Unlike a hearing, a mediation meeting includes only the parties to a matter or those directed by the board to attend. An OMB Member(s) guides the meeting, and all parties try to reach an agreement on some or all of the issues in dispute.
If the dispute is resolved, the OMB can often give a decision that day. If an agreement is not reached at mediation, the OMB will schedule a public hearing at its office or in a location such as a municipal office or community centre that is easily accessible to local citizens.
The OMB may hold a preliminary meeting of the parties and participants before a hearing, especially if the matter in dispute is expected to be long or complicated. Pre-hearings can help make hearings more efficient by:
- identifying issues, parties and participants
- organizing complicated hearings
- determining what documents should be exchanged, and
- determining procedures before and during the hearing.
OMB Members conduct hearings. These hearings are less formal than a court proceeding but more formal than a committee or council meeting. For example, when you give your evidence you must swear or affirm to tell the truth and other parties may ask you questions (cross-examine you).
The witness must prove that all evidence, including written documents and photographs, is valid before it can be admitted.
If the hearing is complex, it may involve lawyers, many witnesses and lengthy presentations. In addition to local residents and concerned citizens, parties sometimes call expert witnesses in land use planning and other disciplines to testify about an issue. All witnesses are placed under oath.
A hearing can be as brief as a couple of hours if it involves few witnesses and only one or two planning issues. In more complex situations, the hearing could last several days or weeks. When the hearing is expected to last more than a week, the Board may hold a pre-hearing.
Note: An expert witness is an individual who has scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge.