We had a public-delegation-full Council Meeting on Monday, I never realized how much people in New West hate basketball (I’m going to look back at this blog post in a few years and have no idea what that joke is about). To see it all, you need to watch the video, because I only report here on what we get done, and we had an agenda to get through:
Uptown Belmont Street Parklet: Proposed Redesign
The Uptown Parklet has been successful, if you measure success by its intended purpose: making a public place where people can meet, rest, socialize, and share. As a public square owned by the public, it works, better than any other parklet in the City (and yes, there are others, in Sapperton, in the Brow). We are not quite Montreal, but animating public space is a goal this council supports.
Part of the problem with this success is that some people are bothered by other people using the space. There has also been a bit of a shift in the use of the space as the original astroturf got shabby and was removed, and there were some maintenance issues with the equipment in the space. This report outlines a plan to “refresh” the space to address the second problem, and a bit of a strategy to address the first problem.
Some residents of the adjacent residential buildings are bothered by nighttime use of the parklet, especially people leaving the local pub or drinking in the parklet at night, which has lead to a lot of noise complaints. Smoking is also (as in all of our parks) a problem. In short, some neighbours want the Parklet removed. These are both community behaviour problems that occur in all of our parks and public areas, and re-locating them is not a solution. Every time I go to the Parklet and talk to people using it, they tell me how much they appreciate it being there (though many say they want it fixed up). The drinking/smoking issues are best addressed through a combination of enforcement and education. We are working with the NWPD, the Uptown BIA and the neighbours to work on these issues, and Councillor Trentadue was right on the mark (IMHO) in saying we need to look at a little more “proactive” enforcement, and a little less relying on people to call the NWPD non-emergency line.
The following items were moved on consent:
Recruitment 2019: Committee Appointments (NTAC & Arts)
We are officially appointing a new representative to the NTAC from the new Victoria Hill Ginger Drive Residents’ Association, and a new representative to the Arts Commission.
800 Block Boyd Street: Road Paving – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 Exemption
They need to re-pave Boyd Street after gas line replacement. It will happen at night to reduce the traffic impact, and a construction noise bylaw exemption is required. Council approved this.
118 Regina Street: Development Variance Permit – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
A heritage house in Queens Park is seeing an upgrade to improve the livable space, while protecting the heritage value of the house. They require a variance for side setback (how close the side of the addition can be to the property line), to reduce it from 5 feet to 3.1 feet. This will go to an Opportunity to be Heard on June 24th; C’mon out and tell us what you think.
230 Keary Street (Building 8), 268 Nelson’s Court (Building 7), and 228 Nelson’s Crescent (Building 5): Brewery District – Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment to Convert Permitted Use on Building 8 from Commercial to Omnibus Use (including Residential)
Wesgroup would like to revisit the zoning language for the next phases of the Brewery District development. The want to make the currently-designated commercial density in Building 8 into “omnibus” zoning which allows a shift towards more residential and less commercial use, along with increasing the height of the building (but not the density – a narrower, taller building), in exchange for making all of buildings 5 and 7 into market rental properties. In short, 320 units currently approved for sale as condos would become secured market rental units in exchange for no increased density, but a shift from commercial to residential.
This is a preliminary report, and has some review to go through, including a conversation with the neighbourhood and eventually a Public Hearing if it gets through all the hoops. I’m a bit challenged by this developer one again going back to the neighbourhood to ask for more height, but I am willing to see how the public and committee reviews go here, and whether the addition of more market rental is valued.
UBCM Resolution in Support of Greater Investments in Municipal and Not-for-Profit Seniors Services and Supports
The UBCM meeting in the Fall will already have a couple of New Westminster resolutions, this one was brought to us by the Healthy Aging Municipal Caucus, of which the City is a member. We are asking, along with a few other municipalities, for the UBCM to coordinate a more coordinated approach between the three orders of governments and local not-for-profits to better fund initiatives to support seniors in our communities.
2018 Statement of Financial Information
Every year we produce a SOFI for the Provincial Government, along with a report from our Auditors telling them everything is on the up-and-up. We ended this fiscal year with $51M more in financial assets than Liabilities ($4M less than last year), but have $23M more in accumulated surplus (which includes the value of all of our buildings, sewer pipes, asphalt, light poles, desktop computers, etc. etc.). We exceeded our revenue targets by $5 Million (though we collected $1M less than anticipated in taxes), and spent $9M more than we expected. We have $128M in investments, and $59M in debt.
Also on there is the remuneration info – I got paid $46,434 for Council work in fiscal year 2018, and spent $5,719 on various expenses (mostly conference attendance at FCM, UBCM, and Lower Mainland LGA). You can also see a list with the names (ugh) of every employee who got paid more than $75,000 in wages and expenses last year, and the name of every supplier from whom we purchased more than $25,000 in goods. Compelling stuff!
The following items were Removed form Consent for discussion:
Funding for Tsilhqot’in Nation reconciliation
The City has a budget line for “international relations”, which has in the past supported several international-exchange initiatives with our City Cities in China, Japan, and the Philippines. Those types of junkets are becoming less common (I have never travelled overseas on behalf of the City in my 4+ years on Council, and there hasn’t been a full council exchange in many years). We are, however, entering a new kind of City-to-Nation relationship with First Nations communities across the province. The special relationship of New Westminster and the Tsilhqot’in Nation, based on a tragic history, has been a priority for Council, and has resulted in some great relationship building leading to a positive path towards reconciliation with this Nation.
The next step in this relationship is for our two communities to come together and have a commemoration ceremony with representatives of the Tsilhqot’in, and more visits by a Councillor or two to their Nation to talk about future activities. We are, in this report, approving taking some of the International Relations budget money to pay for this, and establishing that future expenses should come from a reconciliation budget.
2019 Council Remuneration
We once again sent the touchy issue of Council Remuneration to an outside consultant for review, as we agreed to do last time this came up 4 years ago. The consultant recommended that Council pay be increased by 15% to make up for the change in federal taxation regime, which removed the tax exemption from half of our pay, essentially reducing our take-home by 15% 9or “making us whole” so we have essentially the same take-home in 2019 as we did in 2018, then continue annual CPI increases. This would make our pay once again fit close to the median of our comparator communities.
They also recommended that we increase a vehicle allowance to match that of our neighbouring communities. This I disagree with. I simply don’t think we need a vehicle allowance in a City of 15 square kilometres with excellent transit service and walkability, and if we do have legitimate travel costs for our day-to-day work, it should be managed though our expense allowance, not as something we are given outright.
Regardless, Council moved to table the report, and we will have a fuller discussion of it next meeting, no doubt after careful consideration of Facebook comments.
Arts Commission: Request to Increase Arts & Culture Grant
We are going through a process of revamping our grant process, including some review of how grants are categorized. As we are also launching a new Arts Strategy, the Arts Commission is asking that the amount of money awarded to support arts in the community, and way it is awarded, be reviewed as part of this review. There is no specific ask for a specific amount here, but we will be getting a report back from staff.
We moved the following Bylaw,:
Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8123, 2019 for Residential Rental Tenure
This Bylaw that updates the Rental Tenure zoning for 6 properties that have always operated a rental in the city was adopted by Council.
We also had one piece of New business:
Motion: Gender, Diversity and Inclusion
Councillor Trentadue put forward the following motion:
That staff report back on the current breakdown of departments by gender, diversity, and people with disabilities, and
That staff report back on best practices that other governments, institutions and businesses have implemented to address gender parity, diversity and inclusion; and
That staff develop hiring practices that will meet the needs of a changing workforce and improve the balance of our employee make up; and
That staff develop metrics and a reporting structure that will confirm our success
or failure to address these issues; and
That staff develop City-wide policy to which all departments can adhere and that addresses not only the issues of gender parity, diversity, and inclusion but also the integration and support of all city employees with disabilities.
The City has always had the feeling that we are doing a good job at diversity in our workforce, but there are areas (such as in the trades) where we are definitely not keeping up with the diversity of the general workforce. This motion will ask staff to actually start tracking the diversity of our workforce, and report back with practices and metrics so we can assure that barriers to employment for underrepresented groups can be identified and addressed. This is going to make us a better operation, and Council unanimously supported it.
And that was the end of the meeting, but don’t forget to tune in or drop by on June 24th when we have (count ‘em) 12 Public Hearings and 3 Opportunities to be heard. Should be an action-packed event!