Council – Feb 1, 2021

Yep, Council met last week, and we had more than just that one item on the agenda. I’m late getting this out (and have another Council Package to read this weekend!) so here is a quick summary, that started with a Presentation:

ReDiscover New West Campaign Presentation,
The City is working with our BIAs and Tourism New West to promote locals helping our local business community to help reframe 2021 after a slightly dismal 2020. There is a great video with familiar (masked!) faces and places, promotions of local businesses, and a contest you can take part in to support out local business community right now. See it all here.

We are really fortunate in NewWest that our BIAs (formal and informal) are really effective advocates and great partners to the City. Send your local favourites some love in February – it is always a bad month for the restaurant business especially, so let’s help them out so they will be here for us when we emerge from our mandated slumber.

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 work of the City’s COVID taskforces. We got Federal funding for part of our Food Security work, are working on providing better access to showers for unhoused people in the City, continue to work on the Health Outreach Centre, and continue to work with the business community to keep them connected and find out what types of supports we can provide.

COVID-19 At-Risk and Vulnerable Populations Task Force: New Westminster Digital Inclusion Project Update and Potential City Contribution to Project
One of the goals of our Intelligent City Action Plan is to make digital connection more inclusive – so people who cannot necessarily afford a phone or home computer can be connected to some internet services – as so much of our public services are oriented around internes connectivity. Partnering with Douglas College, Purpose, and other community organizations, with a SPARC grant, we can get phones to people. We can also provide WiFi hotspots and connectivity hubs in the City to access the internet with those devices. The City is also providing older devices (iPhone 7s) to the cause.

34 South Dyke Road: Development Variance Permit Application to Vary Access to Tandem Parking
This 16-unit Townhouse development in Queensborough was approved by Council last year, but we overlooked the need for a DVP to allow the parking to be tandem-style instead of side-by-side. So we are giving notice that we will consider this DVP, likely at the March 1st meeting. If you have opinions, let us know!

Sapperton Green: Official Community Plan Amendment Section 475 and 476 Consultation Report
Sapperton Green are working through their revised Master Plan to accommodate increased affordable housing, as was presented in a preliminary way to City Council a year ago (yes, this stuff takes time). As this increases the residential density beyond the current OCP, we are required by law to do formal consultation regionally before it comes back to Council for eventual Public Hearing. This report outlines who will be consulted. Yes, it includes the Board of Education for School District 40.

759 Carnarvon Street (The Metro): Rezoning and Liquor Primary Applications – Preliminary Report
The Metro is a banquet hall Downtown where people have been holding events without any trouble for something like 13 years. They have operated on Special Event licenses when those events included alcohol sales (something like 100 nights a year!) and they want to get a Liquor Primary license. They are not planning on changing their business – it’s not becoming a pub, for example – but trying to simplify their operations and align better with changes in the Provincial licensing regime. An LP license requires a change in the language of the Zoning Bylaw. We are doing an expedited process here, but will likely go to Public Hearing in March, so I’ll hold further comment until then.

2020 Filming Activity Overview
This is the annual report on filming activity in the City. The City has a Film Coordinator on staff who manages the myriad of ways film operations interact with the City’s operations – road closures, policing, use of City buildings, permits, etc. We also charge permit fees to recover these costs, to the tune of more than $700,000 a year. This is a bit down from the peak of 2017, but still a significant budget item. This is just City revenues, and does not include the salaries paid to the nearly 1,000 New Westminster residents who work in the film industry, or the money paid to home and business owners to lease their spaces for filming.

There was also a story on the TeeVee News that was ostensibly about Vancouver as Hollywood North, but ended up having a bunch of New West content.

Youth Advisory Committee Recommendation re Indigenous Workshop for City Committee Members
The Youth Advisory Committee sent a recommendation to Council (as is their job!) asking that include training for Advisory Committee members on Indigenous issues and reconciliation. It is actually a good idea to expand the scope of the training we are undergoing with staff to include Advisory committee members, I think it will result in better informed advice coming to Council and it will be a value add for the members who volunteer their time to help the city.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

E-Comm nominations for 2020-2021
As one of the cities that receives 911 service from E-Comm, we get a part vote – shared with the Tri Cities – on two seats on the Board that governs the organization. The last time a New Westminster had a representative was Councillor Trentadue few years ago. We recently ran into some challenges in filling recent vacancies, with New West a bit of a hold-out as we are trying to encourage our partners to consider gender and diversity in their nominations. And it has been, unfortunately, a challenge. So a vacancy remains.

We are escalating a bit here on an issue that has been going on somewhat in the background for a couple of years. The report lays out how hard we have tried to make our case to our neighbouring communities, and the various steps forward and backward along the way. We have now asked staff to prepare formal correspondence to the entire EComm board asking that they take some responsibility and commit to improving the diversity of their board, and asking that our partner Cities commit to gender diversity immediately by assuring all future nomination include at least 50% women or non-binary representatives. We are also going to elevate this to the Lower Mainland LGA. More to come here.

805 Boyd Street (Walmart): Development Variance Permit Application to Vary Sign Bylaw Requirements for Directional Signage
Walmart in Queensborough wants to add some signage to point people to their new pick up area, that doesn’t strictly meet our Sign Bylaw limitations, but they are pretty small and on the side of a Walmart, so the impact on neighbourhood aesthetics seems pretty limited. Regardless, we are giving notice that we will consider this DVP, likely at the March 1st meeting. If you have opinions, let us know. “I hate Walmart” is, frankly, not really useful input here, this is about wayfinding signage, not global capitalism.

Single-Use Item Reduction Advocacy for Consistent Regional Regulation
Following up on our talk about single-use plastics two meetings ago, Staff have provided some guidance on a path forward for regional and senior government advocacy.

Finally, we had a bit of New Business:

Bill C-213, an Act to enact the Canada Pharmacare Act
Councillor McEvoy brought this motion, similar to what numerous municipalities across the Country are asking for right now:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT New Westminster City Council support Bill C-213, An Act to enact the Canada Pharmacare Act.

It helps that the Bill was introduced by our own Member of Parliament, but this is a long-overdue promise made by several Liberal Governments, and it is well past time to hold them to their promise. As the ancient proverb says, the best time to introduce Universal Pharmacare is 20 years ago when the Liberals first promised it; the second best time is now.

And that was it, see you again Monday!

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