Council Report – Jan.11, 2016

After a very refreshing Christmas and New Years break, Council got back to regular action this week, with a new Council Chambers (more on that in a later post, but blame the few bumpy microphone movement on our inability to work the technology, not the technology itself) and an agenda that, after proclamations and guest presentations, starts off 2016 with a bang:

Urban Forest Management Strategy
I am really happy we have finally reached this point. This is a process that started long before I joined this Council, but I did attend several of the early public engagement meetings and workshops, and had many conversations on the doorstep while running for Council about the importance of taking concrete measures to protect trees in our City.

I thank staff and our consultants for putting together both an impressive body of research on the existing urban forest in New Westminster, and a solid 20-year plan to shift us from a place where the urban canopy is being eroded to one where trees are valued as an important part of our everyday urban environment. Few things impact more the health and vitality of an urban community than the presence of trees. And the next generation of New Westminster residents will be the biggest beneficiaries, as the old saying goes: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today.

This is also timely, as the loss of trees in the City has been accelerating, and as we see more development pressure, and start talking about creative ways to accommodate the pending population growth through or new OCP, this Strategy will assure that tree protection is part of that planning, and that aspect of the livability of our neighbourhoods will be preserved.

I’ll write another blog post about this topic, suffice to say Council endorsed the Strategy unanimously.

We had an open delegation from a representative of the the Taxi industry talk to us about Uber, and members of Council were pretty clear where we stand on the issue: Between the Province and Uber, there needs to be some agreement on how to regulate the ride-for-hire industry. I will have to go on further about this in a follow-up post, but I have concerns around employment practices, safety, taxation, and accountability.

The following agenda items were moved on Consent:

Queen’s Park Neighbourhood Heritage Study – Update on “Speak Out
About Heritage” Public Consultation

Previous to coming to Council, the Land Use and Planning Committee had a really good conversation around this study, and the presentation from neighbourhood residents who lead the study was really advantageous to Council better understand the Community desires here. There are many ideas that come out of the Study, and we need staff to do some work and need more public consultation to evaluate ideas in our local context. For example, providing the “California Mills Act” model of tax rebates are preferred by some, but it is unclear if that is even legal under the Local Government Act.

The most important take-away, however, is that the Queens Park neighbourhood appears ready, even willing, to provide a more proactive protection regime to conserve the neighbourhoods important heritage elements, and I think that is a good thing.

335 Buchanan Avenue – Consideration of First and Second Readings
Proposed Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation

This is a Heritage Revitalization Plan and heritage designation for a rather unique house in Sapperton. Council moved to send this to First and Second Reading. This project will go to Public Hearing on February 29, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

The following items were removed from consent:

Request for New and Improved Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Across
Tenth Avenue Between New Westminster and Burnaby

This request came from the Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles, and Pedestrians, (ACTBiPed) following on our now-traditional summer walking/rolling tour. This year we looked at 10th Avenue above the West End, and identified issues in how the existing cycling and pedestrian crossings work (pretty poorly, unfortunately).

As there are currently some pending plans on the Burnaby side of 10th Ave to re-develop the old Safeway Warehouse and surrounding area as “High Density Mixed Use”, with re-alignment of the transportation corridors, it is a good time to make sure our established greenways through the West End align well with Burnaby’s long-term vision.

New Westminster Lawn Bowling Club Lease
The Lawn Bowling Club leases their land from the City, as they have for 66 years. Every few years we need to update and sign a new lease. Council approved the new lease.

Did you know the New Westminster Lawn Bowling Club is not only one of the finest such clubs in the Lower Mainland, with a reputation for the highest-quality natural grass greened in the region, it is now in its 99th year of operation as a Club. Every time I have attended an event there, it has been an inviting, friendly, and fun atmosphere. And the sport is easier than curling to learn, but just as hard to master. You should try them out when they have their learn-to-bowl events in the spring.

2016 Capital Budget Early Project Approval
There are some things we need to buy, part of our long-term capital budget, that we need to approve prior to the official Capital Budget period, because delaying will result in a loss of service. A good example is heater repairs for Moody Park Pool – if we wait for the regular budget cycle, the heater will not ordered, delivered, and installed until September, which kind of limits the use of the pool.

Councillor Harper pointed out one interesting aspect of this report – the drop in the Canadian Dollar means we are going to have to pay 30% more than we expected for the replacement turf for Mercer Field. That extra $300K is really going to be noticed in our annual capital budget, and it is not the only thing we need to spend money on that will come with a dropping-dollar premium. Something to watch when our Capital Budget discussion begin in earnest over the next month or two.

New Westminster Street Food Policy
The City is working on a policy to allow Food Trucks to operate on our commercial streets. Staff have done some research and outreach, and presented us their preliminary ideas.

The results show the public is generally in favour of this initiative, although there clearly needs to be a policy in place to address some of the concerns, especially from brick & mortar businesses that pay taxes every day in our City.

Practice in other jurisdictions shows that Food Trucks can do a lot activate public space – make your streets and sidewalks more “sticky” and attractive to people who will then go on to support other nearby businesses. This could be a great addition to the other things we are doing to activate our streets, from Parklets to seating areas and a general increase in the diversity of our pedestrian realm. They create interest and add to the impression that the streets of New West are a place to be, not a place to pass by. That will benefit all businesses in the City, and the residents of the City. I think the policy provisions introduced here support that goal, and balance well the needs of our established bricks & mortar businesses.

Council voted in support of taking this to public engagement ASAP, and I hope we can get a policy fully developed and in place in time for the Summer 2016 season.

Items Added to the Agenda

PEDAW and Anvil Centre LEDs
I added this to the agenda, as we had received a request to use the LED lights at the Anvil Centre to “Light Up Purple to support Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness Week”. We are beginning to receive more of these types of requests, and I would happily support them, but this is local government, so we need to develop a bit of a policy around them so that Council can approve what we “support” or don’t, and the related costs are put through the proper scrutiny.

The first issue should be obvious, if someone wants to light up a City building to support something inappropriate or offensive (say, the Habs winning a Stanley Cup), we can prevent that embarrassment. We also need to make it simple and obvious how a person or organization would even make the request. Random e-mails to Councillors is probably not the best system.

I was surprised to find it actually cost quite a bit of money have a lighting consultant come in and do the work to adjust the lighting scheme for the LEDs at Anvil. I simple-mindedly assumed a building maintenance person could just flip a switch or two.

So, like so many other things in local government, Staff will be reporting back.

Columbia Street pedestrian fatality.
There are (unconfirmed) reports that the victim of the pedestrian fatality last week on east Columbia Street had some mental health issues and had contact at Royal Columbian Hospital prior to the incident. Council requested a report from the Police on this incident to determine if there is any follow-up warranted by Council.

We then went through the ubiquitous list of Bylaws:

Tree Protection and Regulation Bylaw No. 7799, 2016
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 7812,
Development Approval Procedures Amendment Bylaw No. 7815, 2016
Street Tree Repeal Bylaw No. 7813, 2016

This suite of Bylaws and Bylaw Amendments support all the provisions of the Tree Protection Bylaw. Council gave these Bylaws three readings.*

H R A (335 Buchanan Avenue) Bylaw No. 7802, 2016
Heritage Designation Bylaw (335 Buchanan Avenue) No. 7803, 2016

These Bylaws support the heritage restoration and protection of 335 Buchanan Avenue in Sapperton. Council gave these Bylaws two readings.

Arts and Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7809, 2015
We made changes to the Arts Commission terms of reference in a previous meeting, and now we formally adopt the Bylaw supporting those changes. Adjust your behaviour accordingly.

And after reviewing a bit correspondence, we were done for the evening.

*NOTE: Council held a special meeting on Wednesday, January 13 to Adopt the Tree Protection Bylaw and make the changes to the related Bylaws Final. Tree Protection is the Law Of The Land, folks. Adjust your behavior accordingly.

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