Council – September 14, 2020

There is so much going on, I almost forgot to write this meeting up. We had a Council Meeting on September 14th, but it was the day after the fire and senior management and the Mayor were pretty busy with various activities around the emergency response, so we cut back on the Agenda, deferring many items to next meeting, and only moved things that were supported on consent or were time-sensitive.

We started with a presentation from the Fire Chief about the Pier Park Fire (which I am not going to try to summarize here, as it is now a few days old and much has evolved, but you can see the video here), then a Presentation from Fraser Health:

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital) Phase 2 and Phase 3 Redevelopment – Update from August 31 Meeting
Last meeting, Council pushed back a bit at Fraser Health on some of the transportation aspects of the RCH expansion projects. Not out of the blue, but based on a couple of years of attempts to shift the thinking of Fraser Health to meet community expectations. I talked about it in that post linked to above, but did not include Council’s request that the Hospital meet the City’s expectations (set out in our zoning Bylaw) for accessible parking allocation.

Fraser Health has come back with a response to our comments. I don’t want to dig too deep here, but you can watch the video if you want all of the details, but on the accessible parking requirement (The City requested 10% of parking be accessible, Fraser Health argues that 5% meets the needs of their customers), Fraser Health notes that this hospital will have much higher accessible parking standards than any other in the province, but more importantly, FH has made a commitment to undergo ongoing monitoring of parking and accessible parking need and adjust with demand.

On the seamless connection to SkyTrain, FH provided some updated drawings and designs that will not turn the hospital around, but will serve to assure an accessible, at-grade connection and appropriate entrance design for the corner of the Hospital near SkyTrain.

On the East Columbia vs. Brunette Ave traffic load concerns, I remain unsatisfied by where the project is, but am satisfied that Fraser Health hears these concerns, and that they will continue to work in good faith with our Staff, TransLink, MOTI, and other partners to develop better long-term transportation plans, and that we will encode this commitment in our Development Agreement process.

I’ve ranted enough about this, but I need to reinforce. My intention is not to stop or get in the way of building the Hospital, but to assure the project is built in a way that serves the community, and meets the stated objectives of the community and of the province. We cannot miss the opportunity to think about what our community and our province will look like in 10 year, 20 years, 30 years if we intend to take the actions that are behind our bold words around climate.

If there is any intention on the part of Fraser Health to act on the commitments this province has made, this country has made, and this city has made, to meet our Paris Targets, we cannot continue to use assumptions that Brunette Avenue will always operate as it does today – carrying 40,000 or 50,000 vehicles a day. We certainly cannot build infrastructure to reinforce those assumptions. If we do, we are just blowing smoke, literally and figuratively.

When I read that “The City is obligated to minimize any negative impacts to the people and goods movement capacity of the corridor”, I retort that the Province is under no such obligation, and they alone have the power to shift this obligation if need be to make this hospital fit better. I challenge this “obligation” as being counter to the obligation we have to future generations to leave them a viable planet. If the time when we are investing more than a billion dollars in infrastructure is not the time to make that shift – when is?

I appreciate and value the serious TDM commitments made by FH, and am comfortable with moving forward with rezoning, but still expect that Fraser Health will endeavor to address these core issues as we go through development agreements.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Appointment of Director of Finance
We have a new Director of Finance, and Council has to officially appoint her, because she has regulatory powers and such under the Community Charter.

Proposed Sister Community Agreement with the Tŝilhqot’in National Government
This has been in the works for a while, but the City of New Westminster is establishing a Sister City relationship with communities in the Tŝilhqot’in, as a demonstration of our desire for relationship-building with indigenous communities with which we have a shared history. Assuring that cultural exchange and shared learning can go on is a foundation of our reconciliation plan.

Recruitment 2020: Committee Appointments
Some council advisory committee people are changing roles within the organizations they represent, and new members are swapping it. It’s all very complicated, but we have to rescind the out, appoint the in!

Alternative Approval Process – Grimston Park Amendment Bylaw No. 8219, 2020
There 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. There is a hunk of land at the foot of the ramp that the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure needed to lease to land the ramp, and we now need to transfer the property to the Province. Discharging property designated a Park by Bylaw actually requires the approval of the voters, either by referendum or the Alternate Approval Process. So we have to launch that process and 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.

Pre-1900 Heritage House Policy: Update to Rolling Date
As part of the City’s heritage protection policies, any building from 1900 or earlier that is subject to a permits triggers a heritage review to determine if there is a heritage value to the building that may be lost through the permitted activity. This report is suggesting that policy be changed from “any house from 1900 and earlier” to “any house 100 years old or older. This would mean extra reviews for about 1,000 buildings in the City, about 15% of which are already protected.

Investment Report to August 31, 2020
The City has money in the bank, more than usual because the province has deferred the date when we need to send them the School Tax money, and because we have deferred some capital projects on account of the COVID. Some of our funds are up, some of them are down, but overall we made $3.8M in interest over the year.

License to Occupy BC Hydro Lands for Pollinator Meadow
We have been working on Pollinator Meadows in the City, finding places to plant mixes of pollinator-friendly species of plants to provide habitat and food for birds, bees, and other species. A great site for this is the unutilized greenspace in Connaught Heights that belongs to BC Hydro. We need a license agreement with them to modify their property for this purpose. I really love this initiative, as it represents one of the few ways we can support healthier ecology in a fully urbanized city.

We them adopted a couple of Bylaws:

Parks and Recreation Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 8212, 2020
This Bylaw that sets our parks and rec fees for the next year was adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (45 East Eighth Avenue) No. 8189, 2020
This bylaw that amends the zoning bylaw to permit a “missing middle” townhouse development in Massey Victory Heights, was adopted by Council.

We also had one time-sensitive piece of New Business:

MOTION: Universal access to no-cost prescription contraception

the City of New Westminster write to the Provincial Minister of Finance, the Provincial Minister of Health, the Premier of BC, and the local MLA supporting universal no-cost access to all prescription contraception available in BC under the Medical Services Plan; and THAT
this letter be forwarded to all BC municipalities asking to write their support as well.

This Motion supports two resolutions at the 2020 UBCM conference which will occur next week, and Council unanimously supported it.

And that was it for a relatively quick meeting. Better days ahead.

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