Council – February Feb 20, 2017

If feel like I am very busy these days, but we had a remarkably short Council Meeting on February 20th. So short, that I was actually home in time to cook dinner for MsNWimby, which I think is a first for my time on Council. We had a longer Workshop during the day, which I will try to blog about later…

Like most meetings that are the last of the month, this one featured a Public Hearing on a single project (but two bylaws):

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (720 Second Street) Bylaw No. 7887, 2017
Heritage Designation (720 Second Street) Bylaw No. 7888, 2017

This project would see the 1912 corner store at Second Street and Durham Street in Glenbrook North restored to its vernacular Edwardian glory and converted back to its original layout: commercial at the ground floor with a small family home above. In exchange for restoration and permanent protection of the building, the owner is applying for a subdivision of the lot to build a relatively small Craftsman-style bungalow on the other half of the lot.

The Heritage Commission and Advisory Planning Commission approved of the project, and there was a generally positive response to the plan from the residents’ association. We received 3 written submissions in response to this application, one opposed to the subdivision, but in favour of the heritage restoration, and two concerned about the impact on street parking. We also had three presentations at the Public Hearing, the proponent (who was in favour), a neighbour with questions regarding potential commercial uses and the heritage value of the building (but not necessarily opposed), and one neighbour who expressed support for the project.

Council moved to refer these Bylaws to the regular council meeting which immediately followed:

Our Regular Agenda began with the Bylaws referred from the above Public Hearing:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (720 Second Street) Bylaw No. 7887, 2017
Heritage Designation (720 Second Street) Bylaw No. 7888, 2017

This project was pretty easy to support for me, and it seems my Council colleagues agreed. There is a heritage win in preserving a building that seemed important to the neighbourhood, there is a great potential that the space will be turned into a neighbourhood daycare, which is in desperately short supply in New Westminster, an the infill density (the proponent is turning one converted house into a commercial space, a similar-sized house, and two rental suites) will include some more affordable options in a very family-friendly neighbourhood.

The one concern I have heard was the impact on street parking. The residential buildings will have off-street parking to meet their needs, but the commercial parking will indeed impact street parking availability. I did a quick Google Earth Survey, and calculated that of the 29 residential houses within 100m of this property, one is under construction, and the rest share no less than 29 indoor parking spots and 45 outdoor off-street parking spots. I am not compelled to believe there is a lack of parking on this block, at least not enough that I am going to say no to much-needed daycare spaces in the neighbourhood.

Council voted unanimously to give these bylaws third reading.

This was followed by an Opportunity to be Heard on a Development Variance:

Development Variance Permit DVP00620 for 100 Braid Street (466 Rousseau Street)
You might remember the Urban Academy / Wesgroup plan for the 100 Braid Street site. The school wants to get building, but the other lot, where 100 Braid Studios is, is not slated for demolition for some time; potentially a few years yet. Unfortunately, if it stays there, it will be too close to the lot line created by the subdivision, and the subdivision is needed to move the school project forward. Such is government.

The easiest solution here is to allow the building a variance from the applicable zoning law, so it can remain closer to the lot line than would regularly be allowed. No-one came to the Opportunity to be Heard to talk to the variance, and our staff have reviewed it and cannot think of any good reason for us to say no.

Council voted unanimously to approve the variance.

We then had a Report from staff:

Train Whistle Cessation Update
This was a lengthy update on the progress made by the City in getting trains in the City to stop blowing their whistles at every crossing. We recently passed a resolution deeming the crossings along Front Street (at Begbie and under the east end of the Parkade) whistle-free, and the rail operators have until the beginning of March to change their practices. Downtown should get quitter then. Two down, we have 20 more crossings in the City to deal with.

The crossings we anticipate being done in 2017 are in Sapperton just below the foot of Cumberland, and on River Drive near the Queensborough Bridge. Assuming the required equipment is delivered on time and there isn’t any certification SNAFUs, the Quayside Drive crossing should also be done by the end of 2017. The crossings along Ewen in Queensborough should be worked on in 2018, as the geometry of many of the intersections create some issues that need yet to be worked out to Southern Rail’s satisfaction.

The other two Sapperton crossings are in pause mode right now, as their final work will depend on the outcome of two other projects. In the cast of the Spruce Street crossing, the alternate access to Sapperton Station needs to be developed, and in the case of Braid, the Brunette Interchange Project will obviously impact the work to be done.

The City has committed $3.75 Million in capital works for these projects, including $2 Million in 2017. We are committed to doing the work, and are confident we will get there, but if you are frustrated by the pace, I share your feelings. It sounds slow, I know, but this is a terribly complicated process, involving two levels of government, four separate rail operators, and a trainload of standards and regulations to work through. However, we now have a website dedicated to the project, which will be regularly updated so you can keep track of progress. We are getting there.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Hyack Festival Association request for additional funding for the 2017 Parade Float program
The new Festival Committee (of which I am a member) reviewed the request brought to Council in January for an extra $30,000 of Festival Grant funds to expand their float program and support and expanded Qayqayt Howl event as part of Hyack Week.

As the 2017 grants were awarded by the previous Festivals Committee, the new committee reviewed the applications from Hyack Festival Association in light of the available funds, and the decisions made by the previous committee. The committee had to say no to several organizations, as the $225,000 budget was exceeded by over $300,000 in requests. The new committee saw no reason to change the allocations provided to the community groups, and as much as we would like to say Yes to everyone, there is a reason we set a budget and try to stick to it. Hyack was provided $61,800 in grants (out of a request for $101,800), and the new Festival Committee agreed that this was a fair and prudent award based on the terms of the Grants.

234 Second Street (Queen’s Park): Heritage Alteration Permit No. 083 to Permit New House Construction – Council Consideration
This is the other side of the Heritage Conservation Period in Queens Park. Not only do requests for demolition have to come through Council, some new house construction also need to meet the (previously optional) heritage guidelines set up for the community, and Council needs to approve the building plans. We did so.

This is not an idea process the way it is, but the Heritage Conservation Period is temporary, and hopefully there will be smoother processes developed as part of a future and permanent Heritage Conservation Area, assuming the community and Council decide to go that way. Please think about attending one of the open houses coming in early March if this issue is important to you!

Queen’s Park Conservation Area Regional Stakeholder Consultation
We also need to consult with other affected agencies around the region when we make changes like introducing a Heritage Conservation Area. This report simply outlines the agencies that will and will not be consulted.

Financial Plan, 2017-2021
I really need to sit down and write some more on the update Financial Plan. It has been through public consultation, we have reviewed the capital plan at some detail, we have projected tax rates, this is now the Bylaw that supports that plan. Council agreed to give it three readings.

2016 Filming Activity Update
Filming for TV and movies is a big deal in New West, and growing. We had 203 filming days in the City, and the City moved about $900,000 in revenue from those film permits. His doesn’t mean the City made $900,000 in profits. In reality, filming is pretty close to a break-even prospect, as most of that revenue is collected specifically to pay for engineering folks and police to arrange road closures, providing various services like fire inspection, paying our film coordinator to help coordinate the permitting processes, rentals to pay for lost parking revenue in the event parking meters are blocked, and things like that.

This number also does not include the economic spin-offs, from private property owners earning rental fees to allow film companies to use their houses or business properties, or the various service companies that exist to source to the film industry. Nor does it take into account the millions of dollars in wages paid to New Westminster residents every year from the film industry.

A single item was Removed from Consent so that a speech could be made about it.

2017/2018 Electrical Utility Rates Bylaw No. 7901, 2017
Our electricity rates are going up to match the cost of electricity that we purchase from BC Hydro to power our utility, based on the long-established policy of the City. Under that policy, New West customers (system-wide) pay the same rate as BC Hydro customers, and the city uses the difference between the wholesale rate way pay for power and the retail rate to run the system, and return the profits to the City’s coffers to offset taxes.

BC Hydro rates are going up 3.5% on April 1, so New Westminster rates are going up 3.5%.

After this, we went through our regular Bylaws ritual:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2017-2021) Bylaw No. 7906, 2017
This Bylaw that makes our 2017-2022 Financial Plan the law of the land was given three readings.

Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 7901, 2017
This Bylaw that formalizes the increase in electrical rates to math BC Hydro increases was given three readings.

And aside for a few announcements, that was a meeting.

One comment on “Council – February Feb 20, 2017

  1. Hi Patrick, I was wondering if you could shed any light on why the arcade discussion was tabled? It would be nice to see New West update some of our archaic bylaws and welcome new businesses. On that note, is there any chance the city will change its mind in regards to the no adult-oriented arcade policy?

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