This is the part of my regular blogging out of what happened in Council this week where I apologize for not getting this out sooner. However, my actual-paid-work schedule was busy this week and I have a couple of other meetings related to another project in the evenings that made my week go away remarkable quickly, and I woke up Sunday Morning after losing an hour of sleep realizing I haven’t done this yet. So here we go. The Agenda was not very long, but we had a lengthy discussion related to our guest:
Presentation: New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation Update – Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Extension Request: New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
The major sewer renewal project Metro Vancouver is running in Downtown has been going on longer than anyone wanted, and it is a disappointing situation. A representative from Metro Vancouver came to our meeting to outline some of the reasons why the project is still lagging on.
It is worth noting that this is a difficult piece of engineering. Slip-lining new pipes into a very old existing sewer that is in terrible condition is not without risk or challenge. However this option was chosen over a complete excavation over the entire project length, which would have been massively more disruptive to Columbia Street. The project ran into supply chain issues, Omicron apparently set them back a bit, and equipment got stuck in the Atmospheric River road closures last winter. Hopefully to worse is behind, but Council was able to express the frustration we have heard from the community, and the Downtown BIA were able to attend to express their own concerns directly to Metro.
As it stands, the strategy for the slip-lining is going to change, and instead of installing the bulk of new pipe at the current location near the foot of Eighth, they are going to move a bunch of it up to Blackwood and do a secondary install there. This means moving most of that pipe up there (which is a significantly disruptive activity, as heavy equipment is needed and traffic needs to be re-routed), waiting for an appropriate weather window, and getting the work done. Once the pipe is in the ground, there will be several weeks of follow-up work where new manhole and connections will be installed. If all goes well, they hope to be off the street completely by the May long weekend.
Hope. There is no certainty in this work, and little rending of garments will get accelerate it. Metro has added some senior oversight staff to assure the contractor is doing their upmost to get along with it, but uncertainty is the only certainty any time you dig a hole in a 150 year old city. Council granted another extension to the construction noise exemption so that they can (if needed) work through the night to get this done.
Metro also made some commitments to improved communications with the business community as the project proceeds. This is increasingly important as the Downtown BIA are already planning some summer events on Columbia Street, and Pride is starting to plan for a triumphant return to their street fest – and plans now cannot be subject to uncertain availability of space in June or July. Yelling at the pipe won’t make it install faster, but communication to stakeholders is becoming more vital as summer approaches.
We then moved the following items On Consent:
Amendment to the Corporate Records Management Program Bylaw 2022: Electronic Signature Policy
Last meeting we approved in principle these changes to allow digital signatures on some official city records. This is the Bylaw that empowers that. You can read through the report and see when a digital signature suffices, and when a wet signature (ew!) is required.
Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 81 Braid Street (Braid SkyTrain Station)
TransLink is updating the water line to the alleged Braid Station. Some of this work has to happen at night to not disrupt transit services, requiring a Construction Noise Bylaw exemption.
Covid-19 Task Forces: Update
These updates we have been getting through the pandemic response are getting shorter. There are still important supports being provided, but it is starting to look more and more like the pandemic-specific responses are morphing into the kind of supports vulnerable populations require regardless of pandemic state.
Fraser Health Authority Community Health Specialist: Proposed New Role
The City, School District and Fraser Health have a partnership through which we try to embed a “healthier community” lens into the work our planning department does. This has mostly been through a joint committee that met quarterly and brought a Fraser Health public health professional into our planning process for new policies and programs. This proposal is to take the next step and embed that Fraser Health employee into our planning department to serve as a resource for all City employees on the public health implications of policies and programs. We get a lot of examples of “downloading” public health costs to local governments, this is an example of Fraser Health investing in making the City more effective at improving Public health, which is a really positive thing to see.
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Report for 2021
The City is subject to the Provincial FOIPPA, and must adhere to the regulation in how we address FOI requests and protect the privacy of people whose information we may store or distribute. Provincial changes to the FOIPPA this year impact how we do our compliance.
The City generally gets about 80 FOI requests a year, mostly from insurance companies or lawyers doing their due diligence on various claims or cases that may or may not include the City. This is not a huge number, but does take quite a bit of staff time to be compliant. One change to the provincial FOIPPA this year was to allow us to charge for the request. We are not going to implement a fee, as the number of requests we get is small and manageable, and the perceived barrier of the non-refundable fee outweighs any benefit in the efficiency of running the system at the current rate of requests.
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1324 Nanaimo Street) Bylaw No. 8290, 2022 and Heritage Designation (1324 Nanaimo Street) Bylaw No. 8291, 2022 for First and Second Readings
The owner of this house in the West End wants to subdivide and build a small infill house on the new lot created, in exchange for heritage protection of the existing 1944 house on the site. This proposal will got to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then,
Patio Program Update
New West, like some other cities, created more flexible programs to facilitate patios on public land (the sidewalk or parking lot in front of a business) and private land (private parking lots adjacent to existing restaurants) as the Pandemic hit the service industries, and as Provincial legislation around permitting liquor licenses was similarly relaxed. This was mostly well received by the public and businesses, partly because the City already had a pretty flexible and inviting program, the provincial relaxations just made it work easier. The Province has noe replaced their temporary changes with a clearer long-term licensing framework, and the city is adapting its program to align with that, and to assure longer-term concerns (building standards to assure spaces remain accessible and people don’t get hurt), while keeping fees really low and the process simple and familiar. Kudos to the Engineering, Economic Development, and Planning folks for making this happen quickly and smoothly. Summer is approaching…
The following item was Removed form Consent for discussion:
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (102 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No.8312, 2022 and Heritage Designation (102 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No. 8313, 2022 Bylaws for First and Second Readings
The owner of this house in Glenbrook North wants to subdivide and build a small duplex on the new lot created, in exchange for heritage protection of the existing 1941 house on the site. This proposal will got to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.
Then we had the following Bylaws for Adoption:
Local Government Elections Procedures Amendment Bylaw No. 8311, 2022
This bylaw to allow for mail ballot voting and elector registration by mail and to introduce changes to the definition of special voting, was Adopted by Council. I guess there is an election coming. Better start thinking about that…
Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8319, 2022
This Bylaw that makes minor changes to our 2022 Parks and Rec fees was Adopted by Council. Spring outdoor pool season is starting soon!
And that was the work for Early March. Sorry it took so long to get here. Have a good Spring Break!