The third official Council meeting of the term occurred on January 19th. As per usual I will skip the Presentations and Open Delegations (hey, these posts are too long already), jump right into the meat of the agenda, which starts with the Recommendations from the Committee of the Whole from the afternoon:
OUR CITY Visioning Advisory Group
Last meeting, we talked about the OCP public engagement process that we are all-capping as OUR CITY, and the upcoming visioning process that will be happening on Valentine’s Day Weekend. The Visioning Advisory Group is a committee of people who want to play cupid for the City and help with the visioning process. Some were nominated by their Neighborhood Residents’ Associations, others signed up during a call for volunteers. The group represents all of the neighbourhoods on New Westminster, with some newer residents and some multi-generational residents, younger and older folks, quite a few people who work or run businesses in the City (i.e. not just residents).
Through either the RA appointment, or through the volunteer process, we found that two neighbourhoods were not represented: Queensborough and Connaught Heights. Although this OCP update will not strictly include Queensborough (as the Queensborough Community Plan was just adopted, and will be integrated with this pan), we thought it would be good to at least have one representative because many of the amenities and infrastructure on the north side of the river are still important to QB residents. A volunteer from Queensborough was identified, and we asked staff to reach out to the Connaught heights RA to see if they can locate a volunteer for us to use up.
I only know about half of the people on the lists, but the half I do know should make for a great, creative discussion about the future of the City.
Housing Affordability Taskforce
This is a newly-developed task force to address one of the four priority areas outlined by Mayor Coté in his in inaugural address to the City. Council is formally approving the Terms of Reference for the Taskforce.
The focus of this Taskforce will be to bring partners in senior governments and service agencies together with the City to identify initiatives to make housing more affordable in New Westminster – from no-profit and supportive housing to market housing directed at lower and moderate income households, and protecting the rental stock in the City. The goal will be to develop a final report in time to inform the OCP process, so that key policies or ideas can be integrated into the OCP process.
OCP Review Consultations
The Official Community Plan isn’t just a guidance document to make the City feel good, it is a requirement under the Local Government Act. Sections 875 to 884 of the Act outline the requirements for an OCP, and included in that is consultation with affected parties outside of the City – the Regional District, the neighboring municipalities, etc. The City has some flexibility to determine who is affected and who is not (and, as we recently learned from the Langley Township example, it ultimately may not matter at all if a City ignores the concerns of all of these external stakeholders).
This report simply asks Council to endorse the agencies that Staff have determined require consultation in the process under the Act, and includes a request from Fraser Health to be involved (which is, IMO, a good idea!)
DVP 00586 – 1025 Columbia Street
I’m not sure if you noticed, but New Westminster is home to a Save-on-Foods or two. Or three. Or is it four? I have frankly lost count. However the new location in Columbia Square is relatively low-visibility, especially to people travelling by it’s back side on Royal Avenue. The owner would like to put a sign on the side of their building so that persons travelling eastbound on Royal Avenue will know they are driving past a Save-on-Foods. This sign does not meet the strict language of the current Sign Bylaw, so a Development Variance Permit is required. This is the start of that process.
Development Permit Application – 200 Nelson Crescent
This is the proposal to develop the first residential tower at the Brewery District. If you are a follower of Twitter in #NewWest, you are probably aware of some of the history of this project.
Council moved to have this project brought the February 2nd Regular Meeting of Council for formal consideration. I’ll reserve my comments until that date.
Mayor’s Task Force on Transportation
This is yet another task force addressing one of the four priority areas outlined by Mayor Coté in his in inaugural address to the City. Council is formally approving the Terms of reference for the Taskforce.
Transportation is, was, and always will be issue #1 in New Westminster. We are also dealing with major transportation issues locally and across the region right now: implementation of our new Master Transportation Plan; the upcoming Plebiscite on the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan; potential reconfiguring of the Pattullo Bridge and Brunette overpass; and the continued concerns regarding neighbourhood livability and pedestrian safety that dominates the local conversation. The Taskforce will primarily be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the MTP, and prioritizing the goals within it. The Taskforce will report out every 6 months, and will hopefully create achievable but aggressive metrics towards the four targets identified in the MTP:
1. Achieving 50% mode share for sustainable modes by 2031;
2. Stopping the increase in regional through-traffic;
3. Reducing average car-length trips by 35% by 2041;
4. Ending traffic-related fatalities in the City.
I am looking forward to getting moving on this! (puns. the lowest form of humour)
Moody Park Dog Off-Leash Area
The City has a wide variety of off-leash parks, some better than others. Over the summer we heard from a group of residents in the Moody Park area that the Brow of the hill/Moody Park/Uptown area is underserved in this, which is interesting in that those areas have some of the highest proportion of people living in multi-family housing, and are less likely to have a back yard for Bowzer to do his running-around-barkin’-and-sniffin’ thing. I commute regularly through Moody Park, and stopped to chat with a group of dog owners who had their own informal meet-up between the ballfield fences every afternoon.
I’m glad to report that Parks is now entertaining not if they should put an off-leash area in Moody, but where it should go. The summer was spent on consultation, and the public opinion (where less than 10% were opposed to any off-leash area at all), the Parks and Rec Committee, and staff all have the same preferred site.
We heard from two delegations (and received correspondence from the same two persons) at this meeting who opposed this choice. They indicated that the majority of members who attended the last Moody Park Residents Association meeting did not approve of the proposed location. Their complaints were several, which I will try to address here:
Too close to the Kids Play area: The park is actually a good 25 metres from the kids playground and spray park, and will be fenced. Dogs in parks are going to be within 25m of kids, that’s the reality. If your dog cannot be safely across a fence and 25m from kids playing, then perhaps public parks are not the place for it. The proximity between the two amenities may actually be an advantage to young families who have pets, though.
Too small and too treed: The dog park will be 1800 square metres, with the hypotenuse of the roughly trianglular footprint almost 100m long. Although we only have one smaller dog park in New West, and the trees might indeed reduce the total tossing length for your tennis ball, this was the biggest option for Moody Park, which is a crowded and over-programmed urban park.
Location at key entrance: This was actually my concern as well; the last thing we want is an ugly 6-foot chainlike fence marking the entrance to the park at one of our busiest intersections. However Parks staff assured pointed out the park is actually set back from the “gateway” to the park, and the fence will be a lower, wrought-iron-style black fence that should blend in well with the entrance architecture and the trees of the park.
Fundamentally, this has been a long process to get where we are, and I am satisfied the public consultation was comprehensive and representative. The need for a fenced off-leash area in Moody Park was identified as one of the key recommendations in the 2014 Dog Off-Leash Management Plan developed after extensive consultation. Indeed, some of the issues raised by the correspondence and delegation are also concerns identified in that plan (improve amenities within fenced parks, looking at much larger un-fenced off-leash parks so larger dogs can really run), which is why I suggested that the conversation about what dog owners in the Moody Park area (and in other parts of the City) does not end with this park being built. I do not want another year of consultation to prevent the majority of people already surveyed from getting the Dog Park they have been asking for.
Bylaws for Adoption
The Engineering User Fees Bylaw that saw three readings last meeting was adopted. Law of the land, folks.