We were back to business at New West Council in another virtual meeting, this one including a Public Hearing that went fairly smoothly overall for such a challenging format (and I will talk about those in my next post). But first we went though a significant agenda.
We started with some Unfinished Business deferred from the meeting two weeks ago:
Council endorsement of Tourism New Westminster’s application for the Municipal & Regional District Tax and Five-Year Strategic Plan
This has been a long time coming. Tourism New West has been limping along doing great work with uncertain funding, and the City has been stepping in for several years with support funding to keep them operating. Most municipalities have access to a “hotel room tax” (officially, a Municipal and Regional District Tax) to fund tourism promotion programs, but there has been some resistance in the local hotel sector to support this. Those hurdles have been cleared, and now TNW can rely on a more secure funding source, and can activate a more robust long-term plan.
This also opens up a potential for the City to start collecting MRDT from online accommodation providers operating in the City (VRBO, AirBnB etc.) which can be directed to our Affordable Housing programs. But more detail to come to that, because it is not clear to me how we collect taxes from a business sector that is not strictly legal in the City.
COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency, Second Wave Operational Response & Business Continuity Plan
Each department in the City has put together an Operational Response and Business Continuity Plan (ORBCP) to address the risk of second wave impacts and shifting Public Health directives. Plans have been developed on scenarios where the Province stays at Phase 3 for a while with some managed outbreaks, and scenarios where the Province moves back to Phase 2 or Phase 1.
There is A LOT here, a great 145 page read if you are into operational plans, because the City has a lot of operations. Hopefully none of it will see operation, but it is important to get this stuff figured out beforehand so we can assure we have the resources required and ability to react to second, third, or subsequent waves. The vaccine is still a long way off, folks.
Advisory Committees during COVID-19 Pandemic
These are a bit complicated. Many advisory meetings had to be cancelled during the pandemic, and it is around now we would start planning for replacing committee members. Staff recommended we simply do a one-time roll-over and ask all current appointees if they want to serve for another year and avoid the entire overturn work load.
Brewery District (Wesgroup Project): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The ongoing construction at the Brewery District is going to include undergrounding of electrical wires along Brunette Ave, which is work that has to happen at night because Brunette Ave has to be closed. And who cares about livability when traffic has to flow?
Environment and Climate Advisory Committee: Importance of Advancing the 7 Bold Steps
We have an advisory committee to on climate action, and they wanted to send a message to Council: We need to not lose momentum on the 7 bold Steps, despite COVID and potential financial uncertainty. I agree with them.
Local ban on rodenticides
Councillor Nakagawa put forward the following motion:
THAT New Westminster City Council supports a complete ban on anticoagulant rodenticides on all City of New Westminster properties; and
THAT the City writes to the Province requesting that they ban anticoagulant rodenticides; and
THAT council directs staff to communicate the harmful impacts of anticoagulant rodenticides to residents and businesses in New Westminster and to share information about alternatives.
This is pretty straight-forward, and aligns with actions happening in municipalities across the province, with some advocacy from the SPCA and ecology groups. Council was unanimously supportive.
The following items were Moved on Consent:
COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
This is our regular update on the workings of our Pandemic teams in the City. Lots of detail in here, read if you are interested. We are looking at a possible COVID testing site in the City, have a new home for the Food Bank, etc. lots here to read if you are interested!
Extension of Sidewalk/Street Patios and Parklets to Support Business Recovery
Like several other communities, we are extending the patio program that was initially intended to expire at the end of October to align with the Provincial liquor license “TESA” changes. We are extending for a year (to October 2021) which aligns with recent updates ot the TESA, and gives us time to put together a more permanent solution through Bylaws. We are also making it easier to install awnings/shelters and heaters. There are a few public safety issues here that staff need to work through on a case-by-case issue with the owners, but we are giving them the authority to do that.
Re-opening Council Chamber to the Public
We are still figuring out how to unpack the changes that the Pandemic caused to how Council meets. We are going to continue to meet virtually, as it is working well and is really the best way to assure we are keeping our staff safe, and deal with the Public Health orders. Remember, public gatherings of over 50 are still restricted, and if we let one person in, we need to let anyone in, and that means we have no way to assure that a group that assembles is less than 50 people. We can’t say “only the first 50 can come in”.
So we are going to do Public Hearings and Opportunities to be Heard virtually (as we did today), giving people the ability to video-conference in or phone in. For people who are not comfortable with those technologies (phones?), we will have a process where they can come in to City Hall and staff will record a video or audio presentation for them to present in the Council Meeting.
Alternative Approval Process – Grimston Park Amendment Bylaw No. 8219, 2020
As mentioned last meeting, here were some land transfers related to the re-configuration of the Queensborough Bridge connections back in 2008, and the installations of the new car underpass on Stewardson last year that need formalization, and we need “opinion of electors” for this. So we are launching Alternate Approval Process to ask if people have opinions about this. If 10% of the voting population (a little more than 5,000 people) fill out forms to express concern about this, we go to referendum. It’s a silly process, but that’s the law. If you want us to have a referendum on this, please let us know.
Corporate Energy & Emission Reduction Strategy 2020
The City has two roles in addressing greenhouse gas emissions and our responsibility to meet our Paris Agreement goals and plan for a zero carbon future. One is managing our “corporate” emissions – those created by the City in operating its building and fleets, the other is our “community” emissions – those created by the residents and businesses in the City. This update strategy is our plan to deal with the first. I think I’ll write more about this in a follow-up blog, but good stuff here.
330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital) Phase 2 and 3 Redevelopment – Update from September 14 Meeting
This report is a follow-up on our discussion about RCH’s rezoning, and some concerns raised around the transportation connection to the hospital. We are moving along with the rezoning process, but we are continuing to address these issues through the Development Agreement being hammered out between the City and Fraser Health. The reality is we are not going to be making significant changes to the design of the hospital, but FHA are dedicated to significant TDM measures, and the City and FHA will continue to track and address transportation impacts as the project proceeds.
Major Purchases May – August 2020
Every 4 months, we put out a list of all of our major purchases, so you can know what we spend our money on, and so our procurement practices are made more transparent, you can see what sole sourced vs what was tendered trough a competitive bid. The list is a little shorter than usual, as this was peak-Pandemic time, and many projects were stalled for obvious reasons. Still, look at these line items, and you will see government is freaking expensive.
Remembrance Day and Community Events
We need to start planning for events, and deciding what we can and cannot do as we continue to experience pandemic restrictions. Of course, we cannot cancel Remembrance Day, but we will hold a small ceremony at the Cenotaph, and ask that people watch on line instead of attending. We will also light a Christmas tree, but won’t have a lighting ceremony. Let’s hope we can all see each other in 2021.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
Permissive Property Tax Exempt Properties – Review of Application Results
There are some lands in the city where we are not permitted to collect property taxes, like churches and (thanks Christy!) Private Schools. There are a second category of properties where the City exercises permissive tax exemptions: we agree not to charge them property taxes because we deem their activity on that property to provide some community benefit, like a seniors home or sports facility or charity.
We have taken the general practice for quite a while to not extend these permissive exemptions, but to continue to grandfather organizations that have received them. That said, we do receive new applications, and are asked to consider them. Annually we review all existing and proposed new exemptions. No changes here.
Correspondence from New West Farmers Market
The Farmers Market are plugging along, but are facing significant challenges with the COVID restrictions and ongoing need to adapt their business plans. They are looking for a little help from the City, which we are referring to our Grant programs.
We then had some Public Hearings and Opportunities to be Heard, but this blog is already too long, so I will post about them in a follow-up. Instead I’ll skip down the Bylaws we adopted that weren’t ones that went to Public Hearing:
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Cannabis Edibles) No. 8215, 2020
The changing of the Zoning Bylaw language to align with federal and provincial regulations in regard to the sale of edibles at cannabis retail locations was adopted by Council.
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Removal of Cannabis Retail Location – 532 Sixth Street) No. 8218, 2020
The changing back of a Bylaw from an Uptown property that was approved for cannabis retail, but the owner was not able to make work, was adopted by Council.
Finally a bit of New Business:
One-time grant to Resident Associations Mayor Cote
This motion from the Mayor is a response to a request he received from a couple of RAs to help them pay for legitimate expenses resulting from their need to move their meetings on-line. Approved unanimously by Council.