I can’t believe it is February already, or maybe it was the jet lag related to my cancelled flight, 12 hours in airports, and waking up in Calgary a few hours before the meeting that had me all worn out. If I was more incoherent than usual, that’s my excuse. Regardless, our first Februarian meeting of 2016 started off with a presentation from the Finance Department on the Draft Financial Plan and the Capital budget.
This topic is going to be the subject of several blog posts between now and May when we finalize our budget. This is an early draft version of the budget, and there will be an opportunity for the public to comment on this (as they have already begun to do), and we will be having further talks before the tax increase (if any) for 2016 is decided. You can go to this page to read about the last 5-year Financial Plan, and can read lengthy reports about the Draft proposed budget starting at page 29 of this document . It’s pretty exciting stuff if you like spreadsheets, but I encourage you to ask questions of me and the rest of council about this; it really is the most important thing that Council does every year, so we need to get it right.
We then passed the following items as part of the Consent Agenda:
Proposed Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) Bylaw 7754, 2016
I’m actually surprised we do not already have one of these. This is a bylaw that regulates how the sediment and sand that may run off of a construction site is managed. This helps keep our streets clean, but more importantly sand and sediment loading into our storm sewers is both harmful to the fisheries habitat the water will eventually reach, and is damaging to our storm drainage infrastructure, which can result in higher maintenance costs.
It is also part of our Good Neighbor Policy, where we are trying to reduce the impacts of construction and capital works on adjacent property owners, residents, and businesses. Council moved to give this bylaw three readings.
205 Clinton Place: Proposed Heritage Revitalization Agreement and
Heritage Designation Bylaws
This unique HRA project in Sapperton was approved for two readings. I’ll hold my comments until after the Public Hearing.
1407 Sixth Avenue Proposed Heritage Revitalization Agreement and
Heritage Designation Bylaws
This rather more typical HRA project in the West End was approved for two readings. I’ll hold my comments until after the Public Hearing.
The following items were Removed from the Consent Agenda for discussion:
Anvil Centre – VIBE Update and Programming
Upcoming Exhibitions at the Anvil Centre
There are many aspects to the Anvil Centre. Besides the bustling convention business, there are incredibly successful museum and gallery programs, and a burgeoning performing arts program that is just starting to operate on full steam. The “arts programming” program is also burgeoning and growing rapidly. The big picture of putting art in front of people, putting people in front of art, and (most importantly) getting people engaged in creating and enjoying arts are starting to merge together to make the anvil a fun place to be.
Investment Report to December 31st, 2015
City has $128.9M in the Savings Account, which is $28.7M more than last year. The base capital is largely our “reserves” that are committed to future capital investments (sewer, water, roads, etc.), though some is uncommitted reserves, which is true “savings” put aside for the financial security for the City
This increase mostly reflects the fact that some capital projects are running behind, and the money we have put aside to pay for them has not yet been paid out. Our interest gains are only $2.7M (although 2.7%, is not bad in a year like this). Most of our savings are in the Municipal Finance Authority intermediate and bond funds which are super secure and diverse.
Filming Policy Amendment and Film Permit Bylaw No. 7793
When film companies shoot in New Westminster, they need a permit that covers everything from the fees they pay for police services to the requirements the City sets as far as parking, road closures, noise bylaws, etc. The report indicates that the current policy would be strengthened with a Bylaw to make the permitting regulatory.
I raised a concern about the wording of the proposed Bylaw, which I felt was much too broad in how it defined “filming”. It is intended to catch the professional film industry) and indeed Creative BC was OK with the change), but with the broadest definition of filming (essentially, anyone filming anything in the City except inside a private studio requiring a permit), and no language around giving the Film Coordinator or other senior Staff Member the authority to waive the permit requirement for (as a simple example) three youths at a Skatepark with a DSLR, we create a confusing Bylaw that is difficult to enforce. So we moved to have staff review that language and come back with a better defined approach.
We then moved through the Bylaws part of the Evening’s program:
HRA (205 Clinton Place) Bylaw No. 7800, 2016
Heritage Designation (205 Clinton Place) Bylaw No. 7801, 2016
As discussed above, this HRA in Sapperton was given two readings. There will be a Public Hearing February 29th, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!
HRA (1407 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7807, 2016
Heritage Designation (1407 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7806, 2016
As discussed above, this HRA in the West End was given two readings. There will be a Public Hearing February 29th, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!
Erosion and Sediment Control Bylaw No. 7754, 2016
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 7819, 2016
As discussed above, this Bylaw was given three readings.
Community Heritage Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7808, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed on January 18 and given Third Reading on January 25. It has now been adopted. It is the Law of the Land, please adjust your lifestyle to suit.
We then dispatched with one piece of New Business:
OCP Moody Park Meeting
The public engagement on the “housing conversation” stage of the OCP process has continued. I have commented at length about this, but want to point out one of the most insightful comments by one of the other members of Council at this meeting.
Councillor McEvoy reminded us that the conversation (debate?) going on right now around the OCP is a conversation/debate within and between neighbours, not a debate between Council and the public, or even Staff and the public. There is no OCP to debate right now, because staff has not written one yet, and Council has not reviewed one yet. The plan has yet to be developed, and the conversation going on right now is designed to get the residents, businesses and other stakeholders in the City talking in order to inform that plan as it is being drawn up. Surely some preliminary and very conceptual models of things like density increases have been put together to engage people in a conversation, but no-one on staff should be “encouraging” any specific model ,and Council has definitely not advocated for any specific path forward except in the broadest terms.
There are more opportunities for you to take part in that conversation, and if you are wondering if it is worthwhile for you to take part, this is an interesting article that talks about one of the bigger challenges in Public Engagement in Cities today. If you don’t get involved and make your voice heard, whose voice will be heard?
After a break and Public Delegations we covered one topic that was brought up during the delegations.
The New Westminster Environmental Partners (full disclosure: I used to be President, still a strong supporter!) have been working on making the case for metering residential water in the City, as part of a comprehensive water conservation program. Coming out of the drought of 2015 and Stage 3 Water Restrictions, they did their research and brought a presentation to the Environment Advisory Committee last month. The Committee made some recommendations to Council, and we discussed those recommendations.
As this is already a long report, I’ll write a longer Blog post on this topic soon, but for now will just point out that Council supported reviewing the concept of voluntary and even mandatory water metering for residential customers, and will ask Staff to provide an updated report on what the economic and technological model for this looks like. We also asked Staff to review both water restriction enforcement and our suite of water conservation programs in preparation for next summer’s water shortage season.
And that was the meeting that was