Council, Feb 19, 2017

Apparently it was a cold, sunny day on February 19th, but Council Chambers were kept warm with a mid-day Workshop on the City’s Economic Development Plan (which you can see here and read here).

Our evening began with Public Hearings on the following Zoning changes:

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7924, 2018
This Bylaw makes a bunch of “housekeeping” changes to our Zoning Bylaw. These are changes like replacing the word “church” with the words “place of worship” to modernize the language, and “Update references to Local Government Act Section 921 to Local Government Act Section 493” to catch up to changes that happened in other legislation, and to standardize units of measure. This should be pretty uncontroversial stuff as we are not changing any practices here, just updating language to clarify existing policy. Not surprisingly, we had no correspondence on the Bylaw, and no-one came to speak to Council on the issue.

Council moved to Refer this Bylaw to the Council Meeting immediately following, where Council gave the Bylaw Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment (1319 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 7981, 2018
Steel & Oak wants to expand their seating area from 30 seats to 50, and this requires a Zoning Amendment, as we don’t currently have a zone in our Industrial Areas that allows public assembly of more than 30 customers. S&O have been great business leaders in the City, helping at a variety of community events, and becoming unofficial spokespeople for their home community. Their operation has not caused any concern with the neighbours, Bylaws or the police. Alas, our long legacy of Bylaws often means it takes way too long for zoning changes like this to work through our processes, and this should not have taken more than a year, but I’m glad we finally got to this point so S&O can hire more staff and continue to build our local economy.

We received no correspondence on this application, and only the Proponent came to speak to the amendment. Council moved to refer this Bylaw to the Council Meeting immediately following, where Council gave the Bylaw Third Reading and Adoption, and also passed a follow-up resolution to support S&O’s application to the Provincial Government for the concomitant license change.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Retail Sale of Cannabis) No. 7966, 2018
We discussed this during our recent workshop on Cannabis regulation, The City is making a temporary change to the Zoning Bylaw to clarify the current regulatory environment, in preparation nfor the new regulations we hope to have in place for when the Federal Government legalizes the recreational cannabis industry. Even since I wrote that piece a couple of weeks ago, there has been some change both provincially and federally in regards to senior government framework and timing. Staff is working on putting together a public consultation process, and hope to bring a comprehensive set of regulations to Council this summer.

We had a couple of people come to speak to this issue, mostly involved either directly or peripherally in the industry, and mostly curious about what our permanent bylaw regime is going to look like. Council moved to refer this Bylaw to the council meeting immediately following, where Council gave the Bylaw Third Reading and Adoption.

Following the Public Hearing, we moved to our Regular Agenda and Opportunities to be Heard on various variance permits:

Development Variance Permit DVP00636 for 319 Ash Street
A Resident in Brow of the Hill wants to formalize a secondary suite, but doesn’t want to knock down a tree to build another off-street parking space. That requires a variance. One piece of correspondence appeared on table in opposition (in the interest of full disclosure – letter from a former employer of mine!), and the only the proponent appeared to speak in favour. IMO, the Brow needs as many trees as it can get. Council moved to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00640 for 232 Eleventh Street
This property in the Brow has been difficult to develop because it is on a steep slope and the only street frontage is on the top edge of the property. It has been vacant for some time as a result. The request is for the City to allow off-street parking in the front yard (though the house will really “front” facing down the hill, the primary road access is technically the “front”), which requires a variance.

No-one in the neighbourhood seemed to object, and staff think this is a reasonable solution. Council moved to support the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00641 for 354 Johnston Street and Development Variance Permit DVP00619 for 353 Johnston Street
AI put these together, as they are two adjacent properties with the same issue. The extra-deep 147-foot lots on Johnston Street (no relation!), when subdivided to a pretty typical modern width (33 feet), don’t comply with one of our Zoning laws that say the long side of a lot can’t be more than 4x the width. So they need a Variance. These lots are common in Queensborough, and not particularly controversial.

We had no-one correspond with us on this, and had one person come to speak in opposition, worried that there is not enough on-street parking on a street where every house is built with 4 off-street parking spaces. Council voted to approve the variance.

Temporary Use Permit TUP00015 for 457 East Columbia Street
A resident wants to open an old-fashioned quarters-in-the-slot-blast-pixelated-aliens Arcade in Sapperton. We have pretty restrictive Bylaws for arcades created in the 90’s for a bunch of reasons that probably made sense at the time (after all, this was pre-Grunge and the Seattle scene!) so they need a Variance. We received quite a bit of correspondence on this, almost all in favour. If I had known Arcade folks liked writing to City Hall so much, I’d have charged them a quarter each… the RA supported the idea, and no protests from local businesses.

Council had several questions around the business plan and the potential for alcohol sales. If I could paraphrase all of Council comments: what can we do to make your business model more robust; sorry it took so long to get this organized; and hopefully Staff can bring a more permanent solution to Council sooner rather than later, but we don’t want to delay this Temporary Use permit to get you up and running as soon as possible. Good luck!

We then had a slightly more detailed than expected report from our Electrical Utility on the response and follow-up to the Queensborough Bridge Electrical Fire last October.

If you live in Q’Boro, you no doubt remember not having electricity for 28 hours. The fire was caused by a failure of one of the circuits in a conduit attached to the bridge, which impacted adjacent conduits. This report outlines costs related to the initial repair ($65,000), the follow-up repair to make the system stable again ($150,000), and an estimate for a better longer-term repair ($350,000). This also emphasized the need to build a Substation in Q’boro, which has always been a plan but may be accelerated due to this.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Financial Plan, 2018-2022
This is the Bylaw that formalizes our five-year financial plan, which includes a 2.95% tax increase and a 1% capital levy. I will blog more on this when I get a chance, but for now Council moved to give the Bylaw three readings.

Recruitment 2018: NTAC Appointment
The Q’boro RA representative to the Neighbourhood Traffic Advisory Committee is appointed.

Recruitment 2018: EDAC Appointment
An adjustment to the representation on the EDAC, due to the inability of one member to serve, and based on an application received during the most recent Committee Application process.

Official Community Plan Implementation Work Program: Update on Scope of Work to Address Emerging Issues
We have some staffing issues in our Planning Department. Part of it has to do with retirements and attrition, some with a very aggressive set of Council initiatives that have eaten up a bunch of planning staff time – Implementing OCP measures and the HCA, proactive approaches to Affordable Housing, ongoing development and new policy areas like the Cannabis regulations and Short Term Rentals. Staff are giving Council (and the public) a bit of notice here that their capacity for new tasks is getting strained.

I am concerned that we will get caught flat-footed on Short Term Rentals policy, but recognize our bandwidth limits here, and cannot think of any of the prioritized policy areas that I would “bump down” to put STR policy on the fast track. Another approach here is to expand our capacity, but this will be an ongoing discussion on Council as we are near the end of our 2018 Budget process and may need to defer this discussion for the next budget period.

100 Braid Street (Urban Academy): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Construction sometimes sticks you between a rock and a hard place. Sunday morning construction is a hassle for neighbours, but sometimes needs to happen. In this case, the builders need to close two lanes of Braid street, which would have bad impacts on neighbourhood and regional traffic if done mid-week, and the Saturday would be better, but there is a Wedding being held next door! A wedding! So Council granted a variance to allow one day of Sunday construction so the school project can put up their roof trusses.

200 to 700 Blocks Columbia Street Sewer Interceptors: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Construction sometimes needs to happen at bad times because it works better then. Major sewer works especially work better at night when sewer loads are smaller, for obvious reasons. Treatment of the major sewer works under Columbia Street with a Magnesium Hydroxide every once in a while prolongs the lifespan of the works by counteracting the chemical erosion caused by the hydrogen sulfide that emits from your… uh… waste. Council moved to give this variance so the milk of magnesia can be delivered to the guts of the City.

Possible Modular Housing Projects
The topic of Temporary Modular Housing has been pretty hot in Vancouver, where the homelessness crisis is most acute, and there has been some push-back from residents there around plans to give their neighbours safe roofs over their heads. Here in New West, our staff have recognized that there is demand here for these facilities, but we are challenged by a general lack of City-owned land upon which to place them.

Perhaps ironically, two potential candidate locations the City owns are not available because the City has provided them to not-for-profits to build permanent non-market housing, a project that has been going on for more than a year. Staff have evaluated many pieces of land in the City over which we have some control (City and Provincially-owned), and have identified two priority locations, one in Queensborough, and one on the Mainland.

We are moving forward with geotechnical analysis (the temporary buildings need to have solid footing) and working with the province to determine how to best bring these sites on-line, or even if the province is interested in bringing their program to the sites we have available. I think Council is interested in seeing these developed as part of our comprehensive approach to housing affordability, and I hope we can fast –track any approval the City need to provide to pave the way for getting people into safer homes. Its cold out there people.

Applications for Grant Funding to the FCM – Municipal Asset Management Program and UBCM Local Government Program Service 2018 Asset Management Planning Program
Creating a more comprehensive Asset Management program is one of the Strategic Priorities set for this Council term. The very short version of this is to look at everything the City owns that has a lifespan (road lines, telephone poles, HVAC systems, sewer pipes, that arcade-style basketball hoop thing at the Canada Games Pool, etc.) and provide a systematic process to evaluate their lifespan, maintenance and replacement cost, and put those costs into a financial framework to better assist long-term financial planning. Luckily, the FCM is giving out grants to support this kind of work, and we are going to apply for one of those grants. Cross your fingers!

514 Carnarvon Street (Holy Trinity): Affordable Housing Update
The parish of the historic Holy Trinity Cathedral are hoping to develop their lot in order to raise funds for restoration of their building, expansion of the community space on their campus, and to provide both non-market and market secured rental and strata residential units in the same building. Although this project has already seen a couple of years of reshaping, it is still pretty early in the process for the project. There will be public consultation and a public hearing if this project proceeds. Stay tuned.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Servicing of Water Lots Within Port of Vancouver Jurisdiction
This is an information report brought to catch Council up on some issues raised more than year ago by some residents of float homes in Queensborough. For the most part, they are living on water lots under Port of Vancouver jurisdiction. For reasons going back through decades of zoning decisions, there are other people living in legally non-conforming residences on the “flood” side of the dyke, in lots that are at least partially Port jurisdiction, and can only be serviced through the Dyke (which comes with another set of complications). The Port’s land use plan for their water lots are more industrial than the current use reflects, or even what the City’s long term use plans may be. Short version: the Port doesn’t like float homes expanding into their industrial land base, and the City is reluctant to provide services to them, especially if the Port doesn’t approve.

Modernization of the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act
The ACTBiPed was provided a presentation from the Road Safety Law Reform Group pf BC, a collection of road safety advocates, cycling groups, lawyers and Public Health researchers, outlining the need for a serious reform of the Motor Vehicle Act of BC.

The very fact it is called the “Motor Vehicle Act”, but is the primary provincial regulation covering the use of the provinces’ public transportation realm is telling – we need to start thinking about the safety of all users of public space, and distribute the rights and responsibilities more equitably. The Act was drafted in 1957, and hasn’t changed much since.

The proposals of the RSLRG, are mostly changes to protect vulnerable road users, and are based on research done in other provinces (most notably Quebec and Ontario). They start with redrafting the Act as a “Road Safety Act”, and separating different road users (motorists, cyclists, pedestrians) based upon their real risk and the different ways they operate in public spaces.

This includes changes to make cycling more safe (i.e. a three-foot passing law, clarifying when a cyclist may pass on the right and lane occupancy priorities), and for make in pedestrian spaces safer (including rules to reduce cyclist-pedestrian conflicts). There are also several well-understood and researched safety changes, including making 30km/h the default speed limit on local roads without a centre line, allowing “red arrow” lights to restrict right turns, etc.

ACTBiPed asked Council to endorse the recommendations made by the RSLRG, and to sponsor a resolution at the upcoming UBCM meeting in support of modernizing the MVA. Council approved.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in New Developments
This is obviously an emergent technology, and one that most local governments want to support to reduce the air pollution and GHG impacts in our community. Some communities are aggressively updating their zoning and development Bylaws to encourage or force the installation of works required to facilitate plug-ins in new residential and commercial buildings. Council asked staff to review and bring back options for us to approve new requirements and make it easier for our residents to switch to electric.

We then read and adopted a couple of Bylaws:

Draft 2018 – 2022 Financial Plan Bylaw 7992, 2018
Council gave the Bylaw that codifies our 2018-2022 Budget three readings.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (235 Durham Street) Amendment
Bylaw No. 7975, 2018

Council adopted this Bylaw that gave a homeowner working on a heritage Restoration a little more time to get his requirements fulfilled.

Finally, we had a piece of New Business:

Motion on Notice, Single-use Plastic Bags and straws
Councillor Williams brought forward this Notice of Motion a couple of weeks ago. I support the intent, but the actual motion included a “due date” I was concerned about. I think we need to work with Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Program, and this is something we can roll into the Environmental Policy update staff is working on as part of our Strategic Plans this Council Terms. Finally, I note we are not alone in doing this, as Port Moody and Victoria are on the bandwagon here, and I suspect we may be seeing Provincial action soon.

And that was all except for the singing. Yes, we sang.

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