Council – September 18, 2017

The September 18 meeting of Council was an all-caps-worthy BIG ONE, and I pretty much am going to not talk about the BIG topic, which was the Public Hearing, for reasons below. But before that started, we went through a few Agenda items.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Recruitment 2017 Committee Appointments
We have had a couple of changes in representatives to City Committees, both in the persons representing another group on the City Committee. This happens once in a while, but Council officially has to approve, which we did.

Investment Report to August 31, 2017
The City has about $160 Million in the bank, mostly with the Municipal Finance Authority. Note, most of this is restricted money (that is, we have already committed it to a specific purpose, such as future sewer upgrades or road projects). This is our regular reporting on how the investments are doing, which I would characterize as “pretty good”.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Fire Escape Stairs at 642 Columbia Street – Review of Alternative Options and Appearance Mitigation Approaches
I’ve already opined about this fire escape. I recognize the need for it to exist, and can see the engineering rationale for it, but am frustrated about how some siloed thinking in City Hall resulted in a design that was incongruous with the great planning and design work being done on the Front Street Mews. I feel a solution that fit the bigger vision could have been found through a more collaborative design approach.

This report outlines a better approach moving forward, and we can hopefully use this experience to enhance how we develop our public spaces.

Sale of Tanaka Court Properties
There is a piece of surplus City land in Queensborough with an adjacent unopened road portion that only makes sense to develop in concert with the commercial properties. The Community Plan designates this property for commercial use, which is not something the City is likely to do. This report outlines the negotiations that have taken place to sell the lands so that they can be developed and start contributing to the community through retail opportunities, jobs and taxes.

BCIT Smart Microgrid Applied Research Project for Street Level Electric Vehicle Charging in New Westminster
This is a pretty exciting pilot project the City is proposing to undertake in collaboration with BCIT and their Smart Grid Microgrid Applied Research Team. They are researching the implementation of curbside charging electric vehicles, and want to testbed some technologies that would connect EV chargers to existing City electrical infrastructure like streetlights, in order to develop reliable engineering specifications and systems for wider adoption of the idea.

This could, in the short term, result in up to a dozen more Level 2 public charging station in the City, and contribute engineering designs and data to the seemingly inevitable transition towards a fully electrical transportation system towards the middle of the Century.

The following item was a late addition to the Agenda:

647 Ewen Avenue: Temporary Protection Order
The oldest extant building in Queensborough is privately owned, and threatened with demolition as the landowner wishes to redevelop the property. The City is limited in what we can do to prevent this, but we can develop incentives to make it easier for the developer to maintain the building or portions of it through a Heritage Restoration Agreement. This temporary order protects the building from destruction while staff work with the proponent to find if these opportunities exist.

This work out of the way, we started our Public Hearing, which had three items, eliciting (in order), one, fourteen, and one delegations. All three items were referred to the resumed Council Meeting following the Public Hearing, and all three were given Third Reading. They were not, however, Adopted, because there needs to be some procedural work done by staff between Third Reading and Adoption. Because of the quasi-judicial nature of the Public Hearing process, I don’t want to get into a discussion about the items between now and formal Adoption. For that reason, I am only describing the items at a high level here and will reserve longer discussion of them until after (and if) they are Adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment (43 Hastings Street Affordable Housing Project) Bylaw No. 7923, 2017
This Bylaw changes the zoning for a piece of land at the east end of Downtown New West to allow its use for a housing project that will combine housing adapted for people with disabilities with family-friendly townhouses, all operated by a not-for-profit to keep them affordable (through a separate housing agreement with the City).

Official Community Plan Adoption Bylaw No. 7925, 2017
This Bylaw would make Our City 2041 the Official Community Plan for the City, after more than three years of public consultation, Council wrangling, and staff work. Council moved to give the Bylaw Third Reading.

I added an amendment to the referral, which is not a change to the OCP in any way, but provides some direction to staff about measuring the success of one of the most significant aspects of the plan: the rapid introduction of Missing Middle housing forms. The motion read as:

THAT Council direct staff to explore additional locations that could be designated Residential – Infill Townhouse as part of a two year Townhouse and Rowhouse Monitoring Program, and include the outcome in a proposed Land Use Designation Map update at the conclusion of the Program, should the OCP be adopted.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Infill Housing) No. 7936, 2017
This Bylaw would make changes to our Zoning Bylaw to facilitate many of the changes discussed in the Official Community Plan, including setting parameters around which laneway and carriage houses will be introduced ot our existing Single Family Neighbourhoods. Council moved to give the Bylaw Third Reading.

We followed the Public Hearing with an Opportunity to be Heard on a Sign Bylaw Variance:

Development Variance Permit No. DVP00634 to vary Sign Bylaw requirements at 610 Sixth Street (Royal City Centre)
This Sign Bylaw Variance would allow a new anchor tenant at the Royal City Centre to affix signage to the outside of the building that is congruent with the exiting signage. Even with our new and refreshed sign bylaw, there are exceptions, including one of only two indoor malls in New Westminster, and a variance is best way to manage this type of application. There was no correspondence and no-one came to speak on this item, and Council approved the variance.

Finally, we had a single Bylaw adoption:

Local Area Service Bylaw No. 7942, 2017
This Bylaw formalizes a cost sharing agreement between a group of property owners in Queensborough and the City for some streetscape improvements on their block. It was adopted by Council, making it the Law of the Land.

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