Council – June 13, 2016

Our June 13 Regular Council Meeting started with a Presentation and Opportunity to be Heard on this Bylaw Amendment:

Five Year Financial Plan (2015-2019) Amendment Bylaw
The Financial Plan is, colloquially, the “budget” for the city, and it is a regulatory document that requires a Bylaw Amendment whenever we change it.

As we have just completed our 2015 Audited Statements, and due to the nature of budget forecasting, some adjustments to the existing 5-Year Plan need to be made to reflect the numbers in those Audited Statements.

Not surprisingly, no-one came to speak to the Bylaw Amendment, so we referred it to later in the meeting.

We then passed the following items On Consent:

Anvil Centre Artist in Residence Program
As part of the ongoing evolution of our Community’s new Centre for Arts, this program will bring a local artist in-house to work on their practice with dedicated studio time, and to better activate the 4th floor studios. Watch for a call for submissions in the Fall.

Metro Vancouver Request for Exemption to Construction Noise Bylaw
Metro needs to do some sanitary sewer work on the 300 Block of Columbia Street. The work needs to happen in the middle of the night because that is when the sewers are empty enough to allow the work to take place without causing inconvenience to sewer users. We are all sewer users. Late night work needs a Noise Exemption, and we moved to grant it for two nights between June 15 and June 29th (depending on weather).

824 Agnes Street: Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) Park Visioning Consultation Report
The open lot at Carnarvon across from McInnes has been used in part as a dog run, but is also considered for Provincial recognition as a Chinese Historic Place, as it is a portion of the original “Chinatown” in British Columbia, and had a variety of uses in the Chinese community in the early years of the city.

Working with the Chinese Benevolent Association, the City is exploring a future park on the site to commemorate the site history. We are now engaging a landscape architect to develop concepts drawn from the visioning sessions.

Union of BC Municipalities Resolution Related to Tenant Evictions through Renovations
We have talked at council several times about the “renoviction” (and “demovictions”) problem in the region, and increasingly in the City. Our Council is taking a resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities to help address one aspect of this, hopefully reducing the incentives to evict residents for minor renovation and rent hikes. We will also be seeking support from other Municipalities in the regions.

Official Community Plan Review – Draft Policies and Revised Vision and Goals
“New Westminster is a caring, healthy, inclusive, sustainable, complete and prosperous city where investment, growth and development contribute to a high quality of life for all. Community members have opportunities to connect to the natural environment and to each other. The city is well connected by exceptional public spaces and is easily accessible by foot and by wheels. Each neighbourhood has a unique character and cultural identity, and exhibits a high quality of urban design that is well integrated with the city’s heritage assets.”

This report outlines some of the Vision and Goals statements and Draft Policies that will provide the backbone of the new Official Community Plan. We have spent much of the last year consulting on the eventual Land Use Plan, and a draft plan is nearing completion. However, as important in the OCP are the goals and visions that will define how our City will operate in the decades ahead.

The vision, goals and draft policies in this report will be going out the public for comment as the next stage of OCP consultation. We’re not done yet, folks. However, we are still hoping to have a new Official Community Plan ready for adoption in early 2017, and significant midnight oil is being burned to make that happen. More to come!

Heritage Control Period Bylaw and Heritage Alteration Permit Procedures Bylaw – For Three Readings
There has been increasing concern about demolition of heritage homes in New Westminster, no more than in Queens Park. The residents of Queens Park have organized a Heritage Preservation society, and have worked though their Residents Association with the City’s Heritage Commission and staff to develop a Heritage Study, review potential policy changes, and propose some strategies to preserve heritage homes. The proposed approaches have so far seen strong support from a large number of Queens Park residents.

There are limited things a Local Government can do under our empowering legislation when it comes to limiting the things you can and cannot do on your private property. We can (reasonably) prevent you from cutting down a tree, but we cannot (reasonably) prevent you from knocking down your house. Don’t blame me, blame the Community Charter.

One way a City can increase its power to protect individual homes from demolition is to establish a Heritage Conservation Area. The Queens Park group has asked the City to explore this option, and we are doing so. However, it will take time for the HCA to be developed, to draft appropriate legislation and set up internal policies and procedures to make it work. We don’t want a bunch of speculators to get in there and start knocking houses down while the City gets its ducks in a row.

Therefore, using powers the City has under the Local Government Act, we can establish a temporary Heritage Control Period over a specific area for up to one year. This will allow us to establish better oversight, and even temporarily prevent demolitions of individual homes until we get the HCA developed. The conversation should be starting now about whether this is the way the neighbourhood and the larger community want to go.

I suspect there will be a *lot* of conversation about this over the next 12 months, and I am curious about where this goes!

612 – 618 Brantford Street: Preliminary Report
This project to build a mid-rise apartment building adjacent to Bent Court in the Brow of the Hill is pretty early in the process. It will be going to review committees, to public consultation, and eventually to Public Hearing, so I’ll hold off my comments for now and wait to hear what the neighbourhood and general community think.

Sixth Street and Belmont Street Traffic Control
This is a follow up to the earlier report on the “Coffee Corner” which got a little tongue-in cheek press last month. After reviewing the recommendations and having discussions both internally and with the Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles and Pedestrians, a modified plan was put together that will see better lighting of the crossing without the need for “beg buttons” – a plan I can support practically and philosophically.

Alternative Approval Process for Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 7842, 2016
Ugh. I hate the AAP, but have yet to come up with an alternative solution for how we prepare ourselves for the capital projects our community wants us to get done.

We are starting the process to prepare the City to secure up to $28.3 Million in borrowing ability. We are not necessarily going to borrow this money, but we do want to get the equivalent of a Line of Credit in case we need to secure cash to pay for upcoming capital works.

Those who remember a few years back (when I was notably opposed to this very form of reverse-referendum) will remember that the City cannot borrow for more than 5 years without approval of the electorate, yet we are allowed to seek that approval by seeing if more than 10% of the voters in the city are willing to fill out a form in opposition.

There will be notices in the paper and forms at City Hall, c’mon out and let us know if you think this is a bad idea.

Sapperton Park Playground Redevelopment – Preferred Option
The playground of Sapperton Park is getting a re-design and upgrade. Read the report to see what the public consultation said about the alternate designs. We should see this park renewed by next spring!

Street Food Vending at Westminster Pier Park
We are going to pilot allowing Food Trucks at the western entrance of Pier Park, as part of our very coy flirtation with making Food Trucks part of our City’s street life.

PIKNIC ELECTRONIK 2016 Concert Postponement
The proponents who wanted to hold a two-day electronic music event at Pier Park have determined that they could not secure the right talent mix to make the event successful in 2016, so they are re-booting for 2017. This doesn’t change our festival funding situation for 2016, or 2017 for that matter, as the PIKNIC folks were going to pay their own way, they only asked that the City waive the fees that would have been charged for the use of public space.

Special Occasion Permit for New Westminster Minor Baseball Association
New West Baseball wants to sell beer in part of the stands at Queens Park Stadium for the 2016 Playoff Tournament. Who am I to keep baseball fans from beer and hot dogs?

The following Reports were discussed by Council:

Update on Council’s Strategic Initiatives
We received a progress update on three of our Strategic Initiatives:

Canada Games Pool Replacement
With the Public Consultation process that will inform the design of the replacement for the CGP and Centennial Community Centre, it is timely to update the public on the work done already. As indicated, Council has decided that we need a new pool, and cannot invest in continued upgrades of the existing pool. We have also decided that the new facility will be built adjacent to the existing pool, although the exact locations and layout will be impacted by what comes out of the public consultation about what services, programs, and amenities the community is willing to finance in the new facility.

Those decisions were not made lightly. We went through a preliminary analysis of more than a dozen locations in almost every neighbourhood of the City, and shortlisted three primary locations for detailed analysis. Those three were evaluated for site layout, synergies with adjacent facilities, land ownership, geotechnical work, transportation options, user groups, and other factors. I was swayed by the body of evidence that the current location balances the various factors best. It isn’t the perfect place, but it is the best place available.

Housing Affordability Strategies
The City is moving forward on three Affordable Housing projects. Two will be smaller scale and will include some supportive housing and non-market housing, both in partnership with social service agencies in the City (Community Living and WINGS). The third will be a mix of market and non-market housing in partnership with Metro Vancouver at the current Muni Evers Park site.

As the most affordable housing is often the house people are already in, we are developing some enhanced protection policies for renters in the City. We are trying to reduce the impact of “Renovictions” within our limited Local Government Act powers, and are looking at a “rent Bank” support mechanism to keep people suffering from short-term setbacks from ending up on the street.

We also have a lot of market rental housing coming on line in the next couple of years, more than 1,200 suites. There have been very few new dedicated rental buildings constructed in New Westminster in the last decade, and vacancies are in the low single digit percentages. We have created the incentives necessary to make building market rental viable for the development community to get the stock back to where it needs to be to have some of that stock available and affordable.

Animal Shelter and Tow Yard
The City’s Animal Shelter is well past its replacement date, and the Previous Council developed a good plan to sell the land where the current tow yard is and use that money o finance the building of a new facility. We can expect the tow yard under the Queensborough Bridge to be coming on line next year, and a new animal facility across the street about a year after that.

New Westminster Fire Rescue: EMA EMR Certification and
Administration of Naloxone Signing of Collaboration Agreement

We had quite a lengthy discussion about these two related issues: the current opioid overdose crisis, and the current crisis in ambulance services. I think this is too big a topic to put in this summary, so I will save it for a future blog post – coming soon.

Except to say that I am shocked that this table is not front page news in New West:


Allocation of the Voluntary Amenity Contribution Funds
The City collects VACs from developers when larger developments occur. They don’t go in general revenue, but are earmarked for specific purposes. This report outlines how $395,000 of accumulated VACs will be spent, and include those in the Five-year Financial Plan as such.

1031 Sixth Avenue: Updated Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw 7854, 2016
This on-again off-again Heritage Revitalization project for the 1891 single family home in brow of the hill will be going to Public Hearing on June 20, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Downtown Dog Relief Station
This is a somewhat innovative idea- part pocket park, mostly outdoor convenience stop for dogs. A small park, the size of a parking spot, with an artificial turf surface and drainage to allow it to manage the waste it receives, in the downtown area where there is a general lack of places for dogs to go.

Many jokes here, and a few pooperational challenges, but we are not the first to try this, so I am interested to see how the pilot program goes!

Finally, we went through our Bylaws for the night:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1031 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7854, 2016:
First and Second Reading of Bylaw No. 7854, 2016

Due to some changes in language since first and second reading, we rescinded those readings, paving the way for:
Revised Bylaw No. 7854, 2016
Our giving First and Second reading to a revised version of the Bylaw. This HRA for the 1891 house on Sixth Ave in Moody Park will be going to Public Hearing on June 20, 2016. C’mon out and let us know what you think!

Heritage Control Period Bylaw No. 7856, 2016
This Bylaw will extend temporary (one year) added protection to pre-1966 homes in the Queens Park neighbourhood while the City gets ideas for a permanent Heritage Conservation Area organized and discussed in the general public. Contrary to what some have reported in the Social Media, this is not a “moratorium on demolitions”, but a temporary process whereby people asking for demolitions or alterations of their pre-1966 residential properties will require an extra review, to assure that heritage assets are not lost. This Bylaw passed three readings.

**Note: The Bylaw was formally Adopted by Council in a special meeting on June 15 – it is the Law of the Land, folks, for one year.**

Heritage Alteration Permit Procedures Bylaw No. 7859, 2016
This Bylaw created procedures to empower the Bylaw above, and also received three readings.

Five Year Financial Plan (2015-2019) Amendment Bylaw No. 7849, 2016
As discussed at the beginning of tonight’s meeting, this Bylaw updates our Five-year Financial Plan to reflect minor edits coming out of the audited annual reporting. The Bylaw received three readings.

Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 7848, 2016
As discussed at our May 30 Meeting, this change to the Bylaw regulating our Electrical Utility was Adopted by Council. It is now the Law of the Land, and I would appreciate it if everyone adapt quickly to this new way of life.

Road Closure Bylaw No. 7824, 2016
As discussed at our May 30 Meeting, this closure of an unopened alleyway off of Fifth Ave near 12th Street was Adopted by Council. It is now the Law of the Land, adjust your plans accordingly.

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