Council – April 24, 2017

We had another daytime workshop in Council this week, discussing some details of the proposed Heritage Conservation Area for Queens Park. There is a lot of work to do, and some more discussions to have (based on the bombardment of e-mail I am receiving on the topic), but we expect that issue to come to a Public Hearing in June, so I suggest you watch the video if interested, and I’ll save my comments until the public hearing.

As it was the last meeting of the month, we started with a Public Hearing on two projects:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7907, 2017 for 1002, 1012, 1016 and 1020 Auckland Street
This is a new multi-family development on a challenging site in the Brow of the Hill. The now-vacant lots have a high slope, but are in a great walkable location near downtown and lower 12th. The proposal has 13 townhouses and 75 apartments, the majority of which will be 3- and 2-bedroom, which puts them above the minimums in our Family-Friendly Housing policy.

The Design Panel and Advisory Planning Commission approved the project, the Neighbourhood Association raised no concerns, and the 6(!) people who replied to the 6,700 (1) mailed out invitations to the open house similarly raised no concerns. We receive no written submissions, and the one person who came to speak to the development was not opposed, but did raise a valid concerns about parking issues for his very constrained lot across the street that I hope Engineering can address.

Council moved to refer the application for Third Reading, which Council approved in the regular meeting immediately after.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7833, 2016 for 518 Ewen Avenue
This is a simple re-zoning of a single lot in Queensborough to match the zoning of the adjacent properties and in compliance with the Queensborough Community Plan. We received no submissions and no-one came to speak to the matter. Council moved to refer the application for Third Reading, which Council approved in the regular meeting immediately after.

The Regular Meeting started with us moving the above Bylaws to Third Reading, followed by a Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit No. DVP00624 for Royal Columbian Hospital (330 East Columbia Street) – To Vary Front Yard Setback for New Mental Health Care Building
The RCH expansion is a big project, and this is a minor variance required for the Phase 1 building. There are two relatively small protrusions form the main building that will stick into the setback required by zoning (the minimum distance allowed between any building and the lot line). These two encroachments will in no way impact the pedestrian or other transportation realm around the building, wont impact any other land owners, and will not result in a significant reduction of greenspace (as other parts of the building are set much further back from the setback.

We had one written submission opposed to this DVP, with no reason given for that opposition, and no-one came to speak to the application. Council moved ot approve the DVP.

The following items were moved on Consent:

Festival Grant – Appeal from Philippine Festival Society
This being Canada 150 year, festivals organized on July 1st have a few unexpected budget constraints. The PFS came to the Festivals Committee and made a compelling case for an increase in their budget, and demonstrated an ability to also address their budget constraints with increased sponsorship. As there is some room left in the Festivals budget due to the cancellation of another funded event, the committee recommended that this request be approved. Council agreed.

22nd Street Bus Exchange Upgrades Public Art Proposal
The pedestrian realm around 22nd Street Skytrain will see a modest, but much overdue, upgrade this year, thanks to TransLink. In consultations with the City, some ideas around introducing Public Art have been brought to TransLink, and a collaboration is in the offing! Our Public Art Advisory committee likes the idea, has some money in the Public Art Fund, and will be helping coordinate this partnership – a great way to leverage or modest PA budget to greater gain. I’m looking forward to what they come up with, we could use a little public space enhancement in the area!

Front Street Mews – Proposed Public Realm Enhancements
So much work has been going on down on Front Street, and the merchants down there have been so patient going on down there, I am glad we are finally seeing the end of the disruption. However, we are also looking forward to a much improved public space, and even collaborating with the Downtown BIA on some events down there this summer. Again, I want to thanks staff for again showing creativity and vision, and for the BIA and other partners for being great partners! Summer is almost here!

Downtown BIA Parcel Tax Bylaws No. 7911, 2017 and 7914, 2017;
Uptown New Westminster BIA Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 7912, 2017
These are the official Bylaws that authorize the City to collect a parcel tax on behalf of the Business Improvement Districts in Downtown and Uptown, so they can offer the programs they do to their members. We moved to approve them going to three readings.

2017 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 7913, 2017
With our Financial Plan update done, and in preparation for sending our official Tax notices and documentation to the Government, we have to pass a Bylaw officially approving our property tax levels for 2017. As anticipated, they are going up by 2.98%, meaning the City will collect a total of $75.5Million in property taxes this year. A good primer on what a 2.98% increase across the board means to you based on your assessment change since last year is available here (from last year, so adjust the numbers accordingly).

European Chafer Management Program Update
The grass-munching buggers seem to be back with a vengeance this year, and the best way for you to manage them is to not have grass, but instead plant planet-friendlier things in your front lawn. The second best way to manage them is to have really healthy deep-rooted grass that isn’t overwatered. The third best way to manage them is to use nematodes, and the City will help you pay for nematodes, but there is a process. Follow the links here if this option is right for you, because timing is everything for nematode application.

The following items were removed from consent for discussion:

Anvil Theatre Piano Purchase
Theatres usually have pianos, I get this. Great performers require great pianos, I also get this. Staff have asked Council to approve the purchase of a $215,000 piano for the Anvil Centre Theatre. I don’t get this.

It may be possible that this is the right piano for the Anvil, and that its purchase is important, but I was not convinced of this by the report I received. For a purchase of this size, especially a sole source, I need to see a business case around how it will improve our operation, and how this source and this piece of equipment is the best way to address the need.

Council did not approve the request, and have sent it back to Staff to make a better case or come up with a different plan

Repeal the 1903 Curfew Bylaw
I am glad that youth and unescorted ladies are now able to roam the streets at night. Adjust your behavior appropriately.

Official Community Plan Review: Summary of Draft Official Community Plan Feedback and Discussion of Land Use Designation for Glenbrooke North
This report provided some response to the last round of public consultation on the OCP Land Use Designation map, and some public feedback received outside of the formal consultation process.

The report was great, and showed broad general support for the direction of the OCP, and also pointed out that OCP consultations in New West suffer from a common problem: there is a general underrepresentation of people under 35, renters, young families – just the kind of people we recognized as being most in need of more affordable and more diverse housing choices. Still, the overall message in this last round is clear: we need to provide more housing choice and are either on track, or slightly behind, where we need to be when it comes to accommodating family-friendly housing

This is why I have concerns about the changes proposed in this report (as I did about the changes on Fifth Street). These changes take away those things we need the most: flexibility in housing forms in family-friendly neighbourhoods, and potential for increased affordability in those neighbourhoods. For these reasons, I proposed instead designating these areas Residential Ground Oriented. This would allow the maximum flexibility for current landowners, and provide the most potential for sensitive lower density infill like laneway houses, cluster houses, and small townhouse developments. I appreciate the feedback from the residents, and think Ground-Oriented best represents the balance between allowing flexibility for current owners and still providing impetus towards greater housing choice.

The majority of Council did not agree with me and the designation for the area was rolled back to Single Family Detached.

The OCP is an ongoing process, and we should see a Bylaw ready for Public Hearing by the end of summer.

We then went through our usual Bylaws shuffle:

Downtown New Westminster BIA Parcel Tax – Primary Area Bylaw No. 7911, 2017
Downtown New Westminster BIA Parcel Tax – Secondary Area Bylaw No. 7914, 2017
Uptown New Westminster BIA Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 7912, 2107

These three bylaws that allow us to collect taxes on behalf od the three BIAs was given three readings.

Tax Rates Bylaw No. 7913, 2017
This bylaw that formalized the 2017 property tax rates for the city was given three readings.

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