We had a pretty long agenda in our first meeting after a summer break like no other. It was, again, a remote meeting (and more about that below), so you can hear the recording if that is your thing. Otherwise, here’s what we talked about based on my memory. Right off the start we had a presentation:
824 Agnes Street Commemorative Park Design – Preferred Design Concept
There is a City-owned space in Downtown about the size of a small single residential lot that has operated most recently as a dog park, but has a much richer history. It was once an important location in the community for residents of Chinese descent. The City has leveraged adjacent development to fund improvements to the area to build a proper public park space. It is a bit of a challenging space, with a significant grade change making it hard to assure the park is universally accessible. But the city led a few stakeholder and public meetings and went through various design concepts. We have now settled on a final design that reflect the history of the site while being an accessible, functional, public greenspace Downtown.
This is the design concept, but we don’t yet have a timeline on the park’s development, as we have no funds set aside for the park re-design. Those funds will only arrive through the approved development process for the adjacent property, as that developer is paying the bills here.
We then moved the following items on Consent:
805 Boyd Street (Queensborough Landing): Proposed Text Amendment to the Large Format Commercial District (C-10) Zone to include Self- Improvement School as a Use – Preliminary Report
A tutoring business wants to operate in the Queensborough Landing commercial complex, but the existing zoning language does not include that use, so Council is considering updating the zoning language to allow it. This is a preliminary report to let us know that Staff will do the work needed to bring it to us. Let us know of you have an opinion.
811 Columbia Street (Plaza 88): Development Variance Permit Application to Vary the Sign Area and Channel Lettering Provision for the Sign Bylaw to Permit a Fascia Sign for Landmark Cinemas
Landmark Cinemas wants to add a swoosh to their existing sign to align with their existing branding, but the sign will be a little bigger than permitted by our sign bylaw, but not really a substantial change to the sign they already have. But it needs a Sign Bylaw variance, so that process is beginning and Council will make a decision next Opportunity to be Heard. If you have an opinion, let us know!
219 and 221 Manitoba Street: Heritage Register Addition and Heritage Designations – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
Two heritage homes have been oved to this newly subdivided property in Queens Park, and we are now adding them to the Heritage Register so they will be there forever. This will go to a Public Hearing – if you have an opinion, let us know.
Imposition of Remedial Action Requirement for 1823 Hamilton Street
This is a difficult situation where a homeowner has been non-compliant with City bylaws for several years, creating (in the opinion of neighbours) a persistent nuisance, and (in the opinion of our building bylaw staff) an unsafe condition. A roof that has been tarped for years, unfinished exterior walls, scaffolding, and an unpermitted retaining wall are all points of contention, but the real issue here is that the work on the property began in 2007 without an appropriate permit, and has been non-compliant since at least 2013. The owner has refused to take remedial action, and cannot find a qualified engineer to sign off on the work. Last year, Council finally issued a Remedial Order, and a Hearing was given to the property owner. However, the work to make the property compliant is still not completed, nor is there any evidence it has seriously begun.
Staff is now requesting the authority to tender the work, have it done, and send the owner the bill.
Applications for Grant Funding to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities – Municipal Asset Management Program and UBCM Local Government Program Service 2020 Asset Management Planning Program
The City is doing a comprehensive Asset Management Program, and there are grant funds available from FCM and UBCM to help pay to get this work done, so we are applying.
2021 Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw Amendment
We annually review our Parks and Recreation fees through Bylaw amendment. Generally, we try to adjust fees to match inflation every year, but the overall strategy is to recover costs for most services, while assuring our fees are not out of scale with adjacent municipalities. Generally our fees for most things (like ice rental in our arenas) are at the lower end compared to adjacent communities or for-profit providers. For obvious reasons, this is not the year to be making big changes other than a simple CPI increase so we don’t lose pace with inflation.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
This is our regular report out form our 5 COVID-19 response Task Forces. There are more details in the report, but these are two items that were raised for discussion:
Vulnerable Populations: The Food Bank is losing its current church space, and will be looking to relocate ASAP. The current proposal is Tipperary Park as a compliment to the Farmers Market, and the Farmers Market is looking at relocating to Tipperary for the winter. That may work out well, but Council raised some concerns about moving the foodbank outdoors in winter weather. Staff will be bringing us a report on their work to secure a space for this vital food security service.
Business and Local Economy: The patio program that we launched to support food service establishments during COVID coincided with a Provincial program that expires in October. We need to provide some clarity to businesses about how/if we are going to extend past October, and if/how we are going to look at supporting the accommodation of temporary shelter, heaters, etc. to extend the patio program over the winter, or at least survey businesses for interest? Staff will be bringing us a report.
Planning for Potential “Second Wave” of COVID-19
A Second wave of COVID-19 may be upon us already, it is almost certainly going to hit us, and staff is planning for it. The “phases” of restart from the pandemic shutdown are dictated by the provincial health authorities (we are in Phase 3 right now), but it is not yet clear how the province will (or won’t?) respond to a second wave. So the City has developed three scenarios with a response plan for each. “Managed Outbreaks” would be a scenario where we stay at Phase 3 and react in a directed way to outbreaks if they occur within our staff or in a public facility to contain and manage the outbreak. “Rollback to Phase 2” is a scenario where the health authority moves us back up the shutdown scale because of bad regional case numbers, and “Rollback to Phase 1” is the same, but worse.
There is much more detail in the attached report, and there are lots of intra-departmental details across the City. Suffice to say, we are planning for the bad, the worse, and the worst, while hoping for the best. Everybody is doing this for the first time, so challenges ahead, but I am feeling like we are about as prepared as we can be.
Open Delegations and Opening Council Chamber to the Public in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Council operation is one part of the re-opening plan that needs a bit of special consideration. In general, we need to figure out how to get the public back into the Council conversation, both as part of Public Hearings, and generally as our traditional Open Delegations. As Council continues to meet remotely, the challenges many have with on-line communications and video conferencing have to be addressed.
Regular Council meetings go on, we do them through video conference, and recordings are available, so the conversation is still open and in the public record, but it is hard for the public to participate. One of our challenges is that the Council Chamber is a limited space, and we can never predict how many people want to attend a Public Hearing, and we are not legally able to limit the number of people. Our past practice of allowing anyone to attend and get 5 minutes on any topic as an Open Delegation makes it even harder to plan. So we are going to continue to hold Public Hearings with electronic participation so we don’t have to worry about Social Distancing, and do our best to accommodate people’s uncertainty with the technology.
As for Council attending chambers, we had a good discussion about it. I went into the meeting thinking this had to be all or none, to keep the conversation level and fair, with my preference towards all. But it became clear to me through the meeting that I am in a very low risk group, don’t live with vulnerable people, and my risk tolerance is higher than some others. I think it is difficult for us to compel people who perhaps are not as low-risk as I am to attend if it is not within their comfort zone, and further should not be making people declare their personal or health situations that may impact their comfort zone. So I generally agree that we can continue to meet remotely until we have more certainty around the management of risk.
Public Hearings afford different challenges as well, as the room has to be set up differently (partly because we cannot limit participants), so we are going move Public Hearings to a different date – The Thursday before the regular Monday Meeting where the item will receive consideration for Third Reading. This is another challenge that we can talk about later (the inability for Council Members to hear new evidence between Public Hearing and Third Reading), which perhaps ironically, makes it possible that Council will look like they are being non-transparent about their opinions on a contentious project specifically because they are required by law to respect that process, but that’s a hit we will have to take, I guess. Again, we are doing this for the first time, so some patience will be required.
466 Rousseau Street (Urban Academy): Zoning Amendment Bylaw Text Amendment – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The private school on Sapperton, which was permitted in 2017 and opened just last year, is now looking to expand their operations. They want to expand their 4th and 5th stories by a total of 6,500 square feet (a 13% increase in floor space) to accommodate 100 more students (a 22% increase). There would not be an increase in overall height above what is currently permitted for the site, the expansion is within their allotted zoning envelope, but the population increase is outside of the zoning language, and needs changing.
The proposal went to the Sapperton Residents Association in pre-Pandemic times, and mail-dropped invitations to neighboring homes for an open house in 2019 had no response, with 7 people showing up for a follow-up open house in February. The Sapperton Residents Association has send a letter to Council listing concerns about the school, all related to pressure on free public parking space and people in cars acting irresponsibly on public streets causing risk to other people, as usual. Staff have some recommendations on how to make the road space of Rousseau safer, and it will be interesting to see if the community supports them.
This is proposal that will go to Public Hearing in September, so I won’t make too many more comments. If you have opinion, let us know!
100 Braid Street: Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Development Permit to Facilitate Provision of Secured Market Rental Housing with Art Gallery/Studio Space
Right next door, the Wesgroup development of the 100 Braid Street property is also looking to move ahead. The proponent wants to change the proposal that was approved in 2016 by shifting to a Purpose Built Rental building instead of condos. In exchange for this, they are asking for a 50% increase in density, an increase in height of 80%, and a parking relaxation. This would bring the unit count up to 424 residential rental units. They are also hoping to make some of the units (about 20%) less-than-market if they can get CMHC support for this – though they will not meet the City’s definition of “below market”, so will not meet the criteria for supportive “affordable housing”.
Council had some questions and concerns about whether the community benefit (shift to PBR from condos, and a less-than-clear affordability component) is really worth the increased density granted. I raised a concern last time this came to us about the loss of mature street trees on City lands to support this development. The Staff report indicates the developer will pay a tree removal fee, which will allow for the sooner planting of 100-150 trees as part of our urban Forest Management strategy. That seems like a significant tree benefit in the longer term.
In the end, Council agreed to let the proposal move forward to committee and public review prior to further Council discussion and likely a Public Hearing in the future, so perhaps through that process some of the amenity vs. density math with clarify. If you have opinions, let us know!
330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital): Zoning Amendment Bylaw for Phase 2 and 3 of the Redevelopment Plan – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
You may have noticed RCH is going through a major renovation – near replacement at double the capacity. As this is a Provincial project, a significant regional health asset, and the City’s largest employer, the relationship between Council and the “developer” is different than most. As they come to ask to ask for a zoning amendment for Phase 2 and 3 (the major expansion of the main building), there is some question what the City’s power actually it.
If this was a private developer building a commercial building, we would make some very specific asks in regards to how their building fits into the neighborhood, and would, through the City’s zoning powers, have the ability to force them to make changes, up to the point where they just take their ball and go home if we ask too much.
Fraser Health is not going to take their ball and go home, they have a significant investment in the physical plant at RCH, and much to Richard Stewart’s chagrin, they are not going to move the hospital to Coquitlam. You would think that gives the City a lot more power to control how the Hospital fits in our neighborhood. But you would be wrong, because a municipality is ultimately the “child of the province” and if the Province cares to do so, they will just tell us to get bent and build what they want.
So here we are. The Province wishes to go through the right procedures to get a zoning amendment. There is a lot involved in this that the public would not usually see (be it the province or a regular developer) like determining how much sewer pipe the new facility will need how much water supply and electricity and how much the developer will pay to install that increased capacity. But there is also a lot the public will see, like the scale and shape of the building and the transportation connections, so we spend a lot of time in Council arguing about and negotiating these conditions. I contend that this project is failing those requirements in the transportation realm.
I had a bit of a rant on this, and will repeat it in a follow-up blog post, but in summary we gave the project First and Second reading, and I made clear to Fraser Health and staff the kinds of changes I want to see Fraser Health agree to if I am going to support Third and Fourth reading on this.
At-Risk and Vulnerable Populations and Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Task Forces Funding Request for the Remainder of 2020
This task force was set up early in the pandemic Response to assure that the people in our community most at risk from the pandemic and those with the least resources to address those risks, were being supported. There were some (ultimately, very small) costs related to some of the responses that came out of this taskforce, and there will be some more costs related to keeping some efforts ongoing (though scaled back as we move through stages of recovery).
Cannabis Retail Locations: Updates and Bylaws for Readings
We are making a few changes to the local Bylaws that regulate cannabis retail location in the community, some that I spoke to last Council meeting. We are changing the Bylaws to allow the retail sale of edible products (to catch up to the federal regulatory change), and are allowing transparent windows now that the Province has allowed this change. This will bring cannabis retail more in line with the look of other types of retail in the community. Both of these are easy for me to support.
It looks like one of the currently-permitted operators ran into some trouble getting up and running due to some apparent conflict with the building owner(s), so they have withdrawn their application. As our original intake process dictated, this leaves the “Uptown” business area with no current applicants. The other two Uptown applicants that passed initial screening back in 2018 were asked if they were still interested, and only one of them was able to move forward, so we have provided them the opportunity to apply.
Contrary to some social media speculation, this will not replace the (still-COVID-closed) Rivers Reach Pub, but will be located next door, adjacent to the beer and wine store. As this application will go to a Public Hearing, I won’t comment further at this time. Drop us a line if you have an opinion.
141 East Columbia Street: Site Specific Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment to Allow for Health Related Office and Retail Use (Including Pharmacy) – Preliminary Report
The owner of this Sapperton property is hoping to operate a pharmacy, as the current restaurant is not renewing their lease. The zoning language doesn’t specifically allow a pharmacy in the space, so we need to change that zoning text to allow it. This is a preliminary report, and will go to some review, so more to come here. Let us know if you have an opinion.
Downtown Transportation Plan
This neighborhood traffic plan in our most traffic-constrained neighborhood started in late 2017, and the last steps were a bit borked by COVID. Although the bulk of the planning preceded the Climate Emergency response by Council, the Pandemic response (and Streets for People motion that followed), and the Declaration of Resilience for Cities, the direction of the plan mostly supports those initiatives. I think staff did a great job bringing this plan together, and it is written in such a way to address those late-emerging ideas. I carry a bit of a concern that the proposed rate of implementation may not be aggressive enough to meet those larger goals, but that will be on Council to put the money where our mouth is here and get this shit done. The Agnes Greenway and the changes to lower 8th Street are the top priority for me, but maybe I’ll follow up with a more detailed blog post about it.
Streets for People in 2020 – Update
This is an update on the many small shifts in our transportation realm that rolled out in the last two months and includes areas where staff have been really poactive at making shifts in how some of the changes were implemented over time. Like most on Council, and I’m sure staff, I have received some public feedback, both good and bad, and it is human nature to concentrate on the negative feedback, but I think there is instructive value to all of the feedback, and appreciate the nods in here to organizing the feedback into actionable responses.
Now is the time to have a bigger conversation about these changes, and the City is working on a an aggressive schedule for September to talk to the public and stakeholders about what worked, what didn’t and how folks would like to see the streets operate differently in the future. It should be a great conversation with the community.
We then adopted the following Bylaws:
Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8212, 2020
As discussed above, our Bylaw that makes annual changes to recreation fees was given three readings and adopted by Council. Make your own CPI adjustments please.
Soil Deposit and Removal Regulation Bylaw No. 8106, 2019
Municipal Ticket Information Amendment Bylaw No. 8127, 2019 and
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 8126, 2019
As discussed way back last May, this Bylaw the updates our regulations on how large soils movements in the City are managed during development is now Adopted, along with the amendments to the ticketing and enforcement Bylaws that empower the fines in the first. I’m digging it.
And that was the meeting for August, see you after Labour Day!