When neighbours can’t work it out

Campbell Hills Guest Ranch. (campbellhills.com)

Campbell Hills Guest Ranch. (campbellhills.com)

In an ideal world, we’d all get along with our neighbours but that’s not always the way it works. Sometimes, they simply disagree on the way the other lives, and often authorities have to sort it out and make a decision.

Yesterday (Thursday), the TNRD board sat for two hours on a public hearing involving an attempt to resolve a disagreement between the owners of the Campbell Hills Guest Ranch and land owners surrounding the ranch in the Campbell Lake area south of Kamloops.

Those opposing the ranch’s intention to host wedding receptions argued at some length about a list of concerns that included loud noise, impact on cattle and wildlife, trespassing, and traffic.

As I said when I spoke to the matter during board discussion, this wasn’t a case of good guys vs. bad guys. Martin and Bernadette Creutz-Lechleitner, who own the ranch, simply want to supplement the income derived from agri-tourism that depends largely on accommodation and horseback riding with the wedding receptions.

They responded to the noise concern by committing to make sure the music was kept inside the ranch building rather than outside. They acknowledged that a reception held last August was noisy, resulting in complaints from the neighbours. They also acknowledged that they hadn’t been aware when they developed the property that wedding receptions weren’t allowed under the zoning.

The neighbours, on the other hand, wanted to protect their rural lifestyle from the intrusions they felt the weddings represented.

While it was obviously an emotional issue for all concerned, I was impressed by the civil tone of the differences. After listening to the presentations, I was persuaded that the concerns were legitimate and was not persuaded that they could be mitigated, so I voted against a temporary use permit that would have allowed the Campbell Hills Guest Ranch to hold five wedding receptions per year for a period of three years. The majority of the board voted the same way.

One thing that isn’t always understood about public hearings is that they aren’t about counting up the number of people for and against an issue and then making a decision based on what most people want. It’s about listening to the points that are being made and the information presented.

Many of the presentations Thursday were repetitive but board Chair John Ranta did an excellent job of handling the hearing. He explained that the goal of a public hearing is to make sure everyone is able to speak. This sometimes involves allowing people to speak more than once and, basically, the hearing goes on until everyone has said everything they want to say.

The board members were fully engaged with the presenters, asking good questions based on expanding their information and understanding of the issue. Our job as board members at a public hearing is to listen and to ask, not to debate with presenters.

After the public has spoken, the board goes into a separate part of the agenda to debate amongst itself and to ask staff for clarification on certain points.

It’s unfortunate when neighbours can’t find a compromise solution amongst themselves but I’m confident no one left the public hearing feeling he or she wasn’t able to fully explain their positions.

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