Council – Nov. 16, 2015

Sorry it has taken so long to provide my summary of the Council Meeting of November 16th, but (insert random “I’ve been busy”-related excuse here). We had a fairly light agenda this week, which started with the following items being moved on consent:

City Hall Renovation
We are making some changes to the way City Hall works, and are doing long-overdue renovations of the physical building to make it work better. Staff and design consultants have been working on plans for most of a year now, and we now have an approved layout.

The renovations will also include significant age-related upgrades, including replacement of the HVAC equipment, lighting, and the fire alarm system, and all the related asbestos removal that goes with. However the part the general public will notice most is a re-design of office space to allow Development Services and Engineering to share public counter space, so those seeking permits or related info will have a one-stop shop, instead of running around the building for each different department. We are also bringing Parks, Culture and Recreation into the Hall to increase this integration of customer services.

The entire project will take a couple of years, and the required budget (about $6 Million) has already been included in the Five Year Financial Plan.

Delegation Bylaw
This Bylaw codifies some of the spending authority set out in the City’s existing Procurement Policy, and makes it law. Simply put, Council has ultimate spending authority, but the efficient operation of a $60+Million enterprise does not allow us to approve the purchase of every ream of special paper. So different staff have different authority to spend without seeking Council approval, within specific guidelines and while remaining within the Five Year Financial Plan.

Streamlining and codifying this practice will improve operational efficiency in City Hall, and is actually recommended by the Auditor General for Local Government and our own external auditor to assure it complies with best practices for local government.

Recruitment 2015: SSS Representative on the Seniors Advisory Committee
The Seniors Services Society has a representative on the City’s Seniors Advisory Committee. Former City Councillor Betty McIntosh will be replacing Helen Bodner as that representative.

Pattullo Bridge Construction Noise Exemption
Work to repair the deck on the Pattullo Bridge is ramping up, and will occur over about 6 months starting in May of 2016. To reduce delays and the impact on the all-important traffic, much of the work will occur at night and on the weekends. Although measures are being taken to reduce the noise generated at night (e.g. restricting jackhammer operation to daytime, installing noise barriers, etc.) there may be times when noise is generated at night in violation of the City’s Construction Noise Bylaw.

Council agreed to provide an exemption for this project, but will be asking TransLink to provide notice to adjacent residential areas, including contact information at TransLink if residents have concerns. This is related (kind of) to upcoming work on the SkyTrain Bridge (to be discussed below).

Sapperton Parking Study – Update and Notification of Open House
There has been an ongoing study of parking needs in Sapperton, reflecting concerns raised by residents (mostly) of the major residential streets adjacent to East Columbia in the vicinity of RCH. This study will be followed by a “Phase 2”, which will be more forward-looking into anticipated needs as the RCH expansion and development of the Economic Health Care Cluster occur over the coming decade.

There will be an Open house at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall on November 24 to get residents’ feedback on the report. I suspect the response will be interesting, as the report suggests (in summary) that there is currently no problem. Supply is adequate; there is appropriate parking available for residents, even during “peak times”. The online survey brought 600(!) respondents, which are the kind of numbers we only usually see when discussing dog parks.

It does confirm that parking demand on East Columbia is driven by visitors to RCH and by some RCH employees choosing to park in metered parking on East Columbia during their night shift as opposed to paying to use the Hospital lot. I find it interesting that residents are generally more satisfied than non-residents with the availability and cost of parking. Also, that the balance between availability, convenience, and cost is pretty much where it needs to be.

I’ll wait until after the November 24th open house to comment further.

Downtown Dog Off-Leash Strategy and Relief Stations
This looks like a good idea to me. With the existing dog park downtown a temporary structure (much of it is on land the City doesn’t own), and few obvious opportunities for larger dog parks downtown (we just don’t have that much available land), these relief stations may be a good measure to solve one (two?) of the more… uh… urgent dog needs in an efficient way.

I also like the idea of a “Bark-let” (I just invented that word!) but the details in the design and the location will matter. There is much information we need to clarify around how the hygiene works, and how we determine appropriate locations, but it is an interesting program idea, and I support its development.

Engineering User Fees and Utility Rates Bylaw Amendments for 2016
This is to formalize the new Utility rates starting next year, which we reviewed and approved in principle last meeting.

Queen’s Park Neighbourhood Heritage Study
A group of City Staff and Queens Park residents have been working on a Neighbourhood Heritage Study, developing a set of principles and strategies to preserve the heritage character of the neighbourhood. After almost a year of work, three open houses, a neighbourhood survey, and other outreach, a set of strategies have been developed and are ready for public comment.

The strategies are wide-reaching, and will impact all homeowners in Queens Park, but it is important to note these are ideas driven by the members of the community, not something the City drew up. I would encourage everyone living in Queens Park, if couldn’t get to the November 21 open house, to connect through the on-line presence of this group, and make yourself heard.

Heritage Register Update – Addition of Properties
Three Properties are being added to the City’s Heritage Registry, as they are subject to new Heritage Revitalization Agreements. Three more heritage homes [reserved for perpetuity.

We had a few special announcements, supporting BC Buy Local Week and the Arts Council of New Westminster, then covered the items removed from the consent agenda:

SkyBridge North Approach Construction Noise Exemption
Further to the lack of sleep soon to be felt by a few residents of the east end of Downtown due to Pattullo works, TransLink will be doing some strengthening and reinforcement work on the SkyBridge in the spring, which will again create a noise concern for some residents. I am hoping that TransLink can time this work to coincide with the Pattullo work, so that the length of anticipated Noise Bylaw Exemptions can be reduced.

It appears these two projects are run by completely unrelated departments at TransLink, but I am encouraging our Bylaw folks (who are issuing the exemptions on behalf of the city) can get them to coordinate – I would rather have two noisy operations on the same night than two nights of separate noisy operations.

Syrian Refugee Crisis – City Responses
Back in September, this Council asked staff and two Advisory Committees to report back to us on potential strategies for our community to help with the Syrian refugee crisis. If past patterns of settlement are maintained, we can expect over 100 refugees (of the 25,000 anticipated to be accepted by the federal government) to arrive in New Westminster in the next year or so.

This report outlines the many actions that are occurring already in the City to make our community more welcoming to new immigrants. Our Local Welcoming and Inclusive New West (WINS) working group is coordinating programs to reach out to new immigrants, and connect them with community services and social connections. The provincial Welcoming Communities Program is also active locally increasing awareness and reducing barriers to employment for new immigrants.

Aside from assisting the many service agencies (with facilities, financial support, and staff time), the City has prepared a series of communications tools to help both new immigrants connect with services they may need, and to help residents and businesses in the City identify opportunities for them to help make our community a more welcoming place.

The people coming to New Westminster from Syria have been through the worst horrors that humanity can create. They have been stripped of their homes, have lost family and friends, have been made impoverished and traumatized, not because of who they are or what they did, but simply because they were born in a place that is currently being torn apart by ideological and proxy wars. They are, unfortunately, just the latest in a long history of peoples with similar stories seeking peace and sanctuary in Canada, from the Irish to the Eastern Europeans to the Vietnamese and the Hondurans. We can’t imagine their struggles, but we can open our community and help make the next chapter in their lives happier, and (ultimately) our community stronger for having them here.

Alberta Street Diverter Review
The traffic diverters on Alberta Street have reduced the traffic on Alberta Street, but have caused increased traffic on Keary. This was not completely unexpected, but it was important to determine how much of the effect was impacting Keary vs. other adjacent streets such as Simpson (where the initial traffic count bump went away over a short time).

ACTBiPed have also talked about Keary Street as a more appropriate route up the hill of Sapperton for routing the Crosstown Greenway than the existing Sherbrook Street, mostly because the grade of Keary is more gentle, and the interaction with Richmond Street at the top and the Central Valley greenway at the bottom are both much better.

I hope these two issues can be brought together, and we can address these two issues together. Keary sees more traffic and higher speeds primarily because it is 9m wide (compared to 7.5m or so for Alberta or Simpson), with a wide boulevard, which encourages higher speeds than a tighter road with shorter sightlines. Perhaps this is a place for a two-way bike route if we reduce the parking to only one side of the street?

Canada Games Pool/Centennial Community Centre
The New Westminster Council has been spending much of the last year looking at strategic priorities, and the renewal/refurbishment/replacement of the Canada Games Pool was identified as one of those priorities.

The heart of the decision made this week is to stop fixing the old pool. This is being driven by the current condition of the pool, and the potential costs for ongoing maintenance and repair over the coming decade. Although some parts of the pool (notably the concrete tank) are in pretty good condition, there are a number of parts of the physical plant (the roof, the windows, the HVAC system, significant piping and pump infrastructure) that is at or past it’s serviceable lifespan. The current “business as usual” plan would see us investing more than $10 Million before 2019 on fixing the pool we have. At some point, this becomes good money after bad.

Council has decided that continuing to pour money into this aged asset is not in the best interest of the community, and have asked staff to accelerate their work on planning a replacement pool, in lieu of planning ongoing maintenance and upgrades in the millions of dollars.

The plan right now is to spend the next year working on design, costing, and public consultation. Hopefully by this time next year, we will have a project plan together, with some fairly robust cost estimates, and after having a comprehensive discussion with the community about what that new pool, recreation centre, and a community hub is going to look like. Work with key stakeholders has already begun, with larger public consultations starting soon.

We are also going to have a serious community conversation about cost. We have about $13 Million (effectively) in the bank for this project, but any new pool of the scale of the existing one will cost significantly more than this. Comparison with some other recently-built or planned regional facilities suggests $50 Million is the scale of cost that other Cities have spent. Of course, this number will vary greatly with the size of the facility and amenities the community wants. I suspect the community wants a $100M pool, and wants us to build it for $10M, so the conversation will be about setting priorities and being realistic about what a community of 65,000 people can afford.

It should be an exciting few years on this project, and look for the consultation components coming soon.

Vancouver Biennale Update
Like em or hate ‘em, we own them now. WOW coming to the waterfront after some significant engineering work to make the situation work.

Development Cost Charge Expenditure Bylaw No. 7797, 2015
This is a Bylaw required to permit the City to remove almost $4 million from various Development Cost Charges (DCC) reserve account and to apply them towards various designated projects.

DCCs are monies collected from developers when they are increasing density in the City that are earmarked for specific types of infrastructure expansion related to the increased populations. They sit in a reserve account until the City is ready to install the infrastructure. In one sense, these reserves are like a savings account, but in another they are not, because we cannot spend them on anything we wish, but have to use them for the infrastructure that the DCC bylaw designates as required. This financial restriction is built into the Provincial legislation that allows DCCs to be collected in the first place.

This neatly dovetailed us into the Bylaws part of the evening’s events:

Development Cost Charge Expenditure Bylaw No. 7797, 2015
As just discussed above, received three readings.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7798, 2015
As just discussed above, received three readings.

Delegation Bylaw No. 7176, 2015
As just discussed above, received three readings.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7786, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Fee Amendment Bylaw No. 7787, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Fire Protection Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 7791, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7790, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Parks, Culture and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw, No. 7792, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (327 Fourth Street) Bylaw No.
7712, 2015 and Heritage Designation (327 Fourth Street) Bylaw No. 7713, 2015

These bylaws were discussed way back in the June 22, 2015 meeting of council, and are finally ready for adoption. They’re now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

After a bit of an intermission to get the Public Delegations timing right, we heard from the presenters for:

Parkade Public art selection
The Public Art Advisory Committee reviewed a couple of revised proposals for the Public Art installation on the water side of the remaining half of the Parkade, to be installed after renovation work was completed.

The design chosen by the PAAC is a good one, and less abstract than an earlier piece that met with… mixed reviews… at Council a couple of months ago. There are opportunities to add colour to the mix (and that is the plan), and I am pretty happy with the way PAAC went about this selection.

Surprise bonus motion!
As we are trying to adjust the Council schedule since our decision a few months ago to do away with Committee of the Whole and to bring more discussion to the evening meetings, we have been trying to make the Public Delegation part of the meeting work better. We don’t want to hold it at the beginning, because 5:30 is a difficult time for many people with jobs and lives, however 7:30 is a little too late ,as we are often through our agenda before then. Councillor McEvoy suggested we adjust delegation time back a bit to 7:00, and Council was happy to try that. Expect this to develop as time goes on and more adjustments present themselves. We’ll get this tuned in.

As an aside, did anyone else notice that Councillor Williams and Rudy the Reindeer have never been seen in the same place at the same time? I’m not saying anything…it’s just interesting…

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