What is the Public Engagement Guidebook and why is it being developed?

    In 2016, Regional Council directed staff to update our engagement practices to make sure we’re engaging in a consistent way.  The Public Engagement Guidebook will help staff engage in a way that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible. We want to make sure people can participate in way that is user-friendly and that we respond to changing situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What else is happening?

    In April 2023, we brought forward a report to introduce a new administrative order to: 

    • set minimum standards for public engagement;
    • set requirements for engaging with neighbouring municipalities; and
    • direct how the Public Engagement Guidebook should be used to develop public participation programs.

    As part of that report, we are updating the existing community plans and land use by-laws, as shown in the summary table, to ensure that the engagement requirements are consistent across HRM.  

    A public hearing for the planning document amendments will take place on May 23, 2023.  Please visit the landing page for further details on how to participate.

    Will the Public Engagement Guidebook be applied to the design stages of transportation infrastructure? How will this process be documented?

    The Public Engagement Guidebook was created for use by the Planning and Development Department which includes strategic transportation planning.  However, we see that the Guidebook is flexible and could be adapted to other departments such as Parks and Recreation and Public Works. Public engagement is documented through staff reports to Council.

    Will the public engagement process for variances be reviewed and updated to include notification of all residents, not just homeowners?

    The Province established the requirements for the variance process through the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter.  The Charter (Section 251) states that a notice of a variance is granted to assessed property owners within a certain distance.  The Municipality does not have the authority to change this requirement under the Charter.   The required distance for variance notification was increased to 100 metres, as directed through Administrative Order 2016-004-ADM.  

    As planning documents are reviewed and updated, and become more comprehensive, the plans may better reflect the community’s and Council’s goals and objectives.   This process has been undertaken with the approval of the Centre Plan.  The Suburban and Rural Plans will need to undergo similar exercises to update the community plans and regulations with a more current vision of how communities should grow.

    Where are we in the process and what are the next steps?

    On August 9, 2022, staff brought forward a report for the Planning and Development Public Engagement Guidebook (Guidebook) which was considered by Council.  As part of the process, a new Administrative Order will be created and existing planning documents have been reviewed for consistency.  

    We brought forward a staff report to approve the Administrative Order and proposed changes to the planning documents.  We collected online feedback on the proposed changes from September 16th to October 7th, 2022.  

    A public hearing for the amendments to the planning documents will be held on May 23, 2023.  Please visit the landing page for details on how to participate.