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: