The council meeting on November 30 was a little different in format, and it appears we are still working out some bugs of the post-Committee of the Whole era for New West Council. Part of the reason for the change of formats was to provide more time for open workshop-type discussions where we can dig into larger issues though a public discussion, the other was to try to push more of our day-to-day business discussion into the evening meeting, instead of doing it as a Committee of the Whole.
This week’s agenda had such an Open Workshop that ended up looking very much like a committee of the Whole meeting, including items passed on consent – not really the purpose of a workshop. We also had a remarkably light agenda including the Public Hearing and Workshop materials, so I may as well report on what talked about at all three meetings.
The New Media Gallery First Year
I’m not afraid to admit I am a big fan of the New Media Gallery, although I was at times wondering how it was doing as far as crowd-draw and regional impacts. Looking at the report, it is clear the answer is very good. Compared to any other regional publically-run Art Gallery (with the exception of the Vancouver Art Gallery), the NMG is pulling big numbers, and operating on a lean budget. The fact we are pulling in internationally-famous artists when the gallery is so new and limited in budget is a real testament to the knowledge and talent of Sarah and Gordon, our exceptional directors.
You should take the time to go to the NMG, it is free to enjoy for everyone, and open to all ages. The current show “the Scary”, and despite its title, looks pretty appropriate for all ages to me. I find a great way to enjoy the NMG pieces are to go in without a guide, and just sit and try to figure out what is going on. Some pieces seem very straight-forward, others completely baffling. After spending some time setting your own notions, you can have the host provide you a walk-around tour, which will usually change what you thought was straight-forward, and open up some of the things that didn’t make sense to you at first pass. It is a fun way to spend an hour opening up your mind. I’m really happy it is so successful. The fact it often challenges what I interpret as “Art” leads to the next topic we discussed in Workshop…
Public Art Workshop
This report brought us into a discussion about how the City’s Public Art program operates, and more specifically, what the role of the Public Art Advisory Committee, our professional Cultural Services Staff, a Public art Selection jury, and Council play in determining how our public art budget is set up.
In earlier discussions, I think I have made my position pretty clear on this (and I am digging deep into personal opinion here, speaking only for myself, and willing to hear counter-arguments). I think Council should approve themes, ideas, concepts, and budgets, but we should not be the final say on which pieces of Public Art are selected. I was not elected for my art criticism skills, and art, by its very nature, should challenge what we think we understand about aesthetics, about communication, and about community. To have 7 politicians look at something created by a professional and curated by a jury of professionals who were presumably provided clear conceptual guidance, and have those Council members “I don’t like it” is to undermine the professionalism of those persons so charged, and to have Council say “…therefore we won’t have it” opens the doors to all kinds of censorship and other issues. Sometime good governance is being able to step back and let people do their jobs.
I want our Public Art to be interesting, challenging, and iconic. To get there, it sometimes has to push the community out of its comfort zone. If given a choice between two pieces, one that Council unanimously endorsed, and one that Council turned down 4 votes to three, I can tell you which of the two would generate more interesting conversations and push the discussion of artistic expression into the daily conversation. It would be a shame if this or a future council, were to recommend against something for fear of facing some negative public reaction. Ironically, the best way for us politicians to avoid being in that situation is to rely on our professional staff and the jury of art professionals, with the guidance of our Public Art Advisory Committee, to determine what best fits the needs of the piece, the location, or the concept.
I have to admit, the WOW piece looks a lot better in context than it does is photos (or it did as concept drawings), and although I could not envision it, I supported the process that got the City to approving it over the last year or two, and I appreciate the positive and negative feedback I have received since it was installed. It makes a statement, it challenges our idea of aesthetics, and it created a new visual icon on our waterfront. It works.
Temporary Use Permit for Extreme Weather Response
There is an Emergency Shelter set up in Downtown New Westminster which is activated when the weather gets such that it seriously threatens the lives of people who are living outdoors (extreme cold, snow, protracted heavy rain), The permit for this site must be renewed every three years, and Council moved to renew the license.
Councillor Puchmayr further raised the issue that the hours of the shelter do not coincide with other social services in town, and asking about the potential to expand shelter hours so that in the worst of conditions, people at risk don’t have to spend a few hours every morning with no-where to go, exposing them to potentially hazardous conditions. Of course, funding and programs are stretched, but we need to find these opportunities to improve what services we provide.
There were also a couple of items that we, paradoxically, passed by Consent as part of the Workshop:
Anvil Centre Capital Budget Update
This is an administrative shuffling of budget amounts. There were several things at the Anvil fit-out that cost more than expected (AV system installations, LEED certification, etc.) and to pay for them, several other things (Installation of corridor, dishwasher upgrades, storage space modifications, etc.) were put off until future capital budget savings or a new allocation of capital funds.
Youth Advisory Committee Amendment to TOR
We agreed to adjust the Terms of Reference for the Youth Advisory Committee to include one more person, a returning member of last year’s YAC who made great contributions in the community and would make a great mentor for the new YAC members.
The evening’s meeting began with an Opportunity to be Heard on the topic of ne Inter-Municipal Business License Agreement. I mentioned this in a earlier report, where were are working with adjacent Cities to align our business licensing for building trades and contractors, such that it is easier for these businesses to work across municipal boundaries, but each City’s business license costs are still covered.
No one corresponded with the City on this issue, and no-one came to council to delegate on the topic, so we referred the two enabling Bylaws to Council for Third Reading.
The Public Hearing began at 6:00 sharp, with a single project up for discussion:
This is a townhouse development in Queensborough at the Corner of Boyd and Stanley Streets. This is essentially the western end of the higher-density part of the Queensborough west of Boyd Street, and is in compliance with the larger Queensborough Community Plan. It will have 80 townhouses, all 2- and 3-bedroom, averaging over 1,200 square feet each, with some green space in the block, special design considerations (double drywall, higher-buffering windows) to reduce the impact of nose from the light industrial area to the North (which, in the case of the way the Port manages its “industrial land”, means a truck warehouse, which will not generate a lot of noise other than truck traffic), and an established buffer between the buildings and the adjacent Riparian Management Area protected watercourse.
The Community Plan supports it, the Design Panel supports it, the Advisory Planning Commission supports it, the Queensborough Neighborhood Association supports it, the Port opposes it, and no-one else wrote or came to Council to speak about it, so I have no reason to oppose this project.
The Regular Meeting began right after the Public Hearing, and began with the Zoning Amendment Bylaw coming out of that Public Hearing:
Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7796, 2015
As mentioned above, this is a townhouse development in Queensborough at the Corner of Boyd and Stanley Streets, and Council passed Third Reading of the Bylaw.
This was followed up by several other Bylaws:
Inter-Municipal Business Licence Agreement Bylaw No. 7794, 2015
Inter-Municipal Business Licence Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7795,
After referral at today’s Opportunity to be Heard, these Bylaws were given Third Reading.
Delegation Bylaw No. 7176, 2015
As discussed on November 16, This Bylaw was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land, please warn your neighbours and friends.
Development Cost Charge Expenditure Bylaw No. 7797, 2015
As discussed on November 16, this Bylaw was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land, please warn your neighbours and friends.
Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7798, 2015
As discussed on November 2, this Bylaw was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land, please warn your neighbours and friends.
Which bring to the end a very short meeting of New Westminster council.