Now that the Hastings Council has accepted Andy Lowe’s application for a proposed private plan change enabling extensive development of Ocean Beach, the next round of public consultation is about to begin.

Those opposed to building 1000 dwellings and supporting infrastructure on Ocean Beach need to gird their loins and prepare for this next stage of debate.

Philip McKay, who is managing the application and submissions process for HDC, outlined the next steps in a recent interview with BayBuzz. Here is our take-away …

1. In mid-January (possibly January 12 or 19), HDC will formally put forward the public notification for submissions on the plan change. This will commence a window for public submissions that will end February 29 (it’s a Leap Year). This window is longer than the mandatory 20 working days under the RMA, given the complexity and controversiality of the proposal.

2. The Council may make its own submission(s) during this window. Council submission(s) could be administrative in nature and/or express a substantive position or alternative to the plan change as proposed.

What this suggests is that a brief window of opportunity will exist for the public to once again seek to influence the Council’s stance on the development of Ocean Beach. With five new Councillors, and a misunderstood (she says) Cynthia Bowers possibly prepared to redeem her past “mis-voting,” it would appear a majority might be on hand to support a more restrictive position on OB development.

One would hope the Council will put the matter on its agenda for open debate sometime in the January-February window. But there’s no guarantee this will happen. More on this below.

3. Once the first round submission window closes on Feb 29, it will take about one month for all submissions to be compiled and summarized in a single document.

4. At that point (for the sake of argument, April 1), a second round of submissions (known as “further submissions”) are invited over a window of one month. Among other things, this affords an opportunity for all sides to challenge or support the earlier submissions of others.

5. Let’s say it’s now May 1. Now a “hearings report” will be prepared that assesses the proposed plan change against the RMA and the submissions. This report will make recommendations for allowing, modifying or rejecting each point of submission. It will be prepared by outside consultants (NWH).

6. Given the likely number and complexity of submissions, preparation of the report could take 4-7 months. So,let’s say we’re now approaching the end of 2008. The report will become the focus of hearings by one or more independent commissioners (probably three, according to McKay, given the public significance of the matter) and will be made available prior to the hearings to all parties — the plan change requestor (Hill Country), all submitters, and the commissioners. The hearings report presents the professional judgment of the consultng planners and, as such, is considered alongside all other “evidence” provided by the plan change requestor and submitters.

Previous submitters who have so requested will be entitled to address the independent commissioners’ hearings.

7. Upon completion of the public hearings, the commissioners will deliberate and render their decision.

8. At that point, any submitter can appeal the decision to the Environment Court within six weeks. Then the lawyers take over.

BayBuzz will be urging HDC Councillors to re-address the Ocean Beach issue in public session during the first round submissions window. The first 2008 meeting of the Development & Environment Committee is set for February 14; the first full Council meeting is set for February 28. We urge others in the community to demand that the new Council debate and vote on the record upon the issues as we enter the “end game” of this decision-making process.

Tom

P.S. Don’t forget to take the latest BayBuzz poll, Tell us … Would you spend this money?

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