Council Meeting – April 27, 2015

The last council meeting of the month is usually a Public Hearing meeting, meaning we start a little early (6:00 instead of 7:00) and we provide Opportunities to be Heard on any pending Bylaws that, as per the Local Government Act require Public Hearings prior to adoption. This month, we had Public Hearings on two projects, one big and one small.

Bylaw 7740 – 318 and 328 Agnes Street

This is a pretty big rental-only development on a vacant lot at Agnes and Merrivale, which puts it kitty-corner to Qayqayt school, pretty much in the center of the City’s growing residential downtown. Two 6-story buildings, comprising 202 residential suites, all market rental. The developments will include a large number of family-sized suites (26 two-bedroom and 36 three-bedroom) and even the one-bedroom suites will be larger that is typically being built today.

The market is looking for this type of rental mix right now, and it supports the City’s Secured Market Rental housing policy, fits within the Downtown Community Plan and the OCP, and meets the objectives of the City’s burgeoning Family-Friendly housing policy. The City’s Advisory Planning commission and Design Panel both supported the development as proposed. Written correspondence on the project was, on balance, supportive.

I am happy to support this type of development in the downtown. My main concern with this property was how it integrates with the surrounding pedestrian infrastructure, seeing as it is locate immediately adjacent to Qayqayt, in a location where lots of people are going to be walking by (and indeed, through) the site every day. The townhouse-type street expression (where people enter their apartments from the front yard, not through the interior of the building) definitely increases the on-street livability and community connection of the building. With people facing the street, the “front yards” are activated, and pedestrians feel more comfortable. This is great, and a new direction for market-rental buildings.

In Public Hearing, we referred the Bylaw to the Council Meeting for Third Reading.

Bylaw 7710 – 223 Queens Ave.

This is a heritage home (1897) on a pretty typical 55 foot lot, with the exceptional depth of 206 feet. The plan is to subdivide the lot such that the back 85 feet of lot become a separate property, with a house that faces an alley that has already been re-classified as a Street and named “Gifford Place”, presumably as the adjacent properties performed similar subdivisions.

The public hearing raised a few concerns about this proposal. The immediate neighbor was concerned about windows staring into the windows of their house (they won’t), and about the grade separation impacting their land. The drawings were not obvious in how the basement suite of the new building would be accessed. After reviewing the drawings and clarifying with the applicant, the grade between properties would be flat, and the 3 foot slope-down is actually in the middle of the applicant property, which should keep it well away from having any effect on the neighbour’s fence. Another nearby neighbour did not like the position of the new property line, but shifting the new building forward on the lot to accommodate a change in property line would intrude onto Gifford Place in such a way that access would be challenging.

There are some concessions given in that this is a Heritage Preservation project. The preserved heritage home will have no off-street parking. Zero. That would never be allowed outside of a heritage conservation project. Simply put, you do not own the street in front of your home, so expecting it will always be available for parking is a bad idea. Secondly, Gifford Place itself is not much of a road, being narrow, with very small setbacks for the existing properties, and no sidewalks whatsoever. It has a name, and homes face it, but it really is not much more than an alley. This makes it a bit challenging for vehicles, but a covenant on the property will assure that there is always a “turn around” spot on the property for cars on the short stub that is Gifford Place to use. When this entire project is taken into account, both the heritage home and the new home will have secondary suites, which puts even a bigger pinch on the parking issues. However, the Advisory Planning Commission, the Queens Park Residents Association, and the Community Heritage Commission all supported the project.

In Public Hearing, we referred the Bylaw to the Council Meeting for Third Reading.

Bylaw 7711 – 223 Queens Ave

This is the Heritage Designation Bylaw for the project above. This makes the house a Designated Heritage Building

In Public Hearing, we referred the Bylaw to the Council Meeting for Third Reading.

After the Public Hearings, we resumed with our regular Council Meeting, including a couple of presentations:

We had a Moment of Silence to mark the National Day of Mourning for workers killed on the job. During my minute, I thought of my High School friend Johnny Hadikin, a guy with a great sense of humour, a penchant for hijinks, and a dream of flying planes, who died way, way too young in a sawmill accident at the age of 25.

We had a proclamation of Multiple Sclerosis Month – which is a good reminder of how Canada has by far the highest incidence of MS in the world, and how after all of these years, we really understand very little about the cause of MS, even when they are starting to find effective treatments to slow the onset.

It was also Public Rail Safety Week, which is rather apropos in a week with another train derailment, but the Week is about raising awareness around safe rail crossings and train/car/pedestrian interactions.

We also had a presentation on the Blue Dot Movement, which is seeking local, provincial, and federal support for the Right to a Clean Environment, which included this video:

I was happy to support this program, and it’s ideals. For those not in the room, here is a complete copy of the Declaration supported by Council:

Whereas New Westminster understands that people are part of the environment, and that a healthy environment is inextricably linked to the well-being of our community;

New Westminster finds and declares that:

1. All people have the right to live in a healthy environment, including:
The right to breathe clean air
The right to drink clean water
The right to consume safe food
The right to access nature
The right to know about pollutants and contaminants released into the local environment
The right to participate in decision-making that will affect the environment

2. New Westminster has the responsibility, within its jurisdiction, to respect, protect, fulfill and promote these rights.

3. New Westminster shall apply the precautionary principle: where threats of serious or irreversible damage to human health or the environment exist, New Westminster shall take cost effective measures to prevent the degradation of the environment and protect the health of its citizens. Lack of full scientific certainty shall not be viewed as sufficient reason for New Westminster to postpone such measures

4. New Westminster shall apply full cost accounting: when evaluating reasonably foreseeable costs of proposed actions and alternatives, New Westminster will consider costs to human health and the environment.

5. By Dec 31st 2015, New Westminster shall specify objectives, targets and timelines and actions New Westminster will take, within its jurisdiction, to fulfill residents’ right to a healthy environment, including priority actions to:
a. Ensure equitable distribution of environmental benefits and burdens within the municipality, preventing the development of pollution “hot spots”;
b. Ensure infrastructure and development projects protect the environment, including air quality;
c. Address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing adaptation measures;
d. Responsibly increase density;
e. Prioritize walking, cycling and public transit as preferred modes of transportation;
f. Ensure adequate infrastructure for the provision of safe and accessible drinking water;
g. Promote the availability of safe foods;
h. Reduce solid waste and promote recycling and composting;
i. Establish and maintain accessible green spaces in all residential neighbourhoods.
New Westminster shall review the objectives, targets, timelines and actions every five (5) years, and evaluate progress towards fulfilling this declaration.
New Westminster shall consult with residents as part of this process.

6. New Westminster will call on the Province of British Columbia to enact a provincial environmental bill of rights to fulfill the right of every resident to live in a healthy environment by supporting favourable consideration of this matter at the Union of BC Municipalities 2015 Convention.

I also support this movement because of the history of the concept of the Pale Blue Dot, which you can read about here, and it should explain what that feature image at the top of this Blog post is. That’s earth, folks.

Finally, we had a presentation on the City’s Waterfront Vision, which you can watch on the video, or I will post about later.

We then dispensed with the Bylaws that were addressed in the earlier Public Hearings, where all three received Third Reading.

Then we had an Opportunity to be Heard on two Bylaws:

DVP 00587, 610 6th Street.

This Development Variance Permit was to modify the signs in front of the Royal City Centre. No-one appeared to speak on this, as the Variance was only to modify a small portion of the existing large signs, the sign was not getting bigger, it was just adding some words to existing panels, with no added lighting.

Council approved the variance, with Councillor Puchmayr opposed.

Bylaw 7739 2015 – closing a portion of Boyne Street

This Bylaw would officially close an unopened piece of Boyne Street so that it can be sold to the adjacent landowner to facilitate a development that has seen Third Reading. A few neighbors wanted to be heard on this, as they were concerned about how this closure would impact their access and an adjacent walkway. It appeared through the discussion that the neighbor’s concerns were addressed by the clarification provided by Staff.

Council Adopted the Bylaw, but not until further down the agenda.

And then onto recommendations from the Committee of the Whole:

Recruitment for Animal Shelter Taskforce

This taskforce is going to oversee the details of the design and planning of the new Animal Shelter on behalf of Council, and comprises members of Council, Staff, and the Public. Council approved the appointment of two Community members, Leona Green and former City Councillor Bob Osterman.

Seniors Advisory Committee

With one Community member not able to attend the Seniors Advisory Committee meetings, we pulled another volunteer in. This town seems to have a LOT of volunteers!

Proposed Amendment to Definition of Commercial School

Zoning Bylaws are sometimes strangely specific in regards to the type of business that can operate in a zone, and there are, more often than not, very good reasons for that specificity. However, our current definition of “Commercial School” does not reflect the current breadth of training that takes place in the increasing number of commercial schools, especially in the heath sector. This edit of the Zoning bylaw reflects this broader group of activities, so it better reflects the current mix of schools in the City, and some who may want to come here to set up shop if there is (as expected) a bit of a Health Care Cluster boom in Sapperton with the long-awaited and hopefully-anticipated not-yet-announced RCH expansion.

Council approved giving the Amendment First and Second Reading, and scheduling a Public Hearing. (see below)

Industrial Building with Caretaker Suite

A proponent wants to build an industrial building on a vacant piece of industrial-zoned land in the City, but wants to include a two bedroom caretaker suite, presumably for security reasons. Our current Zoning Bylaw prohibits Caretaker Suites, which is an uncommon (but not unique) practice in Greater Vancouver. This is the beginning of the Development Permit process, and there are many steps including committee review and public hearing. The Report was received for information.

Queens Park Neighbourhood Heritage Study

This is just an update on the good work being done by a group of engaged volunteers and City staff from the Queens Park Neighbourhood to look at strategies and opportunities to protect heritage assets in Queens Park better than we have been doing. This was just an update report, but it looks like a good set of principles are being developed, and we can expect some solid recommendations to come out of the group later in the year.

Parkade Demolition

I have said enough about this project, and don’t want to belabor the point. It is good to see that the initial budget estimates for the work were in line with the budgets that came back from the tender process. It is time to move forward.

2015 Tax Rates Bylaw

Coming out of the 5-Year Financial Plan, we now need to pass a Bylaw to support the tax increase required to support it. Council moved to send the Bylaw, which calls for a 2.42% increase in Property Taxes, to receive Three Readings. I have been blogging about taxes, and will cover increases (in Part 3, I suppose), so I will hold off on commenting too much now.

Uptown BIA Parcel Tax Bylaw

The businesses in Uptown New Westminster volunteered last year to form a Business Improvement Area, and collected fee from all businesses (based on the footage of storefront) to fund streetscape improvements and business promotion in the Uptown. The process to create a BIA is described in Section 215 of the Community Charter, and it is important to note that municipal taxpayers outside of the BIA do not contribute at all the BIA. The BIA is 100% self-funded by the member businesses, but many of the benefits that come from the BIA, especially streetscape improvements, benefit all of the community.

Council approved sending this Bylaw to three readings.

Downtown BIA Parcel Tax Bylaws

Same story, but Downtown this time, and as there are two Downtown BIAs covering slightly different areas, there are two Bylaws, both of which Council sent for three readings.

European Chafer Management

It has been, by most reports, a bad year for the European Chafer beetle. Actually, a good year for them, but a bad year for the lawns impacted by them. This is a pest that kills grass lawns with a particular combination shot: the grub stage gets fat eating the roots, then the juicy grubs attract crows, skunks, and raccoons, which tear up the weakened turf to get at them.

If a green grass yard is important to you, then you can apply a natural biological agent to help beat the chafers back. Nematodes are microscopic worm-like bugs, of which there are thousands of species living in pretty much every media on earth, from the sea to the soil to your skin, but a particular species likes to infect and kill chafer grubs. The good part of this application is that the nematodes reproduce inside the grubs, so if you apply them successfully, they should pretty much keep killing grubs until the food source is exhausted, or at least for the full season.

The problem is they are a little expensive, and you need to take some care in how you apply them. The City will help you, though, by subsidizing your purchase of nematodes from local garden suppliers. Besides being a good service to the community, this helps the City out by controlling the spread of the bugs, so we are less likely to have to control them on boulevards and playing fields.

So if there are signs of grubs on your yard, or on your neighbour’s yard, come to City hall, get coupon, go buy some nematodes in July, and kill the nasty bastards while putting a skunk off his dinner.


We received mail, which we received for information, but required no specific action

Then we went through adoption and/or readings of a raft of Bylaws.

7739 2015 – Boyne Street Closure

Adopted. This is now the Law of the Land.

HRA for 708 Cumberland

Adopted. This is now Law of the Land.

Bylaw 7744 2015 regarding Council Procedures for Open Delegations

Adopted. This is now Law of the Land.

Bylaw 7747 2015 – 5-year Financial Plan

Adopted. This is now Law of the Land.

Three BIA Parcel Tax Bylaws

All received 3 readings. I count that as 9 readings total. It was exhausting.

Tax Rate Bylaw 7751 2015

Received Three Readings.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw 7756 2015

This passed two readings, and a Public Hearing will be held on May 25th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

And we were done a night’s work.

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