Council – Dec 7, 2015

Another week, another very late Council report. Sorry, but Theresa McManus sits through our sometimes interminable meetings, and I like when she gets the scoops! No, actually, in reality I have been busy with events, some political, some Christmassy, all much fun (except for the public meeting from which I was given the bum’s rush, but that is another story for another time!)

The final Council Meeting of 2015 began with Council passing the following items on Consent without discussion:

Preamble: many topics this week are around the various Community Grants the City awards to various groups in New Westminster for various purposes. All of these grant funds exist within a Terms of Reference, and a pre-determined budget. Each grant fund has its own committee that recommends to Council how the budget should be allocated, based on how their application meets the term of reference provided to the Committee by Council.

That said, ultimately, the decision on funding resides with Council. I really appreciate the work these committees do, and any changes that Council make to the recommended grant allocations represents either a failure of Council to set a Terms that properly reflect their desires, or an introduction of new information by Council that the Committee did not have access to (i.e. that the entire Grants budget was not awarded).

2016 Child Care Grant Committee Recommendations
This Grant has a $40,000 annual budget, and just under $40,000 was granted (of $44,630 requested) to support the needs of 295 children. Of course, that is not a good measure, because the grants are not for operations, but for capital projects that enhance childcare spaces and create an ongoing legacy, potentially helping thousands of kids in non-for-profit daycare across the City.

2016 Environmental Grant Program Recommendations
Only $8,310 was granted this year from $10,435 in requests, and out of a budget of $20,000. Let this be a message to burgeoning environmental groups or those with an idea to improve the City’s sustainability – there is more grant money available next year!

Information Access Principles and Guidelines
Move recommendation

Recruitment 2016: Appointment of Chairs to 2016 Advisory Bodies
This is the assignment of Committees for the members of Council. Not much has changed from last year. I chair two committees (ACTBIPed, Access Ability Advisory), Co-chair one (Environment Advisory), serve as Council representative on one (Youth Advisory), and am a member of three Task Forces (Public Engagement, Transportation, and Canada Games Pool Replacement).

Community Heritage Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7808, 2015
The Heritage Commission is a Council advisory committee. This recommendation is to adjust the terms of reference such that the two-year terms are staggered between two groups of appointees, to create some continuity. An easy thing to agree to.

Arts Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7809, 2015
This is the same change as with the Heritage Commission, staggering two-year terms to create more continuity.

Information Access Principles and Guidelines
After some public consultation ,we are moving forward with developing policy improvements to how the city manages our Freedom of Information files. The City is moving increasingly towards easier access and more openness of our data, which is a good thing.

Tenant Relocation Policy
This report came out of a request I made a few months ago for Staff to update Council on how well we are protecting the affordability and accessibility of rental housing in New Westminster. We have a Secured Market Rental Housing Policy which is helping us get more rental housing built as we battle against regional shortages. We also have an Affordable Housing Strategy that works to develop supported affordable housing options. However, we have a vacancy rate of about 1.3% in market rental housing, and as new rental buildings replace some of our aging rental stock, the rents increase significantly, with average rent for a building built after 2000 almost double that for a building built before 1980.

The challenges here are plenty. Rental stock must periodically be replaced, as aging buildings do not provide the safety, the energy efficiency, or the durability of newer buildings, and become more expensive to maintain at the same time as their value to renters becomes reduced. Still, there are instances where people live in the same rental unit for a decade or longer and truly establish homes in rental buildings. Forced removal, by renovation, by development, by demolition, is incredibly disruptive to their lives. Seniors are the most vulnerable, although young families with limited incomes suffer from stress as well.

I would like an evaluation of whether the policy can provide higher levels of protection to longer-term tenants, and what the implications are if we include this in a policy… will we disincentivize longer-term rentals, or are protections in the existing Residential Tenancy Act enough to prevent that kind of blow-back in policy?

I also want to have a little better understanding about how the tenant relocation and eviction process would dovetail with a typical Rezoning or HRA, where the review process and Public Hearings and bylaw implementation can take 6 months or a year. Does that get included in notice, and how to we sensitively facilitate the communications between landlord and renter over what can be a year-long process?

I see this policy as supporting an updated tenant relocation strategy, similar to those adopted in Vancouver and North Vancouver, but recognizing some of the unique characteristics of New Westminster, where we have a large stock of aging rental buildings, and where much of other rental stock is found in non-purpose rental and less formal arrangements like secondary suites. This is fundamental to the livability and affordability of our City, and am happy staff is continuing this work and bringing back a developed policy to Council early in the New Year.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7781, 2015 to Zoning Bylaw 6680, 2001
to Permit Commercial Storage Lockers in the C-4C Zoning District

There are a set of storage lockers in Plaza 88 near the loading bay on 8th Street, which have turned out to be not useful for the commercial or residential users of the building complex. The owner of the building would like to convert them to commercial storage units, which requires an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw to permit that type of commercial operation.

Animal Shelter and Tow Yard Facility – Task Force Recommendations
The City is building a new Animal Shelter, and is integrating it with a move of our tow yard to create a single civic facility in Queensborough under the Queensborough Bridge. This is part of our long-term strategic plan, and will be paid for by some strategic land sales as part of our long-term capital plan. The task force has been working on this for quite some time, I’m glad to see the City moving forward on their recommendations.

The meeting then proceeded with an Opportunity to Be Heard:

DVP No. 601 for 109 Third Ave
This Development Variance Permit is required to allow a resident to pave a thin strip of their land so that there is smooth asphalt between their three-car garage and the adjacent alley (which is, like many alleys in New Westminster, a named street, in this case, Emory Street). The zoning only allows paved driveways to be certain widths, and this is technically a “driveway” that exceeds that width, although it is only a foot or so long.

We received one piece of correspondence supporting the DVP, and no-one came to speak against it. Council moved to support the DVP.

We then had a presentation from folks at Fraser Health to talk about the first stages of construction work at RCH, which includes the moving of the Helipad. Following this lengthy discussion, we wanted to delay the conversation about Grants until after the Public Delegations, we launched into other parts of the agenda including:

Recruitment 2016: Library Board Appointments
This is an approval of the recommended new members of the Library Board. Welcome, new volunteers.

DNA funding
This is a follow up to a recent federal decision to download the funding for DNA analysis to local police forces, and the unwillingness of the Provincial Government to step up and fill the gap. Police costs come right out of your property taxes folks, and this will add to that burden.

Commercial Storage Lockers Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7781, 2015
As discussed above, this Bylaw received two readings.

Community Heritage Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7808, 2015
As discussed above, this Bylaw received three readings.

Arts and Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7809, 2015
As discussed above, this Bylaw received three readings.

Inter-Municipal Business License Agreement Bylaw No. 7794, 2015 and
Inter-Municipal Business License Agreement Bylaw No. 7795, 2015

As discussed November 30, these Bylaws were Adopted. It is now the Law of the Land, please adjust your behavior appropriately.

Demolition Waste and Recyclable Materials Management Bylaw No. 7660, 2014
As discussed November 30, these Bylaws were Adopted. It is now the Law of the Land, please adjust your behavior appropriately.

After a short recess and some Public Delegations, we continued covering items removed from the consent agenda, which again launched us into talking about Grants.

2016 Amateur Sport Fund Committee Grant Recommendations
This grant is totally covered by two endowment funds, one from the Canada Games (1973!) and one from the Casino. More than $75,000 was requested, and the full allotment of $35,000 was awarded. This works out to about $10 per athlete for 3,500 amateur athletes over 10 different sports.

2016 Arts & Culture Grant Recommendations
I needed to remove myself from some of this discussion because @MsNWimby is the treasurer of the Arts Council, and filled out a lot of grant forms for them. Regardless, there was $42,000 requested from a fund of $20,000. After some compelling delegations Council decided to expand the granting envelope here and add $4,500 for the Royal City Musical Theatre request, and $2,575 for the New Westminster Symphony request.

2016 Heritage Grant Program Committee Recommendations
This grant allocation is $25,000, and we had $26,000 in requests. Uniquely, one organization was granted $4,000 more than they requested, which rubbed a couple of Councillors the wrong way (including me). So instead of granting them the $14,000 recommended, we dialed that back to $10,000. In total, we ended up granting $21,000.

2016 Community Grant Recommendations
There as a budget of $48,000, all awarded, from requests totaling almost $116,000. The recommendation was followed.

2016 City Partnership Grants
Again, there were some Arts Council requests here, which means I had to remove myself from that part of the discussion. This is the big one – $421,510 was awarded from a budget of $421,000, and there was $534,500 in requests. Some are multi-year agreements.

So after all is said and done, we came in a little under budget on Grants, but still awarded more than $600,000.


At that point, the meeting was all over but the singing. We Wish you a Merry Christmas, indeed.

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