Council – October 15, 2023

We had relatively quick and strangely uplifting Council meeting on Monday. Not sure what changed the energy in the room, but it went well and we had a full agenda that started with a couple of Information Reports pulled for discussion:

Train Whistle Cessation – Q3 Update
This is our regular quarterly report for information on train whistle cessation programs in the City. Though the technical group continues to advance work, the only real update is some identified challenges on the Spruce Street crossing that staff are working on.

Correspondence dated September 18, 2023 regarding Burnaby New Westminster Task Force on Sexually Exploited and At-Risk Youth – Invitation for Council member to join the Task Force
We have been invited by Burnaby to join a taskforce to address this risk in our community, with a suggestion that one member of our Council join. Councillor Henderson has experience working in this field, an interest in helping vulnerable youth, and a positive working relationship with Councillor Santiago (who sent the invite from Burnaby) and was nominated by Council to represent us on that task force.

We had one Report for Action:

ON TABLE Council Code of Conduct Bylaw No. 8408, 2023
This was a presentation on the work done for the Code of Conduct, and a proposal to bring next readings to the empowering Bylaw, but a clerical error meant the heading was not included in the Council Agenda that went out on the City’s website (though, notably, all of Council were provided the report last week). To be real sticklers, adding it to the agenda after the Agenda has been Adopted needed a unanimous motion of Council, but unfortunately some on Council chose to not approve its addition for reasons that were not really made clear. So this important work to improve accountability for our Council will be delayed until we can arrange another Council meeting where external legal counsel will be available.

We then moved the following items On Consent

Amendments to 2023 Schedule and Proposed 2024 Schedule of Council Meetings
As previously discussed, we are looking at a new Workshop model to replace some Council Task Forces we had over the previous couple of terms. This hopes to provide more opportunities for deeper discussions of topics aligned with the Strategic Priority Plan, and to make for more efficient Council Meetings as more longer-form deliberation and discussion can occur in workshop with staff present. This does mean more meetings for most of Council. It looks worse than it is, as many of these new meetings are replacing task force meetings that did not have the power of Council, but it is still a more full calendar. So update your schedules folks!

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 1031 Quebec Street, New Westminster – Metro Vancouver Annacis Water Supply Tunnel, Fraser River Crossing
You may have noticed a construction site in the Lower 12th area at the foot of the hill. Metro Vancouver is burrowing tunnel from Surrey to New West into which will be placed a significant new water supply pipeline to serve expanding communities South of the Fraser. This work started late and is behind schedule, so the Construction Noise Bylaw extension needs to be extended. Most of the heavy work is happening on the surrey side and by the Tunnel Boring Machine underground, and we have not had a spate of complaints related to the work so far, so Council is permitting this extension.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: Columbia Street at 8th Street (New Westminster SkyTrain Station)
I expect this application is going to result in more complaints, but it is hard to determine an alternative than to allow this work to occur outside of permitted hours. The Columbia Street Skytrain platforms need to be expanded to accommodate longer trains and to assure the safety of passenger on what has become one of the busiest platforms on the original Expo Line. Much of this work cannot occur during operational hours of Skytrain for a variety of safety and function reasons.

Response to February 6, 2023 Special City Council Motion for Utilities Commission Open Minutes Extracts regarding the Advance Metering Infrastructure Project
This is a report for information based on a request made at Council to collate older minutes of the Electrical Utility Commission about the AMI program. Share and enjoy.

Uptown Business Association Business Improvement Association Renewal: 2024 – 2028
BIAs exist under Provincial legislation, specifically Section 215 of the Community Charter. In short, the City collects extra tax from businesses within the BIA area, and turns that tax revenue over to the BIA to do BIA things – mostly street and public space improvements, events and promotion of the commercial neighbourhood for the benefit of their members. The agreement that empowers this needs to be updated every five years, and a new tax rate set based on what the BIA members want to charge themselves. We are starting that process for the Uptown BIA as their existing agreement ends at the end of the year.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Arts, Culture and Economic Development Advisory Committee – Draft Terms of Reference
The Economic Development Committee is being somewhat updated, partly as the Retail Strategy and Arts Strategy recognized the economic development impacts of investment in the Arts and Culture, and many of the organizations involved in Arts and Culture and Economic development in the city overlap. This is the updated Terms of Reference to reflect that change, and we will start recruiting community members and representatives from partner organizations. Council has a good discussion with staff around how this new Committee will be structured.

Support for TransLink’s Bus Rapid Transit Action Plan
The Access for Everyone plan from the Mayor’s Council for the future growth of TransLink transit service leans heavily on new bus infrastructure, including Bus Rapid Transit. BRT is a hybrid between light rail which uses roads and tires instead of rails, but moves near the same capacity of people though dedicated lanes, station-type boarding, and limited stop routes. This service serves as backbone transit service in many jurisdictions, form Asia to Europe and Latin America, but is relatively uncommon in North America (though several faux-BRT systems are touted in places like Boston and New York that are really just TransLink B-Line type service).

Though all mayors at Mayors Council have fully endorsed this plan, staff are now working through prioritization of routes for earlier implementation, and one of the factors will be the willingness of municipalities to endorse BRT on their roads. We don’t want to end up in a West Vancouver B-Line situation where advanced transit service is turned down by a local government, stalling implementation for other municipalities, so TransLink is asking for statements like this for endorsement of the lines that impact communities.

This doesn’t mean the 22nd-to-Marine BRT will be first. There are other factors such as buildability, cost, integration with the existing system, and projected ridership needs that will go in to the mix of prioritizing routes. I also note that TransLink currently has no money to deliver even the first BRT line, and conversations with senior government continue. Let your MLA and MP know!

Update on Council Motion Regarding “The Right Person, the Right Time, The Right Place”
Back in June, a group of representatives from Century House delegated to Council asking for the City to implement and advocate towards the recommendations of a report arising from work that the CHA and United Way had previously done. Council moved to support this call, and this report outlines what progress we have already made on the recommendations directed at Local Government, and speaks to a plan to evaluate and potentially address, the others, including senior government advocacy towards the things that are not in our jurisdiction.

Some of these actions will require partnerships and longer-term planning, and there may be some significant work plan and cost implications if we go it alone, so this proposal is to take those items back to the Century House Association, and determine priority and partnership potentials before we commit.

Westminster Pier Park Fire Site – Next Steps
Alas, most of us can remember the Pier Park fire of 2020, when we lost 2 acres of public park space. The clean up after was very complicated – old asphalt and creosote treated wood burned over sensitive river habitat, meaning the environmental remediation of those soils and sediments cost the City millions. Fortunately, we were insured, though “replacement value” is a difficult thing to determine with a 100-year-old pier built of materials that are no longer available, and not exactly replaceable under current environmental, seismic, and building codes. This required a marine engineer and negotiations with our insurer.

We have settled on $30M, including $10M that has already been provided and was mostly used to fund the cleanup and remediation work. When all is said and done, the City will have about $22M to start working on the replacement plan. Now we need to start planning what the community wants to put in the place, because exactly what was there is probably not what the community wants, and the Park will be very different when the (coincidentally) 2 acres of new space opens next year on the west side of Pier Park as the Bosa project is completed.

This report outlines the next steps in envisioning the replacement. As any site on the shore of the Fraser River is of incredible historic importance to First Nations, we are going to first connect with host nations and discuss what they would envision for this space. We are also going to go out to the community to engage on their vision or dreams for this place. We are also going to start developing a funding strategy in anticipation that we will need more than $22M to build the community’s vision, and senior government partners will want to participate in a city- and region-defining project.

This is going to be a big thing, an important conversation in the community, so stay tuned

We then read some Bylaws, including adoption of the following:

Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 8419, 2023
Certain properties within New Westminster such as places of worship, hospitals, and those with charitable/ philanthropic uses are eligible for an exemption from property taxes. This bylaw lists the properties exempted in 2024, and it was Adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (376 Keary Street) No. 8404, 2023
This bylaw that rezones a property in Sapperton to permit a duplex was adopted by Council.

And that was about it for business. Except that we also had an afternoon Workshop on the 2024 Capital Budget that is worth watching here, and a great presentation in the evening meeting from the Canadian Mental Health Association on the PACT program first year success. Maybe this is what lifted our spirits.

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