Those who came to speak Monday at a public hearing for a proposed Clayburn Road-area subdivision had to go home without sharing their opinions after council failed to muster enough members to hear the matter.
Council had been set to hear from the public on a proposal from Rob Delves to subdivide a Christina Place property into five lots.
Four AbbotsfordFirst members had previously declared themselves unable to rule on the matter, so when Coun. Les Barkman called an hour before the meeting to say he couldn’t make it, council was unable to muster the necessary five-person quorum.
That left Mayor Henry Braun to deliver the news.
“I apologize for the fact that you took time out of your busy schedules to be here, and now I’m going to have to tell you we can’t deal with that particular bylaw,” he said. “I don’t know what else I can say to you, other than my apologies.”
The AbbotsfordFirst members – Couns. Sandy Blue, Kelly Chahal, Brenda Falk and Ross Siemens – had recused themselves in mid-May, citing an apprehension of bias because Rob Delves is the brother of Markus Delves, AbbotsfordFirst’s president. Markus and Rob Delves also both work for Quantum Properties, which was listed on the development application.
That recusal had initially delayed council from hearing first reading on the matter in late April, because a scheduled absence would have left the meeting without a quorum then as well.
AbbotsfordFirst Coun. Ross Siemens said the situation was unexpected and the result of what he described as “almost a comedy of errors.”
He said that the project was actually a private project by Rob Delves, and that Quantum wasn’t actually involved. That left Markus Delves unaware that the project was set to come before council, Siemens said.
“When Markus took on the role of president of AbbotsfordFirst, there were no Quantum rezonings,” Siemens said. He said he is confident such mass recusals won’t be a regular occurrence.
Markus Delves told The News Wednesday that he was sorry the public hearing had to be deferred but that it was out of AbbotsfordFirst’s control. Delves said that he, as the president of AbbotsfordFirst, would be asking the city to explore how it can set policies to avoid similar issues in the future.
“These are things the city really hasn’t had to deal with before,” said Delves, referring to the city’s past inexperience with party politics. Other jurisdictions, he said, have been able to function with parties that comprise a majority – and sometimes all – of council.
Asked if the issue had made him reconsider his own position at the head of the local party, he said he is focusing on seeing if what options exist to ensure council isn’t repeatedly left without a quorum.
Three years ago, the city went to the B.C. Supreme Court to get an order permitting five non-AbbotsfordFirst council members who had recused themselves in a matter affecting a campaign donor to vote on a project. Without that vote, council would have been left without a quorum.
The public hearing will be rescheduled.