At New Westminster City Council, we have Open Delegations, meaning anyone can come to a Council Meeting and have 5 minutes to delegate on any topic. There are not many cities where delegations are so open (most require you to address a topic on the day, register ahead of time, limit numbers, etc., if they have delegations at all). This week’s meeting was one of those ones where people showed up in force, arguing both sides of an upcoming issue, which kept us going until after 11:00. More on that later.
The actual agenda was not a lengthy one, with the following items Removed from Consent for discussion:
Homeless Count 2017: Update
There is a coordinated regional count of homeless persons every few years, run mostly by volunteers as it is a fairly large effort. The numbers in 2017 are not good, which is probably not a surprise to most who pay attention to these things.
You can read the preliminary report here. Regionally, the numbers of homeless have risen since 2014, after being mostly stable for almost a decade. We can point at the general housing afforability crisis, increases in renovictions, and reduced provincial supports for marginally housed or people impacted by addictions, those living on social assistance or with disabilities. There are a lot of trends to parse out here (i.e. increases over the last 3 years are markedly higher in the suburbs – Delta, Langley, Richmond, Ridge Meadows and the TriCities), and I will probably write a longer blog post on this topic.
Council moved to refer this report to staff in order to develop resolutions to take to the UBCM to address this issue.
Bequest to New Westminster Animal Services
A gentleman named Daryl Mutz passed away in January, and left part of his estate to a variety of causes that were important to him, mostly protection of animals and children. Included in his bequest was $275,000 for New Westminster Animal Services to improve the quality of life of animals being cared for at our shelter. The City will be working on an appropriate way to mark this significant contribution, likely as part of the new Animal Shelter that will be built in Queensborough.
The following items were Moved on Consent without discussion:
Amendment to Dance Studio Rental Rates in Cultural Services Fees and Charges Bylaw No. 7875, 2016
As part of ongoing reviews, we occasionally adjust fees for some of our facilities, which require a Bylaw to change. Some of the dace spaces in the Anvil Centre were determined to be underutilized, and a price comparison to other similar spaces around the region found that an adjustment to the cost may be in order. Council voted to support this Bylaw change.
Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Official Community Plan Amendment and Related Heritage Procedures Bylaws for Consideration of Readings
This topic did bring many people out to delegate, both in favour and opposed. I don’t want to go too deeply in to the debate here, because this will be going to Public Hearing next month (a special Council Meeting scheduled for June 13), and I don’t want to pre-judge those discussions.
Council moved to give the proposed Bylaw first and second readings, and the schedule a Public Hearing for June 13. As per regulation, once the Public Hearing is scheduled, we cannot receive any more public delegations on the topic until the evening of the Public Hearing. However, I hope residents will go to the City’s website here and inform themselves about what the HCA is and isn’t, and chat with your neighbours about the goals and concerns it may raise. Then show up on June 13 to let Council know what you think.
Sign Bylaw No. 7867, 2017: Bylaw for First and Second Reading – Public Hearing June 26, 2017, and
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw No. 7921, 2017: Bylaw for Three Readings
This has been the culmination of a couple of years work for our staff, updating our slightly-aged Sign Bylaw. It appears to me to be a reasonable approach, considering some significant changes in sign technology, but also creating stronger guidelines around physical intrusion of portable signs in to pedestrian space and the use of LED lights and other emergent technology. It also sounds a potential death knell to Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, pictured above.
Council moved to give the Bylaws three readings.
412 Third Street: Development Variance Permit 00626 for Front Yard Setback, Projections and Height – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This Queens Park property owner had various constraints on the development of their property, and is doing this work at the time that the Design Guidelines for the Queens Park Neighbourhood are in a kind of flux with the Heritage Conservation Area Bylaw in development. Staff worked with the proponent to find compromises that would allow them to build within the guidelines and protect mature trees on the lot, but this required relatively minor variances. These variances will go to an Opportunity to be Heard at the end of May.
736 Eighth Avenue (7-Eleven): Development Variance Permit 00629 for Sign – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
The gas station on Eighth Ave is changing branding of their convenience store, and the preferred signage, though not fitting the letter of our (old) Sigh Bylaw, will nonetheless not be a significant change from the existing signage. However, laws be laws and a variance is required to permit the change. This variance will also go to an Opportunity to be Heard at the end of May.
Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project – Environmental Assessment Process Including Public Engagement Under the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act
This is a good sign that the Pattullo Bridge project is moving forward. The EA process is fairly prescribed, including timelines. The first public participation part of the EA is during the pre-application phase, where the proposed application is reviewed and stakeholders are able to provide feedback to the EAO about potential gaps or issues with the application materials, and give the proponent and the EAO an opportunity to understand public concerns regarding the environmental impact of the project. There are some tentatively scheduled public meetings at the end of May in New Westminster and Surrey – be sure to check the project website and keep an eye on the local newspaper for updates.
In my professional life, I have worked on a half-dozen EAs for major projects, and can attest that active participation by the public is important to the process, but takes some commitment on the part of those willing to take part. There is a lot of information to absorb and understand, and the constraints around what can and cannot be addressed through an EA are not always straight-forward. I encourage people to follow the project website, show up at the meetings, and get informed about this project.
National Public Works Week – May 21–27, 2017
Next week is National Public Works Week, and the City’s engineering department will be doing some outreach to the community to help people get informed about what our Public Works staff do in keeping your City functioning, including being at the Bellies game next week.
Complimentary Parking for Veterans
The City, along with many other communities in the Lower Mainland, provide parking benefits to those who display Veteran’s license plates. As this regulatory change requires periodic update, here we are doing that update to keep that benefit going for another few years.
2017 Canada – BC Clean Water and Wastewater Fund Grant Applications – Sapperton Combined Sewer Separation Program and Wood Street Drainage Pump Station
This really should be bigger news than it is. The City applied for, and was granted a $5.5 Million grant from the federal government to accelerate our sewer separation program in Sapperton. $5.5 Million is a lot of money for New Westminster, we should be excited.
This being an old City, most of our sewer system was installed in the good old days when all sewage went straight to the river, so our storm sewer (rain running off of our roofs and streets) and sanitary sewer (the things you flush) went in the same pipes. As society evolved to building sewage treatment plants, cities started putting storm water and sanitary sewer into different pipes, so the former could go to the river, and the latter could go to the plant. Unfortunately, New West has a long legacy of “combined flow” pipes, and have been slow to separate the flows.
These combined flows are expensive, because we pay to have all that storm water treated as sewage, but separating the pipes is also expensive, so the $5.5 Million will not only save us some money in the short term, but will reduce long-term costs and ultimately benefit the environment.
Licensed Events at Westminster Pier Park
The City is going to pilot some flexible licensing in Pier Park this summer in partnership events with the Arts Council to take advantage of some recent changes in provincial liquor laws. The idea here is to try this out in July under relatively controlled conditions as a pilot to see what works and doesn’t and inform future policy for these types of events.
Thursday Nights in July should be fun at the Pier Park! Reschedule your vacations, folks, there is no reason to leave New Westminster during the summer!
150 Fitness Challenge
Notwithstanding the gluteus of a certain delegate, Canada is barging ahead with celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and that celebration is manifest in various programs. In New West, our Parks and Recreation department is doing a 150 fitness Challenge. Info available at our Recreation facilities (Century House, Moody Park Arena, Queensborough Community Centre, Etc.) where you can get a tracking card to participate in the program and potentially win some great prizes.
628 Eighteenth Street: DVP00627 to Vary Accessory Site Coverage in Order to Construct a Pool and Hot Tub – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
These residents in the West End wish to enhance their back yard by putting in a pool and hot tub, but this will result in more site coverage than the zoning strictly allows. This requires a variance, which will have an Opportunity to be Heard at the end of May.
Finally, we went through the usual raft of Bylaws:
Official Community Plan Amendment (Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area Amendment) Bylaw No. 7926, 2017
This Bylaw to institute a Heritage Conservation Area in Queens Park was given two readings. It will go to Public hearing on June 13, please come on out and tell us what you think.
Sign Bylaw No. 7867, 2017
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 7921, 2017
This update to our Sign Bylaw, as discussed above, was given two readings.
Bylaw No. 7928, 2017 to amend Heritage Procedures Bylaw No. 7606, 2013
Bylaw No. 7929, 2017 to amend Heritage Alteration Permit Procedures Bylaw No. 7859, 2016
Bylaw No. 7930, 2017 to amend Development Services Fees and Rates Bylaw No. 7683, 2014
These Bylaws that will need to be updated to support the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area if it were to be adopted by council, were given three readings, so that they can be adopted in conjunction with the HCA Bylaw if that is the decision of Council after the June 13 Public Hearing. Once again, I encourage you to read, share and enjoy these Bylaws, and come out to the Public Hearing to tell us what you think.
Street Naming (“Mabel Street” in Queensborough) Bylaw No. 7902, 2017
This street naming Bylaw was adopted. A street in Queensborough now has a name. Adjust your Googlemaps accordingly.