February is upon us, the bleakest of months, but nothing brightens up the winter like a Council Meeting! Our Agenda this week began with a couple of presentations from staff:
Economic Development Plan Implementation Update
We got a report on the next phases of implementation in the City’s Economic Development Plan.
Some good stuff has been done, including setting up a “how to” guide to help guide businesses hoping to set up in New West. We are currently working on a “customer journey” audit to better understand the challenges and pitfalls that businesses may have in trying to work with City hall in setting up, hoping to find some efficiencies and help staff see the various processes through the eyes of the applicant coming to City Hall. There is a how to guide available on-line to help new businesses understand the easiest pathway between inevitable hoops. And there are more metrics being collected and reported out on-line to track business growth and economic impact in the City. And some Bylaw service changes to support business licensing better, which came up next.
Update on Licensing and Integrated Services Division
“Integrated Services” is one of those names that could mean basically anything, but in New West it means the department that deals with enforcing (most) bylaws and licensing in the City. Despite the significant growth in the City over the last dozen years, the increased emphasis on progressive enforcement and community outreach, and the introduction of new areas of work (anti-demoviction actions, cannabis retail, ride-hailing, etc.), the department has not grown in staff over that time. They work hard in the Integrated Services division, and it is not easy work. You might want to read the appendix to this report to understand the challenges that our enforcement officers sometimes face when they are at the intersection of unsafe premises, people in distress, and the need to assure public safety.
That doesn’t mean we can’t find better ways to provide the service with the resources we have. This report covers some changes happening in the department to better meet today’s needs. One idea is to shift the License Coordinator position over to a more customer-focused Business License Ambassador role, and more integration with the Economic Development office to assure we are providing the right kind of support for the community. Another is to shift our bylaw enforcement staff from regional coverage (i.e. each take a third of the City) to one where they are responsible for a major category of bylaws – tenant support, construction impacts, and property use.
This is a good news story about staff working hard, achieving great results, and finding efficiencies to reduce the costs.
The following items were Moved on Consent:
Budget 2020 Process – Engagement Results
The 2020 Budget process marks the beginning of a new way of doing things. Staff is working hard to engage the public in a more open dialogue about the budget than we have ever done before. We have had council workshops, public open houses, and on-line surveys to inform people about the budget process, and ask them to help us set priorities. Long before decisions are made, we provided the spreadsheets to the public to show what the plan looks like, and have asked them to give us feedback. This report provides some of that feedback.
I don’t think I want to dive too deep in to the feedback here. I’ve read the detailed report, and there will be time to discuss the ideas in it as the budget process is ongoing. I found it especially valuable to be present at the public workshop and hear the conversations going on around the need to invest in infrastructure, the need to take bold action on climate, and concerns about how much money those things may costs. It is also clear (and noted in the report) that there is a lack of clear consensus, which is what you expect from public consultation.
Massey Theatre Working Group Terms of Reference
This is a follow-up on the motion Councillor Trentadue put forward a couple of meetings ago to put together a task force charged with coordinating the details of a new working agreement between Massey Theatre Society and the City in light of the imminent transfer of the Theatre from the School District to the City. If you are into theatres, committees, or terms of reference, this is good reading! If you are into all three, you really should already be on the board of the Massey Theatre Society (or the Royal City Musical theatre, the Vagabond Players, the Arts Council, or any of the other incredible performing arts-supporting organization in this city!)
815 Milton Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement (815 Milton Street) Amendment Bylaw – Consideration of First and Second Readings
This heritage house in the Brow of the Hill was protected as part of an HRA in 2005. They now want to make improvements to the house to allow a secondary suite, that includes raising the house by four inches (yes, that is 10 centimeters) and to allow the single off-street parking space to be converted to two tandem parking spots. Because of the HRA an amendment would be needed to make this legal. This application will go to public hearing, but because of the relatively minor nature of the changes and the new streamlined process the city is trying to encourage, there will be no public open house or presentation to the RA. If you have concerns, let us know, or show up at the Public Hearing on February 24th.
510 St. George Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Height Limit – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This homeowner in Queens Park wants to lift their house by 3 feet, in order to have a full basement and basement suite, which would move the roof, which is already a little above permitted, to a little plus three feet. The house is subject to the Heritage Conservation Area Bylaw, but is not an HRA protected house. This change will require a zoning variance that will come to an Opportunity to be Hear on February 24th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.
2223 Ninth Avenue: Rezoning for a Single Detached Dwelling including a Secondary Suite and Detached Accessory Building in a Comprehensive Development Zone – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8180, 2020 for Two Readings
This is an application to rezone a single family lot at the top of Connaught Heights where small house still stand between two much larger houses that sit at higher grade (due to some weirdness that used to exist in our zoning bylaw around grade modifications). So the rezoning also includes some relaxations of the definitions of basement and cellar to allow it to be built in a comparable form to the houses on either side. There will be a Public Hearing on February 24th, so join us for this discussion!
Application for Grant Funding for West End Sewer Separation Program to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – Green Infrastructure Environmental Quality
The City of New West still has some significant areas of combined sewer. This means that the stuff you flush mixes with the stuff that runs off or your yard and the streets and it all goes to the sewer treatment plant. Most modern cities (and newer parts of New West) run parallel systems where the flushing goes to the treatment plant, the rain runoff goes to the river. The bad part about combined is that we pay to pump all of that rainwater to the plant, and now that it is mixed with your unmentionables, we need to pay to treat it all. Also, in really bad rain events, there simply isn’t enough capacity to move all that water to the plant, so some of it overflows into the river –taking your previously unmentioned stuff with it.
So the City is in a multi-year, and terribly expensive, process of sewer separation. We have in the past received grants from senior governments to help pay for this, because the environmental benefits of doing this work expand beyond New West. This report informs everyone that we are applying for more grants to do some more of this work in the West End. Our costs for this come out of your sewer fees, senior government grants will reduce the need to increase your sewer fees. Cross your fingers.
719 Colborne Street: Rezoning and Minor Development Permit Applications for Two Accessory Dwellings – Bylaw for Two Readings
This is an application to rezone a single family home on Glenbrook North to formalize a basement suite and convert the existing accessory building to a laneway house. It is a bit of a unique property, with “two fronts”, one on Colborne and one on Park Crescent. The application will go to Public Hearing on what is starting to look like a busy February 24th meeting. C’mon out and tell us what you think.
457 East Columbia Street: Rezoning and Liquor Primary, Family Friendly Endorsement for Arcade – Report for Information
The Arcade in Sapperton has now been operating for a while under their Temporary Use Permit, and looking to apply for a rezoning for permanent use and a liquor license. There will be some community consultation, and we expect this to come back to Council (and to a Public Hearing) this Spring, so keep your ears open.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
Update on Intelligent New West Event Planning
The successful Innovation Week programming of the last couple of years is taking on a new form and a new format. One of the concerns of the existing event was that many people wanted to attend multiple sessions, but simply couldn’t afford to take 3 or 4 consecutive days off to see it all. So the week is now broken up to 4 “Intelligent New West” one-day events, spread across the year.
The first will be an expo on February 20th will be the popular Innovation Expo, where local entrepreneurs and business can learn about how to connect with governments, be that earning government procurement contracts or seeking grants or funding for innovative businesses ideas and growth.
The next will be on March 11th at City Hall, where the Department of Nation Defense is sponsoring an event on “Allies and Modern Trades”, how we can create more space in the Trades (including Technology trades) for women, both as employers and as allies. This will be interesting for people training and/or hoping to work in the trades and employers working with trades.
Amendments to the Sign Bylaw regarding Election Signs
Every election year, we get some feedback on election signs. Many don’t like them, some see them as necessary evil, and very, very, few (outside of the printing and coroplast industries) celebrate new election sign season. With some feedback arising from the 2018 election, staff are recommending some bylaw changes. Biggest among them is doing what some other communities have done, limiting election signs to the 2’ x 2’ “lawn sign” size, and restricting the larger billboard signs. This will reduce the visual hazard of signs, and also level the playing field a bit, as the large signs (and their supporting infrastructure) are expensive. There is also a proposal to ban all “car signs” – meaning (as I interpret it), you can neither apply a sign to a moving vehicle, nor “wrap” your vehicle in a sign. The MayorMobile will roll no more.
As this is (obviously) an area fraught with potential political bias, staff are recommending we take these proposed Bylaw changes out to the public for feedback, and also connect with all of the recent electoral candidates (successful or not) to get feedback prior to asking the Council to vote on a revised Bylaw.
Urban Forest Management Strategy – Community Outreach
We want to increase our tree canopy in the City to help meet our Climate Action goals, and to make for a more livable community. Some of the thousands of new trees we will need to plant will be on City lands (Parks, boulevards, etc.), and some will need ot be on private lands (your yard!). So we want encourage new trees on private yards. This report talks about how we will do that.
We will hold an annual tree sale – every property owner can purchase up to two trees at a subsidized cost of $10. There will be a selection of species appropriate for our climate, and staff will provide some instructions on which type fits best in your chosen location and how to keep your tree alive the for couple of years until it is established;
We will also provide a rebate program for residents that choose to go to the nursery and purchase their own tree for their property. Much like the nematode program, you buy a tree, you put it on your property, you keep it alive, we will give you $20.
Finally, we are going to introduce a program to “adopt” the boulevard tree in front of your house, to connect the homeowner with sources of info to keep their boulevard trees healthy- such as summer watering schedules, mulching, and giving the city notice if the tree is looking damaged or unhealthy.
And that was the work part of Council this week, though we had some interesting delegations that you can enjoy on the Video!