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.

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