Council – Oct. 2, 2017

Our first October Council meeting was a little disjointed and diverse, as there were a variety of topics on the Agenda, and presentations and delegations were all over the place. I don’t usually report here on delegations and announcements that happen, but stick to the decisions made by Council, but you can always get the full deal by watching on the intertubes!

The meeting started with us moving the following items on Consent:

Capture Photography Festival 2018
Our participation in this project brought two great Public Art installations to the City, and our Public Art Advisory Committee is recommending we take part again in 2018 and fund that from the Public Art Reserve Fund. Council agreed.

Intelligent City Digital Inclusion and Marketing and Advocacy subcommittee update
Our “Intelligent City” initiative is meant to be more than just dark fibre in the ground and using smarter systems in the City, it includes many different programs to connect the entire population of New West to the advantages of Innovation and digital connectivity. We had a hugely successful Innovation Week last spring, and are gearing up for another in 2018. We also are developing various initiatives to assure connectivity is inclusive, which means we are finding ways to include people who may have barriers (education, economic, equipment, etc.) to connecting to the digital world have opportunities for access, for education, and for support. This report gives us an update of where those programs are.

Memorandum: Metro Vancouver Regional District acceptance of the City of New Westminster Regional Context Statement
This is a step in the Official Community Plan process, where the regional government essentially signs off that the OCP, after receiving Third Reading, complies with the Regional Growth Strategy. This is the last step to Adoption of the new OCP.

Recruitment 2017: ICAC Appointment
There is a shift of representation on the Intelligent City Advisory Committee, due to people changing job roles in one of our partnership organizations. Moved!

41 and 175 Duncan Street: Official Community Plan Amendment Consideration of Public Consultation
This project to develop a medium-sized townhouse development in Queensborough will be going into consultation, including a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until them.

900 Carnarvon Street (Tower 4): Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 – Request for Exemption
The construction of noise barriers over SkyTrain rails is challenging. It needs to happen when the train isn’t running (at night), and is pretty specialized work. Degelder have been trying to get the work done for the 4th Tower at Plaza 88 for a couple of months, and it is yet to start. We are approving a long construction noise variance, though the actual work will only take about 7 days within that longer window. The workers will need to provide 72 hours’ notice to nearby residents before evenings when works will actually occur.

Information Update re Recommendation from Ecole Glenbrook Middle School Student Presentation
Students from Glenbrook gave a memorable presentation to Council in May about how to make their community more fun and friendly. This report is a follow-up from staff. Short version: some improvements have been made as part of capital maintenance programs, there has been great feedback sought and integrated into a couple of bigger projects (Canada Games Pool and the Skate Park replacement) Spring, and we are going to continue to engage these students in future consultations.

Report on Major Purchasing Transactions for the Period May 1st to August 31st, 2017
Ternary report on what we have bought.

Downtown New Westminster BIA Extension
The two Downtown BIAs have been doing some really great work. It has been great to watch them become a more professional organization over the last decade with some really stellar staff. They have been proactive in developing a new Strategic Plan, and have been great partners to the City in our Economic Development initiatives. However, the Bylaw that enables them to be funded by a Parcel Tax on downtown businesses is expiring, and they have asked us for a renewal/update. I am happy to support this.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak Brewery): Proposed Increase in Seating Capacity
S&O wishes to increase their seating capacity, but have bumped up against the Zoning Bylaw maximums for their current zoning. This report will launch the Public Process to enable that, and I’ll hold off my comments until that happens.

Access Ability Advisory Committee: Consideration of the Effect of Demovictions and Renovictions on Low-Income and Disabled Residents
There was much talk at last week’s UBCM meeting (yes, I will blog about it soon!) about renovictions and the impact on homelessness, and it resulted in some promising action. This topic also came up at the last AAAC Meeting, and that committee wanted to assure Council considered the impacts of the housing and rental crises are harder on people with barriers – the lack of housing adapted to the needs of the disabled is even more dire than “regular” housing.

Access Ability Advisory Committee: Massey Theatre Universal Accessibility Design Review
Again, the AAAC heard about barriers in the existing Massey Theatre, and formally asked Council to invest in making the facility fully accessible when the High School project is completed and the Theatre property is transferred to the City.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Recruitment 2017: CHC Appointment
Unfortunately, a member of Community Heritage Commission passed away and we have to do the dry process or naming a replacement. However, Council did not want this to pass without the Council representative on the Committee noting that Laura Moodie was a long-serving volunteer in our community with a passion for the arts, heritage, and travel. She served on several City committees including as chair of the Public Art Advisory Committee. Her passing was sudden and untimely. All of Council wants to acknowledge Mrs. Moodie’s service to the community, and pass on condolences to her family.

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw (Increase in Taxi Licenses) No. 7943, 2017 – Bylaw for Three Readings
I think I ranted about this once before. Many of the issues with the current regulation around Taxi services is the many hoops they need to go through to get new licenses, even when it is clear that current service is inadequate. Royal City Taxi is applying to the province for more licenses to improve service, let’s see where this goes!

Review of City Snow and Ice Response: 2016-2017
We discussed at ACTBIPed, and I forwarded correspondence to Council from a well-known West End pedestrian advocate that came out of that meeting. 2016-17 was exceptional year, the worst and most persistent snow event since at least 2008. And although it was at times challenging, I think the City did an exceptional job keeping priority driving routes open and safe, especially compared to some adjacent communities. However, the pedestrian realm was a disaster.

I don’t use that term lightly, because I know it was a challenging situation and I do not want to come across as critical of staff for the hard work and extra hours they all put in, but we had people with mobility challenges, and a fair number of elderly people, who were trapped in their homes for weeks because they could not walk as far as the nearest pharmacy. Even in an extraordinary situation like last winter, this is not acceptable, and we need to make change. We need to assure that the pedestrian realm and transit access is prioritized alongside arterial and connector roads.

We have a Pedestrian Charter in New Westminster – one that puts pedestrian needs at high priority. We have a Master Transportation Plan that puts pedestrians at the top of our hierarchy for investment. Yet when we prioritize the clearing of snow from streets not used by transit above the clearing of sidewalks and the important pedestrian connections that make our pedestrian realm accessible, we fail to meet our own priorities. In the event of icy conditions, we don’t need people prioritizing driving as a way to get around – that simply doesn’t improve anyone’s safety if the only way to get to the grocery store is to drive because the sidewalks between home and grocery store are impassable two weeks after a storm.

I don’t have the answers, but we need to establish guidelines on what constitutes an acceptable response to sidewalk clearing, much like we have for roads, and a plan to meet those guidelines. In this case, I would even be happy to see cycling routes bumped down the priority list to make resources available. We need a map of priority walking routes and bus stops, as these may be different than the existing priority streets. The consultant report provided some recommendations towards this, but it would be good to know if additional resources or equipment are needed to address this. Clearly enforcement and proactive action need to be prioritized – there is work to do here.

That said, this is a good report as far as it goes, and I don’t want to slow the implementation of this response plan because it only gets us half way there – half way is better than going back to the start. However, I amended the recommendation to further ask that that staff continues to work on developing a snow response plan that prioritizes pedestrian safety, and address the concerns of the ACTBiPed. More to come here.

Exempt Properties – Review of Questionnaire Results
Remember when the BC Liberals extended the property tax exemption given to private schools, essentially asking homeowners to pay more for private schools in their neighbourhoods, at the same time they were fighting in court to keep from adequately funding public schools? Good times.

Anyway, this report is our annual update and Bylaw refresh to support mandated and permissive tax exemptions. The first are required by Provincial Law, the second are the $300,000 a year in Permissive Tax Exemptions for organizations doing good work in the City, be they social service (e.g. Honour House), Sports (e.g. Lawn Bowling Club), or education (e.g. FRDC).

Licensed Event Recommendations for Westminster Pier Park
I am happy to continue with the model demonstrated at Music on the River this summer. These type of low-key events should really not be exception in a modern City, but part of the regular fabric. Loosening of our provincial liquor laws make that possible. The most, perhaps, surprising part was the wide demographic range of people hanging out in the park during the event – it wasn’t just crazy Yoots with their skateboards and bling-bloop electronic “music”, it was it was young families, seniors, and those of us in the fuzzy and increasingly grey area in between. A strange mix to see at a public event where beer is served in North America, but just another day in most European Cities.

We also read the following Bylaws:

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw (Increase in Taxi Licenses) No. 7943, 2017
As discussed above, this Bylaw that supports the application to the provincial Government for more Taxi Licenses in New Westminster received three readings.

Taxation Exemption and Exempt Properties Bylaw No. 7945, 2017
As discussed above, this Bylaw that supports permissive tax exemptions for worthy organizations in New Westminster received three readings.

Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Primary Area) Bylaw No. 7951, 2017
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Secondary Area) Bylaw No. 7952, 2017

As discussed above, these Bylaws that support the special taxation for our two Downtown Business Improvement Areas received three readings.

Official Community Plan Adoption Bylaw No. 7925, 2017
This is actually a big deal. Our new Official Community Plan, which was given Third Reading back on September 18th was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land. I will have to write another blog post about this, because this is both a great big step… and perhaps not a big enough step.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Infill Housing) No. 7936, 2017
Development Approval Procedures Amendment Bylaw No. 7939, 2017
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7940, 2017
This are the supporting Big Deals, as they support the new directions outlined in the OCP regarding Heritage, Laneway Housing, and Infill density. All three were adopted ,and are not Law of the Land. Adjust your behavior accordingly.

And other than a bunch of interesting presentations and delegations (seriously, go on-line and check them out!), that was a night of Council. I have a bunch of blog posts to follow on here, OCP and UBCM most prominently, so stay tuned!

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