Two down, two to go.

It’s been just a little more than two years since I became a City Councillor in New Westminster. In the spirit of consistency, I probably need to follow up on last year’s Year-in-the-Life post. So here are some thoughts about being a City Councillor at the half-way mark of my first term.

That New Councillor Smell has definitely worn off. Although this role involves constant learning, I feel I am up over the steep part of the curve and am more confident in my ideas about what does and does not work in the City. This is manifest in a (hopefully subtle) change from me asking myself “why are things this way?” to a more pointed asking others “Do things really need to be this way?”

I am also becoming more aware of the politics that affect my ability to do my job. Every decision you make in Council is a compromise between competing forces. Even the best possible decision is going to be perceived negatively by someone, for good reasons or bad, and no matter how open, pragmatic, or evidence-based your decision making is, criticism can come from any random, unanticipated direction.

I feel fortunate that our Council, despite our ability to disagree on many issues, is remarkably functional. I hear disaster stories from other Councils that refuse to work together or allow their grievances (petty or serious) to prevent them from doing their work. Some are played out in the media, some others I only hear about through the various grapevines. I have heard first-hand accounts of Councillors in other cities suffering from bullying and harassment within their Councils, and of serious enough threats from the public that police involvement was required. I feel fortunate that our City, as passionate and engaged as it is in civic matters, is largely free from these types of conflicts.

I still lose sleep on Sunday nights before Council meetings. I still struggle with some of the hard decisions and increasingly wear the less-than-ideal things that happen in the City. However, I still believe that government can be open, accountable, and effective, and that we can make (are making?) progress towards the City working better in ways people can see.

I am worried about the impact our aggressive capital replacement plan is having on our budget – but also worried about what happens if we let our capital program slide for too long. I fret a bit over our seemingly chronic inability to complete projects on time. I am trying to be vigilant in avoiding creating my own communication bubble where I am only hearing reinforcement of my own ideas (this is most prevalent in the OCP discussion – I think we are on a the right track, but need to keep an open mind for when the draft plan gets to Council in the New Year). I am trying to be mindful on the job and open to better ways to do it.

I was asked recently at a Christmassy social event: “What is your big goal for this Council thing?” I started talking about this blog, the outreach I have been working on, the City’s Community Engagement efforts, and my overall desire to open up the process of democratic decision making. My inquisitor kept trying to get over to tangibles: new buildings, bridges, parks, things you can attach a brass plaque to. It’s funny I couldn’t get there. We are making progress on several projects, the CGP replacement, library upgrades, a better functioning City Hall, the reformation of the waterfront, but I don’t see those as “my” successes or projects. These are things that large teams of people are working towards, and 70,000 taxpayers are paying for. Although I suppose my feeling of ownership will change if I see my name on a brass plaque…

Finally, I’m half way through the term and finally accepting that adjustments need to be made in my lifestyle. I have been burning a lot of candles, and have frankly lost track of which ends of which I have lit. I am going on vacation for a few weeks to recharge my batteries and pay some much-needed attention to my partner. For my return, I have some pretty drastic lifestyle adjustments planned in order to maintain my household, my relationships, and my sanity. I want to keep blogging (and even do more), I want to be more timely at returning communication I receive, and I have a few tangible projects around town and regionally I want to take a bit of ownership over. I have a long list of “we need to get together over coffee/beer and talk about that” dates I need to keep (you know who you are). This will take a change in programming. Stay tuned.

Until then, we’ll call this a Christmas break. I hope you enjoy your Holidays in whatever form that enjoyment takes, and your 2017 is filled with he things that make you happy. Blogging will resume in January, inshallah.

Open letter on the OCP

I receive quite a bit of correspondence as a City Councillor, and I try to reply to as much of it as I can. Sometimes the time just isn’t available, and sometimes the writer doesn’t really leave a space for response (like the racist tirades I receive from “Immigration Watch” every week. Ugh, those guys are relentless).

I rarely make my responses public, as people writing may not like the idea of me writing in a public forum about their ideas, concerns, or opinions. However, recently a letter I received was also sent to and published by the local newspaper. In this case, I thought it appropriate to make my response public. There has already been a bit of social media push-back about this letter, some of it not very respectful to the writer, so I avoided responding via the Record for fear of “piling on” and making that conversation space less comfortable for anyone else interested in expressing an opinion.

We need an open discussion about things as important as the Official Community Plan. however, we also need to make sure the discussion is factual. So with that in mind, and with respect to the letter writer (whom I have met and is a very nice woman with honest and strongly felt convictions), here is my response as sent to her through e-mail a few days ago.

Mrs. Dextras.

Thank you for taking the time to write a letter to Mayor and Council regarding the OCP process. I know you are passionate about your neighbourhood, and am happy to see more voices from Glenbrook North take part on the public engagement.

However, I would like to correct a few misconceptions that I read in the letter as published in the Record, which were also manifest in your presentation to the GNRA when I was there.

The land use designations indicated in the draft land use map during the latest round of public consultation were not “arbitrarily” designated by planning staff. They were the product of more than two years of background data collection, public engagement, workshops, surveys, planning analysis, and conversation around the Council Table. Some earlier drafts presented at public meetings included more or less density in that area of Glenbrook North, and indeed in every neighbourhood in the City. The draft map you now see was developed through lengthy discussions of planning principles, and significant public feedback. There is nothing “arbitrary” about it.

Land Use Designation is not zoning. I know we have heard this more than once, and you have changed your language slightly to reflect this point, but it appears you are still conflating the two principles. The OCP is not a tool to change the zoning of your property, and there is nothing in the OCP that would force a person to sell or redevelop their home. There are currently no rezoning plans for your street, and your “property rights” are in no way reduced by the land use designation

The OCP update process was not initiated by this Mayor or Council, but began in early 2014 under the previous Mayor and before I or my colleague Councillor Trentadue were elected. The current OCP was developed in the 1990s, and though thoroughly amended over the years, was no longer reflective of the reality of New Westminster in 2016. As the Development Permit process to control development relies on an effective OCP, an update was necessary, and I vocally supported it while running for Council, however, I did not initiate it.

You also appear to have a mistaken understanding of the relationship between an OCP and the Regional Growth Strategy. The latter is required for regions experiencing growth (as we are) and s.850 of the Local Government Act (LGA) sets out its requirements. A Local Government OCP is required by law (LGA s.868) to include a Regional Context Statement that outlines how the OCP addresses the RGS, and how they will be made consistent. As such, local governments are required to follow the guidelines of the RGS, although they have considerable flexibility in how they meet those guidelines. In fact, the ruling you cite (Greater Vancouver Regional District v. Langley Township) found that the decision to add density to a protected area by Langley did not constitute a violation of the context statement, but was within that flexibility allowed to the City. Our Council is, indeed, legally bound to adopt an OCP that meets the RGS guidelines.

Your repeated assertion that 450 townhomes will be built on 5th Street in the next 20 years is difficult to reconcile with the draft OCP and guidelines. The west side of 5th street in Glenbrook North (outside of the part already converted to multi-family and commercial use near 6th Ave) is approximately 7 acres (not 15), perhaps 2300 linear feet of block face. With the guidelines proposed in the OCP, this would hardly accommodate a quarter of the townhouses you imagine. With a large number of residents (such as yourself) dedicated to stay in your homes, and not interested in exercising the expanded property rights an OCP amendment may afford, then it is safe to say many, many fewer than this will be built.

Where you are not incorrect (as it is an opinion) but where I strongly disagree with you, is in the assertion that young families like the one profiled in the Record should not be welcomed into our community, and we should not be developing housing policies to accommodate their needs. For a City, indeed for a neighbourhood, to be a livable and vibrant, it must remain accessible for people at different stages of life. I believe in the modern urban planning concepts that a community needs to include places where people can live, work, play and learn in close proximity, as the alternatives are ultimately unsustainable for the environment, for the economy, and for our social systems.

Nonetheless, I am disappointed to hear that your experience at one of the OCP Open Houses was not welcoming, or that you did not feel that your concerns were addressed. I attended several of these events, and never got the sense that staff were hostile to ideas that challenged the draft plans presented (although I occasionally heard participants passionately disagree on matters of principle or specific details). If you did not feel welcome to participate fully, that was indeed a lost opportunity, and I apologise. That said, the correspondence received from you and your neighbours has not been ignored, but has been read, included in the official record, and will be considered by Council as the final OCP is presented in the spring. I have listened to your concerns, have read your correspondence, and very much appreciated your hosting me for coffee in your home on Thanksgiving weekend to discuss your concerns with the process. I am, however, chagrinned that you continue to harbour false ideas about the meaning of the OCP update, and make oft-rebuked assumptions about the impact on your neighbourhood. Perhaps a more fulsome discussion may have provided some clarity to the points above (for example, I cannot stop emphasizing this is not about rezoning).

You are (of course) welcome to continue that correspondence, and to take an active role in the Public Hearing that will be required prior to Council adopting a new OCP.

Thank you again for taking the time to get involved in your community!

Patrick Johnstone

Council – Dec. 5, 2016

The weather outside was fightful, but the last Council Meeting of 2016 was delightful. There were not one, but two separate choral experiences, and a raft of delegations to keep us warm.

We started with a couple of presentations:

Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project – Reference Connections Concept
Translink is moving forward with the Pattullo Bridge replacement, with a new bridge anticipated to be up and running by 2022 or 2023. Work is being done to set design parameters that meet the existing three-party MOU that describes the bridge as a tolled 4 lane crossing with full pedestrian and cycling facilities, just upstream from the existing bridge but landing in essentially the same corridor.

The current round of public engagement has concentrated on the New Westminster and Surrey landing design, and what the traffic patterns will look like, along with a detailed discussion of the pedestrian and cyclist facilities. It is really important that this bridge connects smoothly, but it is even more important that the design not be a barrier to east-west travel through New Westminster. This is an opportunity to connect Victoria Hill to Downtown and Qayqayt School with safer, more comfortable infrastructure, and to fix some of the pedestrian-hostile environments around the east end of Royal and the south end of McBride.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again: Translink has done an excellent job on this public engagement. They have taken to the time to listen to community concerns, have made changes to their plan, large and small, based on what they heard, and most people involved in the discussion seem really pleased. There are a few small details yet to be worked out from a pedestrian viewpoint, and there is some more work to do to address the needs of people in living in the Bushby/Leopold “island”, but so far, so good.

The next round of public consultation for this project will be as part of the BC Environmental Assessment that is triggered by the project. There is a lot of work to prepare background materials to inform the EA, so expect to hear about that process starting formally in the middle of next year.

City of New Westminster Public Engagement Strategy
I have served on the Mayor’s Public Engagement Taskforce, and can attest that this is the culmination of a lot of work by staff, our consultants, and a small but dedicated group of citizen volunteers.

This is one of those topics I will need to write more about, especially as the recommendations in the report start to roll out. In short, anyone who reads this Blog must recognize how important I think it is that people are engaged in the community, and feel like they can take some ownership of the decisions the City makes. We need to reach out, educate and inform the public more about what is happening and what plans are afoot, and we need to provide better feedback to people after they have engaged us, so they know how their input was incorporated into decision making in the City. Good times ahead, and this report (despite a lot of “planner speak”) will help guide staff and consultant in the future to make our City engage better.

Opportunity to host a professional cycling race as part of BC Superweek
I like this idea – I am a fan of bike racing, and have attended many a Gastown Grand Prix and a few Gira di Burnaby. I have a regular riding crew and a bike with curly handlebars, I organized bike races in the Kootenays when I was a kid, and was once counted amongst the top 10 30-39-year old male Mountain Bike racers in Indiana(there is a story there, some other time). So I am totally on board on the bike race side of this.

However, I wonder about the business model we are entering. The commitment of up to $750,000 over 5 years concerns me, and I wonder about the return on investment. I need to know how the local BIA would see this as a benefit, what the appetite is for sponsors. This is an order-of-magnitude larger than the commitment that the City makes to most festivals in the City. The proponent here has to demonstrate that closing down Columbia Street for an evening race on a Tuesday would have a positive impact as a City-promotion project, at least on scale with closing it down on a Saturday for a concert or street festival that costs the City much less.

Council moved to ask staff to do some more analysis and provide us a more robust business case. I’m interested in where this one goes.

The following items were moved on Consent

2017 Amateur Sport Fund Committee Grants Recommendations
The City has a $35,000 budget to support amateur sports through our granting program, and this year we received about $92,000 in requests. Our grant Review Committee made balanced recommendations, and approved awards to the entire $35,000 budget.

Heritage Grant Recommendations for 2017
The $25,000 budget to support heritage programs in the City was not met by requests. All programs were nonetheless reviewed by the Committee to assure they met the criteria for the grant, and all $19,155 requested was awarded.

2017 Child Care Grant Program: Committee Recommendations to

The City has a $40,000 budget to support capital works to improve the operations of child care facilities in the City. This year we received about $69,000 in requests, although a couple were found to be not applicable to the Grant terms. Our review committee recommended $29,562 in awards, and Council moved that approval.

2017 Environmental Grant Program Recommendations
The City has a $10,000 budget to support environmental initiatives by community groups, and we received about $20,000 in requests. The committee recommended slightly more than the budget amount to support some great programs, and Council approved the $10,210 awards.

Appointment to the New Westminster Library Board
The Library Board oversees the operation of the Library at somewhat arms-length from Council via Provincial Regulation called “The Library Act”. Council holds the purse strings, and appoints Board, but from that point forward, operation of the Library falls under the Board. We have just appointed a new member.

District Parents Association Committee Representative to the Youth Advisory Committee
The Youth Advisory Committee includes a DPAC rep. Council has now appointed the sole applicant to serve on that committee.

Appointment of Chairs to 2017 Advisory Bodies of Council and Organizations
Councillors and the Mayor have numerous committees, boards, and task forces to participate in. We have made some subtle changes in who is serving on which board, mostly for scheduling and strategic priority reasons. It is also good to shake things up a little once in a while – a change is as good as a rest, someone with way too much time on their hands once said.

Community Heritage Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7897, 2016
Council is tweaking the make-up of the Heritage Commission. Since it is a Commission, the Terms of Reference can only be changed through a Bylaw, which Council has now endorsed for three readings.

501 – 505 Twelfth Street: Proposed Five Storey Multiple Unit Residential Development – Issuance of Development Permit
This project has been in the works for a long time. The first report to Council was in 2013. I’m glad to see that this is one of the last projects to be put together prior to our Family Friendly Housing Policy. Although it has a large number of 2 bedroom suites (and relatively roomy ones), there are no three-bedroom units. However, the project will be good for 12th Street by bringing more people close to the retail and by putting more eyes on the street with a design that includes ground-oriented suites along the street level.

Council moved to issue the Development Permit

628 and 638 Columbia Street: Endorsement of Works and Services Provisions for Temporary Sales Centre
The approvals for a temporary use at the site of the Columbia Street fire hit the letters section of the Record this week. I’m not sure, honestly, what the specific concern is presented in the letter, or how to address the concerns other than what was discussed coming out of last week’s meeting. Regardless, this report lists the required works and services required to support the temporary use.

Anvil Centre Restaurant Lease
It looks like we have a lease agreement that all parties can agree on. There was a lot of work on this file over a long period of time, and I’m satisfied that the deal we have reached is not only the best use of the space, but provides good value. I look forward to seeing the site developed, that corner of downtown activated, and another local entrepreneur setting up shop in our commercial district.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Community Poverty Reduction Strategy (2016)
1 in 6 children in New West live in poverty, which is better than the 1 in 5 province wide average, but still unacceptable in a province that claims to be the best place on earth with the greatest economy in Canada and what ever hyperbole will be used to gloss over provincial government’s inaction on this issue. They need to step up, not with random acts of funding, or by continuing to prop up long-debunked trickle-down economic fantasies, but with governance and a strategic vision of how they will support our most vulnerable neighbours.

Parallel to that hope, this is an area where local governments have to step up, because so many of the impacts of poverty are felt at the local government level, here in the community where we live. We will have longer discussion of this strategy early in the new year, because there are a great number of actions here, many the city is already doing, others that will require greater investment.

New Energy Efficiency Initiatives for Multi-Unit Residential Buildings and Strata Condominium Buildings in New Westminster
Again, more discussion in the New Year about this, but the City’s program to promote energy efficiency in the greater community has been among the most successful local-government-led programs in the province. This report is about the successful expansion of this program in to the MURB sector, where takeup exceeded expectations as did results. More to come!

222 Fifth Avenue (Queen’s Park): Heritage Alteration Permit for Demolition
Several people came to delegate to Council on this project, with divided suggestions about whether the City should allow this demolition. This one is difficult to call, as the *Heritage Commission is opposed to the Demolition, but the Technical Review Committee (in a split vote) was OK with it, seeing the preservable heritage value as fairly limited (but not insignificant)*. However, in the spirit of the conservation period, I feel I have to err on the side of preservation for these “too close to call” applications.

*edited: it was pointed out to me that what I wrote above was not correct, once again reflecting my lack of an editor! So replace the struck-out part with “the Heritage Commission opposed the Demolition in a split vote, where the Technical Review Committee was OK with it, seeing the preservable heritage value as fairly limited (but not insignificant)*

Every one of these applications is difficult. Council is making decisions that have a profound effect on one family’s finances and life plan. These decisions cannot be made lightly or without consideration for the context. However, I also feel that each of these applications that come in during the Heritage Conservation Period will inform the types of restrictions and process we want to see in an eventual Heritage Conservation Area, if that is the direction the community chooses to go. The difficulty of the conversation right now is part of the work we need to do to make sure any permanent controls are well considered and understood.

2017 Arts & Culture Grant Recommendations
The City has a $25,000 budget to support arts and culture programs through grants. This year we received $50,000 in requests, and the Review Committee made the hard choices to approve the full $25,000 balance.

2017 Community Grant Recommendations
The Grant window was $51,000, for which $74,244 was requested and the committee approved $50,872. A bit of discussion ensued, including moving the Humane Society grant out of the category and into the Partnership Grant (where it is more applicable).

I also challenged the idea that our two (yes, two) Ambassador Programs do not provide benefits outside of the leadership training they provide to their participants. I think both programs provide well-organized and reliable volunteer force that help with a variety of programs in the City. You see them helping host events, doing set-up and tear-down and a million other tasks. They reach out to other parts of the community and help make our community stronger.

I’m not in favour of the City funding beauty pageants, as I question their role in community building in 2016, however both youth groups do good work, and I wanted to assure the City stepped up to augment the sponsorship funds that the programs receive so they can continue their work. Council moved to provide $3,500 to each of the two organizations, which seemed a reasonable compromise amount based on how much they were funded last year and their request amounts for this year.

2017 City Partnership Grants
This is the big fund that supports a large number of ongoing programs in the City, including Tourism, the Arts Council, the Symphony, and several other community-building programs. The budget is $440,000, and we received requests for $560,000. Of course, the big budget and community impacts of these programs garnered a lot of discussion around the Council Table. The committee recommendation is for $440,501 to be approved. Council approved this, but we added $5,000 for the Humane Society (pulled from the Community Grant process), and ACORN for $7,000.

The strange discussion we have around these grants are not something you see in many Councils, but that there is democracy, folks. We receive the best advice from our staff and committees, and we them bounce our biases off of each other and come to some compromise through discussion that most people can support. It is not always pretty, but we do it in open Council, so we are at least accountable.

We received some correspondence, and then did the Bylaw shuffle:

Community Heritage Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7897, 2016
As discussed earlier in the meeting, the Bylaw to change the Terms of Reference for the Heritage Commission received three readings.

Housing Agreement (318 Agnes Street) Amendment Bylaw No. 7882, 2016; Housing Agreement (328 Agnes Street) Amendment Bylaw No. 7883, 2016; Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7880, 2016; Amendment to Comprehensive Development District (318 and 328 Agnes Street) (CD-63)
As discussed back on November 21 , these Bylaw amendments to support the minor re-allocation of suites between these two buildings was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land.

Heritage Designation Repeal Bylaw (437 Seventh Street) No. 7873, 2016
As discussed on the Public Hearing of November 28, this repeal of Heritage Protection for Duplex in Uptown was adopted by Council.

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No. 7895, 2016
As discussed on November 28, this Bylaw that empowers us to spend from our DCC reserves is not Adopted. Adjust your plans accordingly.

And after a painful bit of singing, we were done for 2016. See you all in 2017. Have a great Christmas break, and I hope 2017 works out pretty much how you wish! Be nice to each other, folks.

Council – Nov. 28, 2016

The November 28th Council agenda included no less than three Workshop topics during an afternoon session (although one was pushed to the evening session due to time constraints). These were wide-ranging discussions, so I will only give you a quick summary here:

Draft 2017 – 2021 Financial Plan – General Fund
As part of our ongoing public deliberations over the budget, we discussed the General Fund and some capital budget plans.

We have an aggressive capital program – something like $170 Million over the next 5 years. This is not, for the most part, new facilities, but investing in long-overdue renovations and replacements of our aged building stock. The Canada Games Pool, City Hall, the Library, and the Animal Shelter are the 4 biggest items, and few would argue they all need major work or replacement.

This is starting to show up in our budget projections for the coming years in various ways. Our reserves are currently significantly more than our debt, but that relationship will be changing soon. Structurally, we are OK, in that we are nowhere near the level of debt that would cause concern for a municipality our size, and our reserves are strong, if a little lower than ideal.

OUR CITY 2041 – Feedback Received Regarding Draft Infill Housing Design Guidelines.
This was an opportunity for Council to review the public feedback received on the draft design guidelines for infill density that will be part of the OCP. This goes hand-in hand with the draft Land Use Map, but is arguably more important. As we open up more areas to relatively minor density increases, the form and shape of projects will influence whether they improve or reduce the livability of our existing residential neighborhoods. It will also impact the viability and affordability of actually building any new project, so there is a delicate balancing act here which has required a lot of public consolation and discussion with stakeholders.

All of our talk this round was in relation to Carriage Houses and Lane Way Homes, we discussed conditions where slight increases in FSR (over the strict current 0.50 limit) would be acceptable, and conditions that would need to apply. We talks about flexibility n building separation and parking design, and even about how much off-street parking should limit unit numbers.

All of this will be coming back early in January in the form of a draft OCP bylaw. Then the fun really begins!

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Draft Design Guideline Principles, and Discussion on Possible Degrees of Conservation
The public consultation for the potential Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area has begun. There has been quite a bit of outreach (including a mailing to every house in Queens Park).

There have been a lot of questions about this idea, from the esoteric (“What is ‘Heritage’?”) to the practical (“Can I paint my fence?”), and the first step of the consultation will be about finding answers to some of the larger public policy questions around what protection should look like, how far it should go, and what is it that we are really trying to protect. This conversation will go on through the spring, as staff, the Residents Association, and the Heritage Preservation Society work through a myriad of details. I highly encourage you to take part.

As it was the last meeting of the month, our evening session began with a Public Hearing on three Bylaws:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1023 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 7871, 2016 and
Heritage Designation Bylaw (1023 Third Avenue) No. 7872, 2016

This is an interesting project in the Brow of the Hill neighborhood that seeks to protect a significant (if not grand) heritage house, while adding density befitting a mixed-density walkable neighbourhood. I think it will create some (relatively) affordable family-friendly housing options and fit very well within the streetscape. The Residents Association, the Design Panel, and Heritage Commission all support the project.

We received no written submissions, and had both the proponent and a neighbour speak in favour of the project.

Council voted in the regular council session to give these Bylaws third reading (which is a legal way of saying we have provisionally approved the project).

Heritage Designation Repeal Bylaw (437 Seventh Street) No. 7873, 2016
This is a slightly strange one. A Heritage Revitalization Agreement is an instrument where the City provides some benefit to a property owner (increased density in the case of the item above) in exchange for them designating their property for heritage preservation. The practice now is for those two processes to occur simultaneously (see item above), to avoid exactly what happened here.

In the case of this house in the Uptown neighbourhood, the Designation was made, but the HRA was never executed. Essentially, the homeowner never received the benefit. As such, (s)he is now asking for the designation to be removed

Council, in a split vote, agreed to give this Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7880, 2016; Amendment to Comprehensive Development District (318 and 328 Agnes Street)
This is the formal change of the law to support the shifting of a suite from one side of the development to the other, to deal with some buildability issues. No-one appeared to speak to this issue, and I can’t imagine why someone would, but process is process, and Council agreed to give this change Third Reading.

After the Public Hearing, our Regular Meeting started with Opportunities to the Heard on two development variances:

Development Variance Permit No. DVP00616 for 217 Ninth Avenue
This variance was to relax an off-street parking requirement for a secondary suite to protect trees. This is several of these now, but I am glad we are valuing trees over parking spots as a general practice. No-one came to speak to the DVP, and Council moved to approve it.

Development Variance Permit No. DVP00617 for 628 and 638 Columbia Street
This variance got a little more attention, as several people came to speak against it. The application is for a temporary use permit to build a single-story display and sales centre for the Bosa waterfront project. The site is on the empty lot where Copps Shoes was before the devastating fire of 2013. A summary of the concerns I heard was that an uninspiring one-story display suite building was not an appropriate replacement for such a significant location in the downtown.

To that point, I agree. However, this application is for a temporary use of up to 5 years. I do not imagine this will be the final use of the site, and that is not what we are permitting. Nor do I suspect this will in any way delay the finding of a more permanent use of the fire site. I’m only a City Councillor, and am sometimes shockingly unaware of development plans in the City until they arrive in a Council or Committee agenda, but I have not heard one whiff of a permanent development plan coming along for that site. If there are works in the wings that have not hit City Staff or Council yet, then a development of the magnitude one might imagine for that site (at-grade or multi-level commercial with residential above, I would presume, but who knows?) is at least three years away from breaking ground. The City cannot force that application to come, it is at the leisure of the property owner.

In the meantime, we have two options presented to us: let someone clean the site up, use the store frontage on Columbia, and perhaps provide some public amenity space on the Front Street side; or leave the rubbly hole with a fence around it until the right plan is put together. I think the first option is better for the City, and better for the businesses and residents downtown.

Council voted to support the variance that would allow the temporary use.

We had a couple of Reports for Action:

City Resources and Expenses Associated with the City Truck, Trailer and Chassis Usage in Parades
The City has agreed with the Hyack Festival Association to gift the truck, trailer, and Chassis used to manage the Hyack Parade Float program over to Hyack, after the City completed some necessary repairs to make them safe and reliable. We will also provide parking in our Tow Yard until we anticipate the Tow Yard moving around a year from now.

Update on the City Grant Program
After last week’s discussion of Grant funding levels, staff from the respective groups went through the grant criteria and whittled down the budget to equal the amount we granted last year (which, I note, was about 10% more than we budgeted or last year). The various committees can now get to work making recommendations to Council about how the Grants are allocated for next year.

The following Item was Moved on Consent:

DCC Expenditure Bylaw No. 7895, 2016
This Bylaw empowers us to spend from our DCC reserves for projects the DCC reserves were created to fund. For those new to this thing, Development cost Charges are funds that cities collect from developers as part of a development deal to pay the actual cost of increasing infrastructure capacity to accommodate the increase in population resultant from the development. Bigger neighbourhoods need bigger sewers and bigger roads; the builders of the neighbourhoods pay for those through DCCs. The amount we collect is regulated by the Provincial Government, and we are not legally able to spend the money on anything else.

Also note, we are drawing money from the mainland to build transportation projects in Queensborough ahead of schedule. How does this square with the perception that Q’Boro is ignored and treated as a second thought?

We had some bridge-based correspondence prior to our regular Bylaws chorus:

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No. 7895, 2016</>
As mentioned above the Bylaw permitting our spending of DCCs received three readings.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2016-2020) Amendment Bylaw No. 7891, 2016
As discussed November 21, the amendment of our 5-year financial Plan to address updated revenue and expense projections was Adopted. It is the law of the land, folks.

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 7864, 2016
As also discussed November 21, the Bylaw authorizing short-term borrowing to better manage cash flows was formally Adopted. Everyone pay your bills on time, and we might not need it.

Engineering User Fees and Utility Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7889, 2016
As discussed in the November 7 and November 21st meetings, this Bylaw to change various engineering fees was Adopted. Please adjust your account codes appropriately.

Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 7868, 2016
As also discussed November 21, these changes to our fines and bylaw practices was Adopted. It is now the law of the land, I suggest you adjust your behavior accordingly.

Then I was off to hang out with the cool kids at the Christmas Parade: