We had pretty short Council meeting on Monday, were out of there in under an hour. All that was on the Agenda was for us to approve hundreds of affordable housing units, accelerate the process to approve more, empower the Downtown BIA, expand opportunities to vote in local elections, and a few other things. With all that, we didn’t have anyone come to delegate at open delegations.
We started by moving the following items on Consent:
Downtown New Westminster BIA – 2022 Business Promotion Scheme Budget Approvals
The BIAs are a creature of provincial regulation. They are self-organized and self-identified groups of commercial property owners with a distinct geographic boundary that charge themselves a tax and use the revenue of that tax to promote themselves though street improvement, events, promotions, etc., collectively a “Business Promotion Scheme”. The role of the City is to collect that tax on behalf of the BIA though an empowering Bylaw and give it to them. The Community Charter also says the Council must approve their business Promotion Scheme.
The Downtown New West BIA has a strong organization, and has always been a great partner to the City, and our values and vision are clearly aligned. Even as COVID set a bunch of their well-laid plans back a bit, their new Strategic Plan looks forward to a more prosperous next few years.
Renewal of Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Areas – Results from Notification of Affected Property Owners
As we just covered, the BIA is a creature of provincial regulation (the Community Charter) and our role as a City is to collect their tax and turn it over to them. As they are doing their once-every-4-years renewal of their mandate, we need to update the Bylaw that allows us to collect that tax in the manner and of the amount that the BIA members request. We are also required to assure the BIA organization is supported by the membership in this tax structure, so we mailed notice to every member and put an ad in the newspaper to request their consent. 251 Members were notified, 2 members were in opposition to the Bylaws, representing 2% of the tax assessment value. This meets the threshold for approval of the Bylaw.
Electronic Signature Policy
In the City we need to sign things sometimes to make them official. Our existing policy needs to be changed to allow digital signatures to suffice, and the policy needs to outline what constitutes a sufficient digital signature. Details, details you may say, but a City is a regulatory organization, and details like this end up with a lot of wasted time in courts if not followed through. Also, “wet signature” is such a weird expression.
Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw Amendment for 2022
We had recent reports on filming in the City and expanded aquatic offerings in light of the failure of the Canada Games Pool. In both of those reports, we discussed and supported changes in fee structures. Those changes require an amendment of our Fees and Charges Bylaw, which are offered now.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
2022 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
About this time of the year we start to get monthly snowpack reports to inform our flood planning. Looks like the snowpack for the wider Fraser basin is a bit above average (108%), but well within the range of normal. Freshet flood risk as complex math of snowpack and pace of melt related to spring weather, so not much to report now except nothing exceptional.
Amendments to the Election Procedures Bylaw 2022: Mail Ballot Voting and Special Voting Opportunities
When it comes to local government elections, the rules are made locally within the standards set out by the province. Soon after the last election, we asked staff to review what went well, and where we may improve voter engagement and voting opportunities. This included surveying all of the candidates in the last election who were not successful.
The idea of being able to vote by mail was raised by the public and some candidates. Recent changes in the Local Government Act related to COVID make it easier for a local government to permit Vote by Mail. Back in 2021, Council asked staff to bring a report to outline the required bylaw changes and resources to make it happen. The bylaw changes to allow mail-in ballots are actually pretty simple in comparison, but voting by mail is actually a complicated and staff-intensive process that must happen on very tight deadlines. There are security issues to deal with, it is possible we won’t know the result of the election on election day (as the mail-in ballots cannot be opened until polls close), but these are surmountable.
Staff is also suggesting changing the wording for our Special Voting Opportunities Bylaw. As it stands, we set up SVOs at seniors homes and hospitals where the residents would not reasonably have an opportunity to get to a voting booth because of their living situation. The language reframes the SVO from being limited to hospital-like settings, and opens the opportunity to anyone who has a special barrier to the regular voting process. As the elections are run by the Chief Electoral Officer and not Council (for obvious reasons) it will be interesting to see how this is operationalized.
Both of these changes I am happy to support, though there are cost and staffing implications. Democracy ain’t free.
We then Adopted the following Bylaws:
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Primary Area) Bylaw No. 8288, 2021 and
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Secondary Area) Bylaw No. 8289, 2021
As discussed above, the Bylaws that empower the continued existence of the Downtown BIA were adopted by Council.
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Miscellaneous Amendments) No. 8287, 2021
This amending Bylaw that makes a variety of small clean-up changes to our Zoning Bylaw as discussed back in November, was adopted by Council.
Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw (City-wide Crisis Response) No. 8285, 2021 and
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (City-wide Crisis Response) No. 8286, 2021
The amendments to the OCP and Zoning Bylaw to provide a more rapid response to address homelessness in the City, as given a Public Hearing on December 6th, were adopted by Council.
Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw (350-366 Fenton Street) No. 8281, 2021 and
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (350-366 Fenton Street) No. 8282, 2021
The amendments to the OCP and the Zoning Bylaw to provide for Affordable Housing on City-owned land in Queensborough, as given a Public Hearing on December 6th, were adopted by Council.
Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw (60-68 Sixth Street) No. 8283, 2021 and
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (60-68 Sixth Street) No. 8284, 2021
The amendments to the OCP and the Zoning Bylaw to provide for Affordable Housing on Provincially-owned land in Downtown, as given a Public Hearing on December 6th, were adopted by Council.
So a quick meeting with some important process made.