Council – May 9, 2016

Our regular council meeting for May 9, 2016 (careful before you click that – it is a monstrous 500MB agenda package!) was a generally positive one, because it started with an announcement of an award won by the Anvil Centre, and included a delegation from a NWSS student who is doing amazing national award-winning biotechnology research. If you want to be inspired, and restore your confidence that the next generation is doing a way better job than our own, please watch the video of our public delegations, and watch Iveta Demirova’s confidence, poise, and intelligence shine though.

Now back to the ugly politics:

The following items were moved on Consent:

June 19th Riverfront Community Event – “Pier 2 Landing”
This City-run event, in partnership with many community groups, will draw people down to a Front Street closed to cars to take advantage of some open public space, and show the possibilities for the greater Waterfront Vision. We have a vision to connect the Pier Park to Sapperton Landing permanently, as part of our much larger vision of re-imagining our waterfront and a place for people to enjoy – of connecting our City to the River after decades of turning our back to the water body that defines us as a City

Like many people, I have been spending time down on Front Street, and cannot believe how open and comfortable that space is when it is closed to cars, but open for people. When people occupy that space on Front Street in June, I hope it triggers a conversation in our City about why we are even considering closing it again to turn it over to twice-daily traffic jams when it could be a glorious, multi-purpose, active, and region-defining public space. We can do better.

Dissolution of the Family Court Committee and Replacement with a
Restorative Justice Committee

The Family Court Committee has not done a lot in the last few years to reflect its original mandate. The volunteers did help with organizing events around Family Day (for reasons lost to time), but less time was spent dealing with the issues it was set up for. The current Chair, Councillor Puchmayr, recognized a more effective role for the committee was possible by creating a stronger connection to the Restorative Justice program. Council agreed to make the changes to the Committee’s Terms to reflect this.

501 – 505 Twelfth Street: Rezoning and DP Applications – Council Consideration of First and Second Reading
This is a 5-story residential building on the corner of 5th Street and Twelfth Ave. Council moved to take this proposal to Public Hearing on May 30th, so I will hold my comments until after that hearing. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Amendments to Water Shortage Response Bylaw & Response Plan
This was discussed at our last meeting, but a the Bylaw language was cleaned up a bit and this week we approved it to go for three readings.

Civic Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw and Temporary Borrowing Bylaw
I hate this. I hate the way the Community Charter is written such that this false referendum process is required for us to get loan approval. The problem is I have no viable alternative to propose.

I am sure there will be more discussion of this as the Alternative Approval Process goes forward, and I will both explain how the process works, and why I hate it so much, at that time.

For now, I will just say we need to be prepared to borrow (not necessarily borrow, but be prepared to – this is more securing a line of credit than it is taking out a loan) up to $28.3 Million between now and 2020 to fund 4 Council priorities: City Hall upgrades, library upgrades, land purchased to support a substation and District Energy Utility, and capital costs for Fibre Optic Network installations. I support all of these initiatives; I hate the process to get there.

Council Remuneration 2016
We’ve talked about this, and are moving it forward, having received very little feedback from the public.

313 Queen’s Avenue: Proposed HRA and Heritage Designation
Council voted to take this HRA and Designation for a single family home in Queens Park to Public Hearing on May 30, so I will hold my comments until after that hearing. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

413 Alberta Street: DVP Application – Preliminary Report
Council voted to give consideration to this Development Variance Application to permit the reconstruction of a front porch in upper Sapperton on May 30, 2016. If you have any feelings for or against best let us know before then, or show up at the regular council meeting on the 30th and tell us what you think!

100 Braid Street (Urban Academy): Proposed OCP Amendment and Rezoning
Council voted to take the OCP amendment to Public Hearing on May 30. This is the proposal to rezone some light industrial property on Braid at Rousseau to permit the building of a new Campus for Urban Academy, with and adjacent use for mixed high-density residential. As it is going to Public hearing, I will hold my comments until after that. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

The following items were removed from Consent for discussion:

200, 228 Nelson’s Crescent, 258 and 268 Nelson’s Court and 230 Keary
Street and 290 E. Columbia Street (Brewery District): Rezoning
Development Permit DPS00040 for 228 Nelson’s Crescent

Council voted to take this Rezoning to Public Hearing on (what is looking like an increasingly busy) May 30. This proposal shifts some of the Density on site compared to previous plans, and also adjusts some of the phasing to permit more residential to be completed prior to the completion of the “Health Care related” commercial development being built out. As it is going to Public Hearing, I will hold my comments until after that. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Queensborough Special Study Area: Proposed Widening of Blackley Street
We had a delegation speak to this concern, and have received some correspondence on the issue, so it is worthwhile discussing here. *This conversation is just on the road dedication issue at Blackley, and should not be seen as pre-judging the outcome of the Public Hearing on the OCP and Zoning.*

A local government is given great power over land use in its jurisdiction – indeed managing land use is the true power local governments have (along with property taxation), and rezoning is at the heart of that power. If you want to do things on land you own that complies with the current zoning, we are hard pressed to stop you. If you want to change or vary the Zoning (build a bigger building than allowed, a different use, etc.), you need to ask for that change, and we (as an elected Council) can say “NO” for pretty much any reason we want. If your requested change is minor, doesn’t impact other people or complies with the longer-term Official Community Plan, we are likely to say “Yes” without too much trouble. If you want to make a significant change, like upzone into more density or change from industrial to residential use in a way the OCP did not envision, you better bring something to the game to demonstrate that this benefits the whole community.

Dedication of lands from developers to a local government is not an uncommon request from a City as part of a rezoning negotiation. Sometimes a City will want to improve the road adjacent to your property, put in a right-of-way for utilities, or even turn a piece of your property into a park to serve the bigger community. The City may then ask to have (for example) a dedication along your property line to allow room for that road improvement.

In the case of the complex development happening in the Queensborough Special Study Area, an improvement of Blackley Street is seen as an important requirement for the project. To make that improvement happen the current 13m right-of way would ideally be expanded to 19m. In this case, the Developer owns only some of the property required to make this road full width, and presuming the rezoning is approved, that dedication would come from them at that time. However, there are several other property owners who live along Blackley Street, and for the entire 1-block length of Blackley to be full-width, dedications would need to come from these owners as well. Therefore, the City is putting future dedication of that space in the long-term plans for the street.

This does not mean that the City is going to take land away from the existing land owners. The zoning for those lands is currently M-1 (Industrial use), though the majority of people are living in legally non-conforming single family homes. They are allowed to stay there, living in those homes for perpetuity, and unless they are willing to sell those dedication to the City (and the City is willing to buy them), nothing will change. However, if they choose to Rezone their properties – change the landue to multi-family, or such, then the City would expect the dedication at that time as part of the rezoning. Part of the thinking is that the improved utility and road infrastructure would benefit their rezoning as much as anyone else’s, and making everyone on the street contribute to the improvements is seen as equitable.

Concerns in the neighbourhood, however, are that the dedication to make the road 19m is too onerous for some of the smaller lots, and it was suggested that the dedication should take more from the northern properties (mostly owned by the developer) than the southern properties (mostly owned by individuals).

In the end, council asked staff to come back with some plans for a 16m road, with the removal of parking on one side of the street. I want to assure that the reduction of 3m does not mean we won’t have proper sidewalks and boulevards where trees can thrive – these are two things Queensborough is generally short of, and I want that trend to reverse.

We also moved that the equitable dedication, an even 4.25m on either side of the centerline of the road, be considered preferable, based on the ability to make the road workable and safe over the period when only partial dedications will be available (that could be a 20 or 30 year period- so we need to plan ahead). This reflects both the standard practice of the City, and the best option for maintaining alignment of roads.

Queensborough Special Study Area: Conclusion of Master Planning
Process and OCP Amendment and Rezoning Amendment Bylaws

Council voted to give this project two readings and take it to public hearing, so I will hold my comments on the project until then. I will, however, write a second blog post (coming soon!) ranting about the letter we received from TransLink on this project, which filled me with blog-empowering rage.

2016 Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program
Making our pedestrian spaces safer is a priority for this Council, and a major part of the Master Transportation Plan. There are several great plans included in this report to prioritize pedestrian crossings where we can make a big improvement in safety in a short time. So why did I oppose one of the changes?

The Coffee Corner at 6th and Belmont has long been one of the most-used crosswalks in the City. I wrote a bit about this crossing back in 2012 the last time the city planned to dump money into improving it, and my opinion has hardly changed since then. There are better ways, in my opinion, to invest our crossing-improvement dollars that installing “beg buttons” for pedestrians in one of the few crossings in the City where the population of walkers already enforces priority.

This speaks to the larger concern pedestrian advocates in our City and around North America have expressed about “beg buttons” in pedestrian-oriented commercial areas. A good summary of the discussion is available at the Strongtowns blog. Building pedestrian-oriented neighbourhoods mean placing the pedestrian on top of the priority list of road users, like our MTP and Pedestrian Charter recommend. We need to start removing beg buttons, not continue to add them.

Staff made it clear this was not a safety issue for pedestrians, as there is not a history of pedestrian incidents at that spot (although a few impatient drivers have had rear-enders – maybe a 30km/h speed limit would help them out?). Even so, I am very reluctant to unilaterally oppose recommendations from Engineering Staff, so I moved that we take this back to the Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles, and Pedestrians, and get the input of pedestrian advocates in the City, after which I suspect this will come back to Council.

Despite the order of these readings, bookending public delegations and some other discussion as they did, this is as comprehensive a list of the Bylaws we advanced as I can muster:

Official Community Plan (Queensborough Special Study Area) Bylaw
No. 7822, 2016
Zoning Amendment (Queensborough Special Study Area) Bylaw No. 7823, 2016

These two Bylaws, as discussed above, following a public delegation, were given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

HRA (313 Queen’s Avenue) Bylaw No. 7834, 2016
Heritage Designation Bylaw (313 Queen’s Avenue) No. 7835, 2016

These two Bylaws, as discussed above, were given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

Official Community Plan (100 Braid Street) Bylaw No. 7836, 2016
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (100 Braid Street) No. 7837, 2016

These two Bylaws, as discussed above, were given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Brewery District) No. 7841, 2016
This Bylaw, as discussed above, was given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (12th Street & 5th Avenue) No. 7818, 2016
This Bylaw, as discussed above, was given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

Road Closure Bylaw No. 7824, 2016
This Bylaw is in support of the closure of a non-active piece of laneway adjacent to the 12th Street and 5th Ave development above. It was given two readings by council.

Civic Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No.7842, 2016
Civic Infrastructure Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 7843, 2016

As discussed above, and as we will discuss much more I am sure as the process moves on, these Bylaws were given three readings.

Water Shortage Response Amendment Bylaw No. 7845, 2016
This was discussed last week, and we have now given the Bylaw changes three readings.

Downtown Parking Commission Repeal Bylaw No. 7844, 2016
The Bylaw bringing an end to the long reign of the Downtown Parking commission has been formally adopted. Adjust your behavior accordingly.

And with that, we were done for the week.

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