They are coming out like super hero movies now, but with more interesting character arcs and less interesting costumes. Another Council meeting in the books, and this one with Public Delegations (that you have to watch if interested, because I don’t report on that kind of thing here. Strictly agenda business.) We started with two Temporary Use Permits:
TUP00012 Amendment for 97 Braid Street
The temporary parking lot by Braid Station has hosted a few drive-through food truck events, and have had no complaints. At some point we need to formalize this if they want to continue to do it, as it is not a permitted use of the lot under the current zoning. They have applied for a Temporary Use Permit, we put out notice about considering it, and received no feedback other than a supportive letter from RA that was attached to the application. So we are issuing the permit.
TUP00025 for 445 Brunette Avenue
The 100 Braid property is being redeveloped with a new Purpose Built Rental building, and the parking for the construction and adjacent school will be constrained, so they want to use an adjacent currently-empty parking lot. Again, a Temporary Use Permit is the best way to temporarily permit this use. We received a single piece of correspondence in support, and Council moved to approve it.
We then had a presentation and report:
Submission to the Provincial Special Committee on the Reform of the Police Act
The Province is looking at reform of the Police Act, and City Council was permitted to put in a submission to the Special Legislative Committee looking at this. We put together a Police Reform Working Group comprising a small number of staff and council members to develop this submission. This is what they came up with.
I was not part of the working group, but I am really proud of the work they did. As a City Council, we are in a somewhat unique situation taking part in a Police Act review. We do not direct the Police or have any real say over how they operate in our City (that is the job of the unelected Police Board) but we are expected every year to approve their budget, and the majority of the electorate have no idea that this separation of powers exist. If they are unhappy with the Police, we hear about it as City Hall. This relationship is suboptimal. For transparency, for public accountability, and for directing reform. So with that in mind, the working group decided to not simply look at our role under the Police Act, but instead to talk about what our vision for the community is as a Council (and by proxy, the vision of those who elected us), and what role policing plays in that vision. It then makes recommendations on how to achieve that vision, expanding the scope greatly out of the Police Act and Mental Health Act, to include the reform we need on how all government services are delivered to the most endangered people in our community.
Please read this report (It is here, starting page 82) This is the kind of vision we need to be speaking to, and we need to be asking our Provincial Government to be brave enough, bold enough, and progressive enough to see that there is a better approach than the one that previous governments have relied on to get us to this point. And thank you to the Working Group for doing this work. It is really powerful.
The following items were Moved on Consent:
2021 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8259, 2021
Now that we have a budget approved for the next 5 years, and we have reporting from the Assessment Authority on assessed property values, our Finance Department is able to put together the tax rates math and present those rates as a Bylaw for 2021. For residential properties, that rate is 2.82922 permill (compared to last year’s rate of 2.73983)
Remember, these rates are prior to your (up to $845) Homeowner Grant if you are fortunate enough to be an owner and not a renter. And of course, if you are over 55 years of age and own your home, you should really be deferring your property taxes because there is no other program in the world where you can get a loan at interest rates way below inflation (0.45% annual interest, and it is simple interest on the original principle, not compounding) and not have to pay it back until you die or otherwise free up the accumulated value in the asset where you live. But, hey, don’t come here for financial advice.
Recruitment 2021: Advisory Committee Appointments
Some of our Council Advisory Committee folks have changed, mostly due to re-assignment by the organizations they are representing. These are volunteers helping the City be more accountable and better informed, and I think them for their service.
Release of Recommendations from Closed meeting regarding Business Licence Late Administration Fee and COVID-19 Relief Request
A few businesses in town may have been late at paying their business license fees due to COVID stresses and such, and we are waiving late fees again in 2021, recognizing that everyone needs a bit more room to make things work this year.
1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak): Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Manufacturing Facility Structural Change Applications – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This brewery in the North Arm North area (yes, that is an actual neighbourhood in the City, look it up!) wants to expand their lounge seating, which requires an amendment of the zoning language (to make the city and the Province both happy, because booze). We agreed to give the application First and Second reading, and it will go to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my opinion until then. If you have feedback, let us know.
Grant Application: Local Government Development Approvals
We are applying for a UBCM grant to pay for a development approval process upgrade, which would take us digital. Wish us luck!
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
208 Fifth Avenue: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Application Progress Update – For Information
A property owner in Queens Park wants to subdivide and build a second home on their fairly large lot, and they want to do this through the HRA process. This is a preliminary report, and I am sure we will hear form the community on it, so let us know if you have an opinion.
Consumption of Liquor in Public Spaces Bylaw – Designated Park Zones
Staff have come back with some maps to inform the Bylaw to allow alcohol in some City parks as a trial for 2021. As this is a trial, I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds, but am happy to take Staff advice on what will work best operationally. When I initially proposed some spots, I anticipated that Staff would make some adjustments to this to address operational needs and their experience about how the parks actually work. Also, Council has asked that staff identify and appropriate area of Queens Park be added to the list, which I am happy to support.
If all goes well, we can have a bylaw read and adopted by the May long weekend.
823 – 841 Sixth Street: Affordable Housing Project – Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw and Zoning Amendment Bylaw for First and Second Readings
You may have read that there is an affordable housing project proposed by the Aboriginal Land Trust for an uptown location across 6th Street from the High School. The project would require an OCP amendment and a rezoning, but that is just the land use planning part of it. As this is a project that will go to a Public Hearing, the process requires that I keep an open mind about the merits or drawback of the aspects of the plan that will be tested at that Public Hearing. So not more about that now.
This is a non-profit affordable housing project, and as such the City has some potential to help with the financial aspects of the project. The City is NOT an affordable housing provider, and this project is not being led by the City. Paying for non-market housing is a provincial responsibility, and they have the budget to do so, the City simply cannot afford with our small tax base to pay for the social housing we need. In this case, the non-profit society and BC Housing will be paying for the project with (potentially) some support from the federal government. That said, we do have a role to play, both through our Affordable Housing Reserve Fund and overall through our Affordable Housing Strategy. A bit separate from paying for the capital cost or operational subsidy for the housing, we can remove some financial barriers to viable programs. For example, in the past we have allowed the use of leased City lands for supportive housing with several projects in Queensborough and Downtown, and we are able to waive some of the fees or offsite works requirements that would normally be charged to a for-profit development.
In the case of this proposal, they are requesting we not charge fees for some off-site works (the 6th Street streetscape and electrical connections) and we draw from the Affordable Housing Reserve to pay for some of the offsite servicing costs. This would result in about $631,000 in City contributions to help make the project viable.
Council agreed this was an appropriate level of support, in case the project is approved and funded in its entirety. We also moved to give the application First and Second readings, which means we are headed for a Public Hearing. If you have opinions, please let us know!
Finally, we read some Bylaws but only the following was Adopted:
2021 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8258, 2021
As mentioned above, the Bylaw that fixes our Property Tax rates for 2021 was adopted. The bill will soon be in the mail.