Mayor Lois Jackson's office released the findings of an outside legal opinion last Friday that says councillors and candidates can state their opinions on the Southlands, but they can't take it too far.
According to Bill Buholzer of Young & Anderson, council mem-bers are entitled to hold opinions about matters that may come before them in a public hearing, and to publicly state those opinions.
However, if they do so in a manner that indicates they have prejudged the matter to the extent that what they hear at a hearing cannot affect their views, they run the risk of having their participation in the hearing challenged on the basis of bias.
The mayor was also told she was correct in telling Century Group president Sean Hodgins that councillors must enter any public hearing with an open mind.
The mayor recently announced she was seeking a legal opinion because she was concerned a councillor, or council candidate, might jeopardize a possible public hearing by making state-ments during the campaign in this November's civic election.
Jackson got some heat from opponents who claimed she was trying to stifle debate when it comes to the Southlands, but the mayor told the Optimist she simply wanted everyone to be clear and on the same page.
She said she wanted to ensure a landowner or developer couldn't claim they weren't afforded a fair process due to bias.
Hodgins' proposal for the contentious Southlands includes 950 housing units and turning over 80 per cent of the more than 500-acre property to Delta, most of it earmarked for small-scale agriculture.
For the complete legal opinion, visit www.deltaoptimist.com.