Rezoning public hearing cost $1.3M, city says

Day 1 of the public hearing on blanket rezoning drew a packed gallery at council chambers. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)

The City of Calgary says it spent over $1.2 million on costs related to the public hearing on the blanket rezoning bylaw.

It was the city's largest public hearing, lasting for several weeks and including multiple 12-hour days, 736 speakers and 238 panels. After the hearing, council passed the bylaw with amendments by a vote of 9-6.

Costs to prepare the public hearing totalled $945,000, while costs of the public hearing itself came to $330,000, according to a report prepared by city administration.

Mailouts to Calgarians made up nearly half of the combined price tag, coming in at $590,000, while overtime salaries and wages for administration staff both before and during the hearing amounted to $396,000.

Meetings and meals cost a further $56,000.

Administration prepared the report outlining the costs of the public hearing based on a direction from city council.

'The cost of democracy'

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she was glad the city was being transparent about costs.

"The cost of democracy is what it is," said Gondek, speaking to reporters on Tuesday.

"We enabled, encouraged and allowed Calgarians to come forward and share their thoughts with us. They were able to express concerns that they had. They were able to talk about their experiences. And you can't ask for a better environment for council to make a decision."

Coun. Sonya Sharp said she was not happy with the price tag.

"[It's] a lot of money considering a plebiscite to add that to an election, I think it's $50,000," she said.

Holding a plebiscite on the rezoning bylaw was an option council considered before it went ahead with the public hearing.

"I think it's important that we have these costs associated with the rezoning because it was so controversial," Sharp added.

Coun. Terry Wong said the reported costs point to what the city could have done differently.

"Could the engagement process been been much more collaborative, much more informative? Could we make some changes in our engagement policy so that, you know, the work that was done over 90 days of engagement could have been abbreviated into such that we didn't have to have … weeks of public hearing?"

Administration said it's planning to provide council with regular updates on how the upzoning process is going.