The mayor’s committee on public engagement met for the first time Wednesday afternoon in Langley Township council chambers. The committee has three members of council on it

The mayor’s committee on public engagement met for the first time Wednesday afternoon in Langley Township council chambers. The committee has three members of council on it

Better connection with public aim of Langley Township engagement committee

Lengthy and divisive public meetings in recent years led to a new look at how to best engage the public.

The new Mayor’s Standing Committee on Public Engagement is planning to hold at least three town hall-style meetings to hear how Langley residents think communication between Township council and taxpayers could be improved.

The idea was unveiled at the first meeting of the new committee, held in council chambers on Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 11).

The review of the way the community is consulted was promised following the blow-up over a proposed community plan for Brookswood last year that was rejected by council after several drawn-out public hearings dominated by critics.

Mayor Jack Froese told the committee there should be at least three town hall-style meetings held in the Brookswood, Willoughby and Aldergrove neighbourhoods. Exact times and locations will be determined at a future committee meeting.

The mayor also said the committee will be focusing its investigation on the way residents are consulted about community planning, but the changes it proposes could affect other areas.

Froese indicated a radical overhaul of the existing consultation process was unlikely, saying the aim of the exercise was “tweaking” the current system so there is better two-way communication between council and the community.

The meeting opened with a staff report that concluded the Township bylaws and policies governing public engagement “go beyond the minimum requirements of provincial legislation” and added “there is always room for improvement when it comes to public engagement and community consultation.”

The committee voted to hire an outside consultant to assist with the review and provide an unbiased perspective. It also approved a survey of other municipalities to see how they handle public consultation.

Committee member and Councillor Michelle Sparrow said however the process is adjusted, it won’t eliminate controversy.

“There will be people who think council’s done the right thing, there will be people who think council’s done the wrong thing,” Sparrow said.

Committee member Dale Ball, of the Brookswood Merchants Village Association, said it appears a “them and us” attitude has developed in the community.

“You have to work on developing trust,” Ball said.

“People have to see that their input has been listened to,” Ball added.

More than 20 people sat in the audience for the two-hour meeting, including some involved in recent battles over community planning and a number of council members who are not on the committee.

The committee has adopted a schedule that aims for a report to council by the end of June.

The next committee meeting will be held Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. in the Township civic facility at 20338 65 Ave.

The meetings are open to the public.