Council – September 19, 2016

This week’s council dealt with some pretty significant issues in terms of the effect on how our City will look in the decades ahead, despite it being a fairly short agenda. Consequently, there was a lot of spirited discussion, and although mostly agrees on the direction we want to go, and the end result, there is some pretty strong disagreement on a lot of the process questions.

However, before that, we started off with an Opportunity to be Heard or two:

Development Variance Permit 00610 for Vary Sign Bylaw Requirements for Boston Pizza at 88 Tenth Street
The Boston Pizza wants to adapt its signage to make themselves move visible from Stewardson Way, but this requires a variance from our Sign Bylaw. We received no written submissions on this proposal, and no-one came to exercise their Opportunity to be Heard for or against the idea.

This is a pretty reasonable request, the sign fits the spirit of the Bylaw in scale and design, except that the strange geography of the Columbia Square Mall creates more street frontages than is normal, or envisioned in our Bylaw. Allowing the restaurant to advertise their presence internally to the mall parking lot and to the adjacent road seems like a reasonable request.

Council moved to support the Variance Permit.

That said, I was tempted to vote against it because of Brad Marchand, but he is lining up with Sidney Crosby in the World Cup this week, so I’ll cut him and his stinking rat face some slack and not punish every Boston themed enterprise by association.

Temporary Use Permit No. 00012 for part of 97 Braid Street
Fraser Health wants to build a temporary parking lot for their employees and contractors during the first phase of construction for the RCH expansions. We need to issue a temporary use permit because “parking lot” is not one of the current allowable uses of that open lot at Braid and Brunette.

We had no correspondence on this, and only one person came to speak on the issue, expressing concerns about the screening and visual impact of the lot, mostly pertaining to tree planting around the lot.

It is a temporary use, and the fencing and screening will be removed, but Staff was requested to review the landscaping plan in regards to the visual impact of the lot. I was also concerned that Rousseau not become a route for the shuttle bus that Fraser Health wants to run, as we don’t need more traffic impacts on local neighbourhoods when there is a viable alternative.

Council moved to support the temporary use permit.

On the neighbourhood impact point, I hope that Fraser Health takes this opportunity to promote Transportation Demand Management for its employees, discouraging the use of cars in parking lots, and encouraging the transit and other options available to them. They have agreed to work with the City on ramped up enforcement of parking restrictions on the residential streets around the Hospital during this time, to try to convince employees that parking tickets aren’t “the cost of doing business” when you work at RCH.

We then had a presentation from staff:

OUR CITY 2041 – Draft Infill Housing Design Guidelines
As part of the development of a new Official Community Plan, we are looking at ways to manage “infill density” in our residential neighbourhoods.

The draft Land Use Plan that is going to public consultation over the next few weeks includes some changes in single family neighbourhoods, including opening up the possibility of Laneway Houses (LWH) and Carriage Houses (CH) in most areas, and some limited areas where smaller Townhouse (TH) or Rowhome (RH) projects may be strategically fit into existing neighbourhoods.

However, to make this work while protecting the livability of our single family neighbourhoods, there need to be limits – not every lot or property is appropriate for LWH/CH introduction, and TH/RH done poorly can have a negative impact on neighbouring properties. Staff has drafted a set of such guidelines for both instances, which are up for public consultation. It should be a lively discussion.

LWH/CR: There are three ways that the viability of the single family detached lot for a LWH/CH is being considered: overall density, proportional density, and size. Currently, single family lots are generally limited to 0.5 FSR, which means if you have a 6,000sqft lot, you can build a 3,000sqft house (6,000 x 0.5 = 3,000). Staff are proposing no change in this maximum density. The allowable FSR of 0.5 must be split between the main and secondary house. Proportionally, the second house cannot be more than 0.15 of that FSR. Finally, the LWH/CH cannot be smaller than 350sqft, or larger than 950sqft.

Therefore, if you have 5,000sqft lot, the LWH house must be (5,000 x 0.15 = 750) 750sqft or smaller. If you have a 2,000sqft house on that lot, then the LWH can only be 500sqft (2000+500 = 2500 = 0.5 FSR). If the lot is bare, you have the option to build one 2,500sqft home, or a 2,000sqft house and a 500sqft LWH/CH, or even a 1,750sqft house and a 750sqft LWH/CH. There are also other guidelines about open space, window placement, and maximum building envelope that will reduce the impact on neighbouring properties.

For the TH/RH guidelines, these are looking at smaller, more compact developments that you might be familiar with in Queensborough or in Fraserview, and there are many guidelines around setbacks, building form, scale and open space that are designed to make them fit better into neighbourhoods – to effectively make then less obtrusive neighbours to single family homes.

Again, these are draft guidelines, and meant to start the discussion in the community. There are a half a dozen Open Houses coming up and on-line consultation, I encourage you to take part. If you read this Blog, you probably care a bit about the direction the City is going, this is a chance for you to provide real input that matters. All info here.

The following items were moved on consent:

Draft Flag Policy
The City occasionally run flags up poles (i.e. for Pride week, to celebrate Philippine National Day), and sometimes drop them to half-mast (when solemn events occur). As we are a City, we need a policy for this. The most notable difference for most of you is the little flags on our desk have been rearranged a bit to make sure we are giving proper dominance to the Canadian Flag.

We then had a few Reports for Action

City Resources and Expenses Associated with the City Truck, Trailer  and Chassis Usage in Parades
The City has invested in a truck, trailer, and chassis to support the Hyack Festivals Association float program, along with contributing to the cost of design and production of the float.

Although this program began far enough back that no-one is really sure how it started, and like many things in the history of the City, appears to be on the basis of a handshake agreement, several costs are coming due. The vehicles are at end of life, and need to either be refurbished or replaced.

Unfortunately, this decision came to us without first having a discussion with the primary stakeholder – the Hyack Festivals Association. We would never decide the fate of the Legge Theatre without consulting the Vagabond Players, or the Art Gallery without talking to the Arts Council, so I don’t think we should make any decision until we at least know what Hyack wants or needs from this program, and their ability to pay for it.

The report was tabled until Staff can perform that consultation and provide us some more info.

Queen’s Park Heritage Control Clarification of Scope and Process
The highlight of the night was our detailed discussion of the process staff is proposing to address Council’s decision to impose a Heritage Control Period for the Queens Park Neighbourhood while a Heritage Conservation Area plan is developed.

Through some unfortunate communications by the City, including Council, precipitated by a failure to respond to media reports last June, the use of the term “moratorium” has been used to characterize the Heritage Control Period. I tried to be very careful back at the time, and have tried to be careful to avoid the term since, because a municipal government does not have authority under the Local Government Act to declare such a moratorium.

There are strict limits to a local government’s ability to regulate demolitions. As a property owner, you have the right to apply, and to be heard in a reasonable time. A City has a right to work through a process, but must reply to a request in a reasonable time. If a homeowner does not like a decision made on a permit application, they have a right to appeal to Council, and we may or may not have the right to turn them down. The Heritage Control Period extends to us that right to say “no” for the sake of heritage preservation, but does not remove the applicants’ right to a fair hearing before Council.

It is a bit unfortunate that we are getting into a process debate at this period, because I think (and I should not speak for all of Council) that most or all of Council is in favour of heritage protection for Queens Park, but we need to determine what the process will be to get us there, and that the community both understands the implications of this, and has been consulted on the details of the implementation.

We have, as a City, not done a great job so far on communications so far on this project, and we need to sharpen up. It was a bit of a fractious evening at Council, and the policy direction we are taking was supported on a split vote, but I think it was good for us to go through a bit of the process discussion now, and get the larger conversation started.

The process we have decided to put in place for the Heritage Control Period is a good one because it provides a high level of protection, it is completely defensible if a proponent dead-set on demolition comes to Council and we turn them down, and it gives us an opportunity to test a process prior to the introduction of a more permanent approach. The process is very similar to the First Shaughnessy process Vancouver used a couple of years ago, and that managed to act as a de facto moratorium, in that no heritage demolitions were approved during the period, while never facing a court challenge.

The following item was removed from consent

Traffic Control Requirements for Special Events
There have been a few issues for some event organizers around traffic control measures. Specifically, the Uptown Winter Farmers Market on Belmont Street was feeling a financial pinch from having to provide two full time traffic control officers during their bi-weekly road closures. Having to pay for a single event is one thing, but when you hold 10-15 events a year, the bills add up. Add to this that the road closure on Belmont is such that people are unlikely to accidentally drive on the closed street, as long as the barriers are placed properly and the road is full of tents. Traffic management is pretty much keeping people from wandering into cross traffic at the ends. Volunteers can do that.

The RCFM asked us to review this policy, and our Festivals Committee, staff, and the NWPD agreed to some adjustment to the policy impacting all event holders, not just the RCFM. Hopefully, this will make one of myriad of tasks for event organizers a little clearer and more efficient.

With no Bylaws to read or adopt, that brought our meeting to an end!

One comment on “Council – September 19, 2016

  1. Hey, just a question about Floor-Space Ratios for the laneway house idea (which I am in favour of, in general). When this is mentioned, does the floor space include below grade? I was under the impression that below grade was not included… but what do I know? Probably not much.

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