Council – June 11, 2018

After all of that excitement, it was back to work on Monday at New West Council. We opened the meeting with presentations of plaques for the newest Registered Heritage Buildings in the community. This was followed by a couple of presentations that were emotionally charged. It is Salmonbellies Day on June 17th, but the usual celebration was subdued in light of the recent loss of a treasured member of the SalmonBellies community. This was followed by acknowledgement of World Refugee Day on June 20th, which we marked with a harrowing presentation by a New Westminster resident who is himself a recent refugee from Syria, which put many of our issues in New Westminster into a stark perspective.

Our regular agenda began with a Report for Action:

Modular Housing Update: Further Analysis on 200 Fenton Street
This report is a summary of work done to evaluate a site on Fenton Street in Queensborough for Temporary Modular Housing (“TMH”). This is a follow up report on last meeting, as we had many delegates speaking to the 838 Ewen Avenue TMH proposal, and some suggested the Fenton Street site as a better alternative for TMH in Queensborough. We asked staff to provide more details to the evaluation that was done of Fenton, and to revisit some of the assumptions that went into it being not selected to make sure we haven’t missed something important.

The short version here is that the Fenton Street site is indeed a viable location for modular housing, but there are some significant challenges for the site that impact the timing, cost, and project risk. The site would require pre-load and other ground stabilization works, and would need significant on-site and off-site landscaping and other works. In comparison to the Ewen Avenue site, the access to services is not as good, and making the site more accessible for pedestrians will come at an extra cost. Nearby transit service is less convenient and less frequent, and shopping is twice as far away. In summary, the Fenton Street site works better for a more permanent affordable housing project so the timing and costs to make it work can be absorbed into a longer project timeframe, but it is not a viable location for the current Rapid Response TMH program being led by the Provincial Government.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

2017 Statement of Financial Information
This is our official release of financial information for the year. Most of the spreadsheet stuff shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has watched our budgeting process. This report also includes how much you paid me and my Council colleagues for our work ($45,646 for me, plus $5,539 in expenses, mostly for the conferences I attended, which is why I report out on them here), a list of all of the companies we paid more than $25,000 for goods and services, and a list of the wages paid to all of our employees who earned more than $75,000, as required by law.

No doubt, the regional media will report out on peoples wages, without much effort to putting those wages into context of what those people would be paid in the private sector for similar responsibilities and skills, instead framing those wages as opulent. Alas.

Recruitment 2018: Arts Commission Appointment
We have an empty seat on the Arts Commission, and this person is willing to fill it, and she is a consummate volunteer in the City, whom I thank for her service.

Street Naming Bylaw for Roma Avenue in Queensborough – Bylaw for Three Readings
As reported earlier, the name Roma Avenue will be sued for a new street in Queensborough. This is the official Bylaw that makes that happen. The actual installation of the road sign will come after the road is built and put into service. Hopefully it is good timing to coincide with a grape-stomp.

406 – 412 East Columbia Street (Market Rental) Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8000, 2018 for Three Readings
The project planned for an empty lot on East Columbia will include Purpose Built Rental, and in order for the City to secure that rental, we need a covenant and a Legal Agreement. This agreement needs to be supported by a Bylaw. This is that Bylaw.

Amendment to the Tenant Relocation Policy: Changes to the Residential Tenancy Act
The City has a Tenant Relocation Policy to do what we can to make sure that people are not displaced from their housing unnecessarily, and to assure that when evictions are legal and required for significant renovation of a building, the residents have as much support as possible in this impossibly tight rental market. The provincial government recently updated the Residential Tenancy Act to give renters more protection from demovictions, such that their “fair notice” minimum is now longer than the one in the City’s policy, so we are adjusting our policy to match. This is a constantly evolving file, and more work is being done by local governments and province, this is a quick shift of our local policy to keep up, but not the end of story!

Proposal for Public Realm Improvements in Brow of the Hill at Seventh Street and Fourth Avenue
This is a proposal to create a small public green space improvement in the Brow of the Hill, a neighbourhood notably lacking in public green space. Up to now, our Parklet Program has been oriented to improving the streetscape in our retail areas, where this one is adjacent to a church in a relatively high-density neighbourhood. This creates some opportunities, but also a different potential set of conflicts. Like other Parklets, this is meant to be temporary, but any opportunity we have to reduce the amount of paved space dedicated to cars and re-purpose that space into something greener that all people can use is a positive.

New Westminster Arena Operations and Ammonia Safety Update
The tragic incident at Fernie last year, where three refrigeration workers were killed by an ammonia leak at their skating rink, has cause all municipalities in BC to review their safety practices around ice plants, working with WorkSafe and the Technical Safety Board, There were some changes done at both of our arenas, mostly around how TSBC have changed the application of “risk assessment” measures. The changes come with a small operational cost increase (more frequent testing, increased staffing levels to oversee ammonia plant operations) which are consistent with changes being made at most ice arenas in the province. Short version is that were up to snuff when it comes to safe operation of our ice plants, and with emergency procedures, with a some increase in operational costs.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

620 Third Avenue (Westminster House): Temporary Use Permit for Youth Residential Recovery Program – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This is the notice that an Opportunity to be Heard will happen on July 9 for a Temporary Use Permit for a residential recovery program directed at younger women recovering from addictions. It is best practice that I recuse myself from this discussion as the application is only a few doors down from my house.

Electric Vehicle Readiness Policy for New Residential, Commercial and Institutional Buildings
Electric vehicles are coming, and they are coming on fast. The largest disruption caused by them will be the change in how people “fuel” their vehicles. Gas stations are going to go away, and distributed charging systems will replace them. We are not, however, building that distributed charging infrastructure fast enough. This policy would help push the City that direction, requiring that new buildings with off-street parking spots are built to have the background infrastructure (conduit, wiring, and adequate electrical capacity) to support installing charging stations.

The cost of making this a requirement in new builds is relatively small, well under $1000 (compared to the $40,000+ cost per stall of providing underground parking). Other cities (Vancouver and Richmond) have already made this move, and many others across the region are about where we are in in putting their policy together.

As *most* EV charging will happen at home, if an adequate charging system exists there, there is less demand for making these stations mandatory in commercial buildings. The standard practice regionally is to require 10% of off-street commercial parking be ready for an EV charger. Staff are planning to report back to us with a fully-cooked framework for how to manage the commercial sector.

Amendments to Animal Care and Control Bylaw and Associated Schedules in the Bylaw and Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw
The City is waiving Dog Permit fees for Therapy dogs, and updating some language in the Animal Control Bylaw without any major policy changes.

Queen’s Park Arenex Replacement
The replacement of the Arenex has been a difficult process. We were initially optimistic that a replacement structure could be quickly acquired that would provide greater space, and along with the Canada Games Pool replacement project, we would finally have a home for the gymnastics and trampoline programs that didn’t quite fit in the Arenex as it was. Regrettably, best laid plans ran into some procurement issues, as the tight construction market and relatively high project risk related to the geotechnical conditions resulted in no adequate responses to the Request for Proposals. In the public procurement process local governments are required to use, that often means back to the drawing board.

With some revision of scope, and more work done on the soils conditions at the old Queens Park reservoir site (where the old tennis courts and soil storage area are), we are now in a position to re-start procurement.

Honestly, it is a bit of a disappointment that it took this long to get this far, but we have reviewed the process to date and there was every reason to suspect the first procurement should have worked. It may have been our rush to get a replacement facility done as quickly as possible that (ironically) resulted in this delay. The good side is that this failure has led to the City to re-evaluate some of our project management practices, and bring in some new resources. We have an aggressive capital program, with the Library, the Animal Care Facility, the CGP replacement, and more projects charging ahead, at the same time that some senior staff is retiring, so the learning from this will be valuable. However, in the end all we can do is apologize that this project ran into the challenges it did, and move ahead aggressively to get it done as soon as possible.

On a related topic, we had a Staff Presentation:

New Aquatics and Community Centre Feasibility Study, Public Engagement Results
Regular readers (Hi Mom!) will recall we are moving ahead with the Canada Games Pool replacement, and took a proposed “program” out for public comment back in late April. This report gave us a summary of the public engagement results. I have a lot to write about this, so will hold off for a second blog post, but the short version is that we have developed a pathway where we may be able to accommodate a higher-level competition pool while not taking away from the community focus of the new community centre.

As always, we closed the evening program processing our Bylaws:

Street Naming Bylaw No. 7984, 2018
This Bylaw that makes the name of a new street in Queensborough “Roma Avenue” was given three readings.

Housing Agreement (406 to 412 East Columbia Street) Bylaw No. 8000, 2018
This Bylaw that secures the agreement that this new development in Sapperton will be a rental building was given three readings.

Animal Care and Control Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8026, 2018;
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8027 2018; and
Municipal Ticketing Information Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8028, 2018
The amendments to these three bylaws that will allow us to not charge license fees for therapy dogs and make other small changes in our Animal control Bylaw, were given three readings.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
As discussed last meeting, these updates to the 5-year Financial Plan were adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Automated Voting Machines Authorization Amendment Bylaw No.
7994, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that is required by Elections BC to use electronic ballot-counting devices in our civic election was adopted.

Building Amendment Bylaw (Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses) No. 8018, 2018
Also as discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that removes the need for a building permit for some types of backyard greenhouses larger than 100 square feet was adopted. May your tomatoes enjoy a warmer fall.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (306 Gilley Street) Bylaw No. 8007,
Heritage Designation (306 Gilley Street) Bylaw No. 8008, 2018
These Bylaws that secure permanent protection of a heritage home in the Brow of the Hill were adopted by Council.

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