The Council meeting on June 13th had something a little rare these days – a full Council chamber! We had some folks there to speak to resolutions, a few other delegations, and others just there to watch the excitement of representative democracy in Local Government, and it was nice to see people out and engaged. Our Agenda started with a couple of Reports to Council:
Development Variance Permit No. DVP00699 for 823-841 Sixth Street
As I mentioned last meeting, The Province of BC (whom we afford is not going to fold up shop in the next couple of years) is indemnifying this Affordable Housing project in Uptown so they don’t have to provide financial security for offsite works, saving everyone money and hassle, but requiring a DVP because it changes the language of the existing Development Permit. We received no correspondence after giving notice of the variance, and Council moved to grant the DVP.
Library Board Letter
We had a presentation from the Library Board about mice, stick insects, and libraries, requesting we take a resolution on increased Library funding to UBCM and back it up with correspondence to the Provincial Government. We will not be the only city calling on the Province to do this, and I could get into a long diatribe about the UBCM resolution process and how this is a repeated resolution that seems to go unheard, but maybe I’ll find a less busy time to push those particular buttons. I support the Call, as did Council.
We then moved the following items On Consent:
Bylaw Text Amendment for Secured Market Rental Housing: 616-640 Sixth Street – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
There are 4 things going on here, rescinding two Housing Agreements, amending a zoning, and waiving a Public Hearing, but the short version is that the owner of this property in Uptown is requesting a change in their development plan. As approved, it was a 29 storey building with 237 secured rental units. The request before us now is to boost the number of units to 338, and accommodate the extra density by adding a storey to the podium (without an overall increase in building height) and a 9% increase in tower floorplate. This will also allow a small number of developer-funded below-market rental apartments, and a below-market commercial space.
This being one of the few applications for new housing in the Uptown we have seen in my 8 years on Council (the other being the 6-storey building on Bent Court completed in 2020), and it being so well aligned with OCP goals, staff are recommending we waive the Public Hearing. This building has been through a Public Hearing regarding the DVP issued in 2020 when it went 100% rental, Design Panel supported the change, and the public engagement on this change has resulted in mostly neutral feedback and several supportive pieces of correspondence. My main interest right now is in getting the housing built. Council agreed to waive.
2021 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
We get an annual reporting to Council (and the public) on our water sampling program to assure our potable water system is safe, high quality, ad within senior government health standards. We have 15 sampling stations in the City from which 1,215 individual samples were collected and analyzed for bacteria, but also for residual chlorine, turbidity, metals, and other parameters. Despite a couple of recent turbidity events related to Metro line breaks, the water is safe and meets all health standards.
Heritage Revitalization Agreement, Heritage Designation, Road Closure and Land Sale: 108 – 118 Royal Avenue and 74 – 82 First Street – Bylaws for Consideration of Readings
This is an interesting project to build 189 market strata units on Royal Ave, just east of Qayqayt School. It would preserve an historic house on the site, and would provide new active transportation links around the building where currently there are some sub-optimal pedestrian and bike routes. These connections would include us selling some land to the developer where there is currently a seldom-used laneway, and in exchange their dedication of some surrounding land for refreshed Active Transportation routes.
The request here is to support two readings and sending the project to Public Hearing, so I will hold comments on the overall merits of the project until then. However, this is an important location in regards to active transportation between downtown and uptown, and between the surrounding neighbourhood and Qayqayt, so the efforts to make the routes around the proposed housing accessible and safe, and as comfortable as possible, is a huge potential win for the City.
Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8316, 2022 for 823 – 841 Sixth Street (Affordable Rental Housing) – Bylaw for Three Readings
The City sometimes approve Affordable Housing projects, like this one in Glenbrooke North, and a “Housing Agreement” is the legal agreement between the owner of the property and the City to guarantee it will remain subsidized/affordable housing for the “life of the building”, which in this case is 60 years. The agreement is secured with a Section 219 Covenant, which is a reference to Section 219 of the Land Title Act – securing that this commitment not only legally binds the current owner. But all future owners of the property. As the details of the Housing Agreement have been worked out, and now needs to be read into a Bylaw.
Official Community Plan Amendment Application, Heritage Revitalization Agreement, Heritage Designation Bylaw, and Housing Agreement: 514 Carnarvon Street – Bylaws for Consideration of Readings
This project would see a 30-storey residential tower built downtown adjacent to the Holy Trinity Cathedral. It would mostly be a market strata building, but would also include 14 market rental units. The proponent was not able to secure BC Housing support to include an affordable housing component in the plan. The main amenities offered to the City are a new plaza to connect Church Street (and The Columbia SkyTrain Station) to Carnarvon though the site with a fully accessible (via public elevator) breezeway and some Indigenous-themed and sources Public Art. The significant investment here in the seismic and energy efficiency remediation of the historic Cathedral means there simply isn’t enough money on the table to leverage more community amenity out of this site. Arguably, the provision of 285 homes immediately adjacent to a Skytrain station is in itself an amenity to Transit-Oriented Development.
This is a significant change in land use for the site that will require an OCP amendment, and will go to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my further comments until then. If you have opinions, let us know!
Parks and Recreation 2023 Fees and Charges Bylaw Amendment
Annually we adjust our recreation fees for things like room or ice rentals. We have put off a few increases over the last few years due to COVID, but like everything else inflation is starting to be more noticeable, so fees are being adjusted in line with CPI, on average about 4% across the board. New West still has some of the lowest rental rates in the Lower Mainland, and waives or reduces many fees for youth and not-for-profit organizations.
Q1 2022 Capital Budget Adjustments
The City’s 2022 Capital Budget is $170Million. We are building a *lot* of stuff, from a big new pool and rec centre to a new electrical substation to sewers and water mains throughout the west end, active transportation improvements Uptown and improved greenspaces in Queensborough. In part because of the number of capital items we have going on, and in part because we often have capital projects the stretch beyond a single budget year (we had $56M in carry-over from 2021 as part of that $170M) the Finance Department is now giving us quarterly updates on progress with the plan, and we are going to start doing adjustments on a more frequent basis, as is better budgeting practice. We are also putting more budget room in the contingency for təməsew̓ txʷ and increasing the sewer separation budget, moving our 2022 Capital Budget to $189M.
Rezoning and Housing Agreement: 1321 Cariboo Street – Bylaws for Consideration of Readings
This proposal would see a 5-storey Purpose Built Rental apartment constructed on an abandoned lot on the western edge of the Brow of the Hill. 15 rental units, secured for the life of the building. This project will go to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.
Road Closure and Disposition Bylaw and Zoning Bylaw Amendment: Surplus Road Allowances Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
The oft-discussed but slow-to-develop Eastern Node in Queensborough would bring mixed use development, and (finally!) some local-serving commercial buildings, to the edge of the Port Royal neighbourhood. The redevelopment will also re-align the road and drainage of the triangle of land where the development occurs, and this means “closing” some City roads. The roads in this case were never really developed, but were pieces of land being held aside with the intent of putting roads on them. So “closing” means changing the lot designation from road allowance to fee simple, and selling them. The City needs to do a Public Hearing to dispose of surplus roads, if you have opinions, c’mon out and let us know.
The following item was Removed from Consent for discussion:
Council Resolution in Support of the City of New Westminster’s Application under the Age-Friendly Communities Grant Program
The BC Government has a new grant program to support “Age-Friendly Communities”, which sounds weird (we don’t have height-friendly or width-friendly grants) but relates to efforts to support older people aging in place and achieving better health outcomes. As the City already has an “Age Friendly Community Strategy”, this grant is designed to fund some of the efforts described in that, and we are paying for some money. The emphasis here is connecting seniors to make the community more resilient in the face of events like last year’s heat emergency.
We then had a grand total of 32 Readings of Bylaws, not including the following Adoptions of Bylaws:
Heritage Designation Bylaw (328 Second Street) No. 8310, 2022
To designate the 1889 house at 328 Second Street as a protected heritage property.
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (122 Eighth Avenue) No. 8325, 2022
To enable construction of a duplex at 122 Eighth Avenue.
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (817 St. Andrews Street) No. 8323, 2022
To enable construction of a triplex at 817 St. Andrews Street.
…and we closed with this Motion from Council:
Advocacy for Legislation to Protect Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Health, Councillor Nakagawa
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster calls on the Province of British Columbia, in partnership with Indigenous leadership, to develop and communicate in a timely way the process and timelines through which they will develop new legislation to protect and restore biological diversity and ecosystem health, in a manner consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and with the involvement of local governments, civil society groups, Indigenous and western scientific experts, and the concerned public.
We had a presentation from West Coast Environmental Law during Public Delegations to speak in favour of this resolution, and you should watch the video</>A, because they frame this much better than I can.