Council report – Sept 28, 2015

Council on Tour (which is looking like it is going to last longer than the Who’s retirement tours) continued with us meeting in Sapperton for the first time, at the Sapperton Pensioner’s Hall.

There was an extended Public Hearing on the 4th tower at Plaza 88. Short version is that Council supported the revised plan with some conditions on managing how the building integrates with the rest of Plaza 88. I think this will deserve its own blog post, so I will not expand on the comments I made at the meeting Council (see the video here) in this post, but will hold off so I can flesh it out a little better.

At the regular meeting, we started with passing the two recommendations that came from the Public Hearing, then had Opportunity to be Heard on two variance requests:

302 5th Street
This request to build a garage taller than permitted in the zoning made sense to me. They have a unique house (Dutch Colonial style), and to make the garage fit with the roofline of the house and make sense architecturally, it need to be taller than specifically permitted. The neighbours are not opposed, and the upper space will be designed to not be living space, but with a truss system that will prevent it from being converted to an illegal living space. I had no reason to oppose this reasonable request.

1258 Ewen Ave
This relatively minor variance (10 inches), would allow the building to match the scale and mass of the building right next door. The Residents’ Association reviewed and approved the request, and with no-one speaking against it, I have no reason to oppose this request.

Following that business, we moved on to the Consent Agenda, where the following was passed without comment:

Amendment to the 2015 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
Yes, Council on the Road continues. It appears that City Hall Renovations are (surprise!) delayed a bit, and the October 5th meeting will be at the Library. We have also cancelled the meeting on Election Day, so you should be out voting, or helping people vote, instead of sitting around watching Council.

SOP for October 10, 2015: Cyclo Cross in Queens Park!
This was a motion to approve a beer garden license for Queens Park for a bike race. You may not think beer and bike races are a logical connection, but then you don’t know about the sport of Cyclocross. This decidedly Belgian style of cycling involved riding bicycles designed for riding on the road in places where there are not roads. In Belgium, it is usually winter farmer’s fields, in North America it tends to be grassy fields and other such “off road” places. Here is a good intro to what ‘Cross is:

I’m really excited that Caps the Original is bringing a ‘Cross Race to New West. It is as much fun to watch as it is to race, with even the most serious competitors happy to engage in beer (or increasingly bacon) hand-ups, costumes, and general comradery. You should go on October 10 and watch. Rain or shine, but it will be more fun in the rain!

Investment Report
The City has $132 Million in the bank. This is a combination of money we have set aside for special projects (like the eventual Canada Games Pool replacement), money we have collected through DCCs or utility capital funds that are specifically earmarked for capital projects, and strategic reserves there to assure long-term solvency. We earned about $1.8Million in interest on these funds, which is (not surprisingly considering the global trend right now) less than predicted.

Most of our money is saved with the Municipal Finance Authority, which gives us good rates and excellent security, and assures that our money is invested in building communities in British Columbia. Earlier this year, Council recommended asking the MFA to divest from fossil fuels, and we have since been joined by Victoria and other municipalities in this direction. This is an ongoing conversation that will be taken to the MFA general meeting in the spring.

Temporary Borrowing for 2016
The City needs to borrow money sometimes for operations in the short term, and much like a business or household, we run a line of credit to allow that flexibility. We don’t often use it very much, but it is there in the event we need it. The Community Charter says we need to have a bylaw to authorize short-term borrowing, so annually Council has to approve a bylaw like this.

520 Twenty-First Street, Rezoning Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This is a vacant piece of property recently liquidated by the Provincial government next to the Queensborough Bridge. A company wants to build an industrial building on the site to employ people, and because of the type of business they want to run and the somewhat remote location, they want a caretaker suite in the building. We need to change the zoning to allow this. There will be a Public Hearing on October 26, 2015. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

335 Buchanan Avenue – Preliminary Report, Heritage Revitalization Agreement
This is a somewhat unique Heritage Revitalization Agreement project, as the house is not the typical Victorian/Edwardian/Craftsman type most people would think of when they imagine a heritage home. This is a 1937 modern-style home. There will be a Public Hearing about the project, assuming it gets through the few steps before, so I’ll hold my comments until after that.

205 Clinton Place – Preliminary Report, Heritage Revitalization Agreement
A more typical HRA process, in that it is a more typical 1912 house. Again, this will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.

602 Ewen Avenue – Preliminary Report, Rezoning Application
This plan for a townhouse development in Queensborough is at the initial stages. Council approved it moving forward to the next stages.

These things all passed, we then addressed Items Removed from Consent:

Fraser River Discovery Centre
The Fraser River Discovery Centre is, in my mind, a really positive development on the City’s waterfront. As we look at the longer-term goals of the City to develop a waterfront that connects people to the water, it has a role to improve knowledge and appreciation about how that silty band of water defines our City and our province, and helped build our nation.

However, the Centre has had some ongoing sustainability issues, as they have grown and developed over the years. It should be no surprise to any educational not-for-profit that you need to build it for them to come, but the revenue to build it will not arrive until they arrive. The scale and quality of the displays has been steadily improving, and the visits have therefore been increasing. I hope that trend can continue, and the funding model becomes sustainable so the FRDC can stand on its own.

The request was for an increase in the grants the City provides FRDC over the next three years (from $30,800 this year to $60,000 for each of the next three next years). Because of some funding windows with other sponsors that the Centre had to get by, we needed to address this issue outside of the regular grant process. This will include the money they currently receive from various other community grants (Festival, Community, Heritage, and Environment), and comes with the commitment to still make all of the contributions that those grants supported.

I was supportive of this increased support, but from a process standpoint, I don’t like doing a three-year approval outside of the regular granting process. I respect the time-sensitive nature of this year’s request, but the following two years can be addressed this fall with the rest of the grant reviews.

Sapperton Park Refurbishment Public Consultation Overview
I wondered about the timing here. We need to put any changes to Sapperton Park into context of changes at Royal Columbian Hospital and the Economic Health Care Cluster. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Sapperton Park could be re-aligned to better address what will be a very different East Columbia Street – this could include removing the fence, re-orienting the playing fields, etc. I don’t want to do work on the back half of the park without doing a master plan for the entire park.

After the short conversation, I’m satisfied with moving ahead with the consultation, and that Parks has the entire park and potential changes at the Columbia Street end in mind.

Funny. I had no idea this was going on when I answered this Ask Pat, so it probably gives you an idea of how useful that red button up to the right is. It is possible I have no idea whatsoever.

User Fees and Rates Review
These various fees in the City are reviewed on a regular basis, mostly to keep up with inflation. The general practice/policy is that these fees should be adjusted to reflect the true cost of providing the service. As a policy, that makes sense to me.

I think residents in every City feel theirs is the most expensive, and New West is no exception. So I want to know where our fees are relative to other Cities when they are adjusted. If our fees are much higher or lower than other Cities, I want to know if it is because of the efficiency of our processes, or if there are other factors.

We then moved onto Bylaws for Reading and Adoption:

Bylaw No. 7782, 2015
This Bylaw to adjust the Electrical Utility as discussed September 14 was given Three Readings.

Bylaw No. 7780, 2015
This is the temporary borrowing Bylaw discussed above, which received three readings.

Bylaw No. 7778, 2015
This is the Zoning Bylaw for the caretaker unit discussed above, which received two readings.

Bylaw No. 7760, 2015
This was the zoning amendment for 328 Holmes, discussed June 22, and now Adopted by Council. It’s the Law of the Land, folks, adjust your behaviour appropriately.

And that was a Meeting! Sorry it took me a week to provide this report.

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