Council – March 13, 2023

How many ways can I start a new blog post saying “we had a New West Council meeting this week”? I think I have run out of new ways. But here is what we got done, and as always, you can check the agenda here and follow along!

We started with a Development Variance Permit for approval:

DVP00708 for 231 Lawrence Street
Some lots in Queensborough are deeper than typical, which means a 30’ or 33’ lot width that might be normal in other parts of the City result in lot where less than 10% of its perimeter as frontage – one of those slightly arbitrary rules that manages lot shapes in a bigger planning context. So if they want to subdivide this property to be like the properties adjacent, they need to ask for this development variance to exempt them from the 10% rule. We received no correspondence on this, and Council moved to approve.

We then had a Special Presentation:

Year of Truth, 2023
The City is carefully walking the reconciliation path, but we are also arguably, the most Colonial city west of the Great Lakes, with a long history of displacement and marginalization of indigenous people, from our founding to the Indian Act to the Residential School System to continued injustice today. So we are embarking on an introspective journey, digging into the City’s past and present to expose more of the Truth, recognizing that it must come before Reconciliation.

Staff presented a work plan last meeting around the year ahead on Truth and Reconciliation, this week we are reading a Proclamation to officially mark this as A Year of Truth. This will, no doubt, lead to some uncomfortable discussions in our community, but the importance of us sharing the truth cannot be understated. As we are going to be sharing a path, and a common understanding will make that journey more meaningful for everyone.

We then had a few Reports for Discussion:

Extending School Zone Speed Limit Hours
Last meeting we received this report for information based on a letter sent to Council form the District Parent Advisory Council asking for extended speed limit hours around schools. A councilor asked that it be pulled forward for discussion this week, though we already moved a resolution last meeting that asked staff to do some work in this area, and report back with a plan forward, including costs.
This is part of a bigger piece of work around Road Safety we need to do in the community, and it is something the community is asking of us. Cllr Henderson’s previous motion will lead to a report that guides us to the best way to implement this change, and I am looking forward to seeing that work.

Outdoor Pool Extended Season Aquatics Plan
Last meeting we received this report for information, and this week a councilor asked that it be pulled forward for discussion. Like last year, we are extending the outdoor pool season; a move that was well received last year both in participation numbers and in the public feedback we go through our Be Heard New West on-line engagement. A more detailed survey was done to determine how people wanted to see the outdoor pool program changed or kept the same, so some adjustments will be made. Moody Park will be open from April 22 to October 1, while Hume will be open from May 20 to October 1.

Also, if you know someone interested in becoming a lifeguard, we have a cool new program to help them pay for the training! Check it out!

Transition to Provision of Recycling Services by Recycle BC
Last meeting we received this report for information, and this week a councilor asked that it be pulled forward for discussion. The City collects recycling at the curbside, and delivers it to Recycle BC. We get paid by Recycle BC to do this, to the order of $900,000 per year. But this does not cover the entire cost of recycling services, and as we had long discussions about last year, we are dealing with our contamination rate, which results in penalties, and costs us in operating the system.

This information report is clear in that it will be followed up with a more detailed report addressing these issues. As our recycling collection practice is mingled with our other solid waste collection (garbage and organics), it is not easy to parse out costs related to one specific stream, but we do need to have a deeper conversation about the role of recycling as the region is also updating its solid waste management system and the Recycle BC program is being modified in ways we aren’t quite certain about yet.

Of course, recycling isn’t climate action, as much as Reduce and Reuse are, and it is important that we recognize that distinction. I look forward to that, and to a deeper discussion in the community in how we address Recycling as one part of a larger environmental policy.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Extending Committee Appointments
We are still working on some re-organization of our committees, so we are going to extend the current structure for another couple of months.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Air Quality Permit Application from Cedar Island Forest Products Ltd (CIFP) – Update
The small sawmill/wood manufacturer in Queensborough has been operating for more than 30 years, and more than 20 years ago residential lots were approved adjacent to it, and there have been interface issues since. Recently, they applied for an Air Quality Permit from Metro Vancouver and residents raised concerns to Council. Note that the City has no authority here, air quality in the region is regulated by Metro Vancouver under a special agreement with the Ministry of Environment. Last this came to Council, I asked that we get more information and the permitting process be extended, as I did not feel the company or Metro Vancouver did enough to make the permit conditions transparent to stakeholders, especially the neighbours.

They have now provided us the Permit application. There are existing cyclone air filters to collect sawdust at the mill that have never been subject to a Metro Vancouver Air Permit, and now will be. This gives Metro the ability to regulate these emissions for the first time, and to take action on complaints.

Notwithstanding the regulation, in my mind the offence here to the residents isn’t the dust at the exhaust of the cyclone, so that is not the measure we need. If that dust falls to the ground in the mill, that’s not our problem. My concern is the impact on neighbours, and the offence happens at the fence-line of the property. We are adding in our comments a request for them to measure and manage dust at the fence-line, and are making a recommendation (as forwarded by Cllr Henderson) to add increased filtration, ion recognition that this permit is allowing the “status quo” to continue, which does not address the original concerns of the neighbours.

Amendment to Extend License to Occupy BC Hydro Lands for Pollinator Meadow
There is some green space in Connaught Heights that is under BC Hydro power lines, and the land belongs to them. Over the last couple of years the City has been working with the community to develop more of a pollinator meadow on land that we previously intermittently-maintained mowed grass. This is good for the birds and the bees and the neighbourhood. It does require us to have an agreement with the land owner, and this is that agreement.

Notice of Motion Process
We are making a few changes to our Procedure Bylaw to make things work more efficiently in our evening Council meetings. These changes were all agreed to by all of Council through a workshop we had back on February 27th. I am glad to see that we were able to come to a common understanding that some limits may be appropriate in setting up the Agenda so we can more efficiently use our Council and staff time, and that this does not represent an existential threat to democracy.

Site-Wide Liquor Licensing Program for Special Events
Many outdoor events have beer gardens, but increasingly events (like Fridays on Front) are having more of an “open license” style, where alcohol purchased on site can be consumed anywhere in the event footprint, not just in limited places. Event organizer are asking the City to allow more of this, and they are not a problem where they have been tried, so why not?

This report outlines the procedures the City will follow, based on the experience in Vancouver and other communities in BC where this has been tried. It is a bit onerous, but most of the onerous parts of the process are based on assuring the guidelines developed under the applicable BC Liquor Licensing regulations are met.

Urban Reforestation and Biodiversity Enhancement Initiative Update and Proposed Tree Planting at City Hall
We are planting trees. Lots of them. 800 new trees in New West Parks were planted in 2022, and 1,400 more will be planted in 2023. I’m not going to go through the long list of benefits of urban trees (I’ve done it before), but finding locations were we can have large stands of trees is getting harder in the City – even as we roll out more street trees. Tree canopy is better than monoculture grass fields, and staff have proposed adding about 60 trees to one of the least utilized green fields in the city: City Hall’s front lawn.

The lawn is used for Remembrance Day every year, and the plan will still accommodate that event, and the community garden will also remain. This will look a little different for the first few years, but providing access to another forest stand near Downtown and the Brow of the Hill will be transformational. This project is already budgeted (along with the rest of the aggressive tree-planting schedule above), and will draw its funds from the $1.7 Million grant we got from the federal government for specifically this purpose.

We then read some Bylaws, including adopting this one:

Housing Agreement (612 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No. 8376 2023
This Bylaw that secures 327 market rental units and 10 below-market rental units in under-construction building project at 612 Seventh Ave was adopted by Council.

And we wrapped with two items of New Business:

East Columbia at Brunette Intersection and Roadway Improvement Plans and Implications
This report outlines the steps ahead to investigate interim and long-term changes measures to increase the safety and comfort of the stretch of East Columbia where there was a pedestrian fatality last month. As I previously mentioned, the City’s Engineering folks are already in the process of having a detailed survey of the location done, recognizing that even the installation of an interim barrier will have implications on lane geometry that will probably need approval from MOTI or TransLink, as would closing lanes or reducing speed limits. The reality is that without detailed engineering analysis, no-one is going to sign off on any changes, so we need to get this work done as quickly as possible. We will also be doing some more detailed work on long-tern solutions, but with those likely more than a year away, we would like to see interim measures in place.

The message from Council to staff is clear: don’t rush and do the wrong thing (which may make the situation less safe for all users), but be deliberate and as quick as possible in doing the right thing. That is our path.

Request to modify of the Call to Action on Creating more Equitable Municipalities motion forwarded to LMLGA and UBCM
A Resolution approved by Council to go to the Lower Mainland LGA was also approved by a few other Municipalities with slightly different language. To make this work better procedurally, the LGA is asking us all to edit our resolutions to common language so they can do it as one group resolution. That works!

With that, we wrapped another exciting evening of Council work. Back to your Spring Break!

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