Column: Make your voice heard at public hearing, earn that miracle

Could the public be heeded at the next public hearing?

Yes, miracles can happen if we earn them.

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On Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m., council will hear the public on a new-house massing bylaw. The venue is the council chambers at Richmond City Hall.

At this point, the bylaw (which was supported by all councillors except Carol Day and Harold Steves) best serves the interests of developers and will lead to more mega homes.

The public hearing is a speed bump before the final rubber stamp. If you value neighbourhoods more than mega trophy houses, you will want the bylaw changed first.

For quick impact, go to the online form for public hearings and write “Please use the 3.7 metre ceiling height and the nine metre building height for all new houses.”

Those ample heights (over 12 feet and almost 30 feet) were set, but then fudged. Applied firmly, they’d help put a collar on rampant problems.

If you value trophy houses most, you could write “Please pass the bylaw as is.” I’d still respect you for taking part.

The rest of this column is a brief how-to manual for the public hearing. To check details, I discussed them with Richmond’s manager of legislative services. Thank you, Michelle Jansson!

For a start, get to know the website. Click your way from the “City Hall” tab to “City Council” to “Watch Meetings Online” or “Public Hearings.”

On the “Send a Submission Online” form, use 9280 as the bylaw number. Or email  with “9280 Public Hearing” as the subject.

Submissions are accepted up to the meeting time, 7 p.m. next Tuesday, but send your message much sooner if you can.

You can speak at the public hearing for up to 10 minutes. That applies even if you’ve sent input, but do more than repeat it.

After everyone has spoken, you can speak for three more minutes — with new information.

Speaking well will influence people, even if you’re brief. It’s fine to simply state what’s best in half a minute.

When you practise, visualize yourself at the speakers’ desk. View some of the online video of the July 27 council meeting. You’ll see citizens speak about the new-house massing bylaw in the “Committee of the Whole” part.

Then bring your speaking notes. That will help you recall your points, conserve time and have fun.

Come early. If need be, wait for seats to open up. The new-house bylaw is last on the agenda, and people who’ve come for earlier items will leave when they’re finished.

There will be a handout to pick up as you enter. There may also be a speakers’ list to sign.

Decorum is normal. It’s tacky to shout out, clap or chat during a hearing.

You’ll find more help on my blog. Just google “natural legacies versus waste” to get there.

After earning a miracle, sit back and see what happens.

Jim Wright is president of the Garden City Conservation Society.

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