want to limit industrial use of the area, concerned with the environmental impacts. The zoning amendment will now proceed for consideration of third reading and adoption.

It shouldn’t. A report on stormwater runoff has generated new information. The board has refused to look at this information. If they do, you see, they’d have to go back to another public hearing, as new information cannot be considered after a public hearing has occurred. Not only have they declined to see the new information, they’ve declined to release it at this time, making it so nobody can see it until after the zoning decision is a done deal.

We cannot understand why they are choosing to make this decision blind. We have no idea if the information in the report is particularly relevant or would sway anyone’s opinion. And the CVRD board doesn’t either — which is the point. The only thing that is clear is that there is a huge question mark now hanging over the zoning decision that wasn’t there before. There could be information that would help one side or another in the contentious decision make its case. One would think that the last thing the CVRD would want is to find out after they’ve cast their votes that there’s something that would have changed everything. Aside from that, it is incredibly shady that this information is being kept from the public. Local governments must act with transparency foremost in their minds. This is the antithesis of that principle.

We know it’s a pain to hold another public hearing, especially when it could be nothing. But it could also be something, and we all need to find out.

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