Another Council Monday, another mid-day Workshop you might be interested in watching. I’ll talk about those later, as they are likely to be subjects of regional discussions for the next year or so, and we are here to talk about the Council Agenda, which started with those three little words everyone loves to hear: Development Variance Permit:
DVP00695 for 220 Carnarvon Street
A church in the east end of downtown has been working on an addition, and received a permit to do so a couple of years ago, but they have made a few changes to the design to make the addition function better, and these require some variances. Quite a few, actually, related to sideyard and overhangs and sit coverage, but all relatively minor in the context of the project and location. We received no public feedback in or request for comment, and Council voted to approve the DVP.
We then moved the following items On Consent:
Amendments to the Procedure Bylaw 2021: Bylaw for Adoption
We are making several changes to our Procedure Bylaw that manages how our Council meetings and committee meetings work. This was needed because the emergency authorization from the Province that allowed us to meet remotely during COVID has expired, and we need a way to make the preferred hybrid process (some people in person, some people virtually) functional and totally legal. We asked for public feedback, and got none.
Budget 2022: User Fees and Rates Review
Part of our budget work is to set any fee changes for next year. The City has three sources of income: Property taxes, grants or transfers from other governments, and fees. This third group is separated into utility fees (electric, water, and sewer service, which go into separate utility cost-recovery funds) and general fees, which cover everything from what it costs you to close a street for construction staging to what it costs you to take a spin class at the gym. Every year we adjust these fees through a set of bylaws.
The first principle behind all fees is cost recovery – the fee should generally represent what it costs to deliver the service. That is, for some things, a very difficult number to calculate because the cost to deliver some things is a complicated mix of staff time, equipment, supplies, management, etc. The second principle is (for lack of a better term) competitiveness. If we are charging much more or much less than adjacent communities, that may show a problem with how we are delivering a service. The third is principle is around service goals. We want to encourage some things (e.g. youth getting swimming lessons) so our fees are much lower than cost recovery for some things (i.e. swimming fees do not pay for the cost of operating pools). Some fees like parking are set to optimize the use of available parking resources (there is a dark hole of mathematics to fall down here) which in most commercial areas like New Westminster metered street parking, seems to be a price point where there is 15% empty spots most of the time – too cheap, and there is no parking available, too expensive, and people stop using the available resource.
After saying all that, we didn’t raise rates much last year because of COVID and the uncertainty around how people were going to use services. So there is a political aspect as well.
This is a preliminary report around engineering and planning fees. Most engineering and planning fees are going up with inflation (2.5%), parking is going up more, some are staying the same. Then there are details in here about some specific changes we are making. (example: we don’t current charge for a Construction Noise Exemption, but it costs us several hundred dollars to process each one, and most other cities charge, so we are going to start charging).
And good news for Garry: the hourly rates for EV charging stations are going down a little, based on industry trends and usage metrics.
Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Extension Request: Metro Vancouver Sewer Inspections
It’s that sewer inspection time of year! This work has to happen at night, because that’s when you folks flush less. This is generally not the type of work that creates a lot of complaints, but it nonetheless requires approval by Council (unlike in any other City in the Lower Mainland!)
Heritage Revitalization Agreement: 328 Second Street – Preliminary Report
This property owner in Queens Park wants to build an infill house on their property while restoring and permanently preserving the exiting heritage house, subdividing the largish lot into two smaller lots, with a bit of a complicated driveway arrangement due to the property not having a back alley. This is a preliminary report, and there will need to be some public consultation and review by the Heritage Commission, so I’ll hold any comments until then.
Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Designation: 515 St. George Street – bylaws for first and second readings
This property owner in Queens Park wants to build a laneway house on their property while permanently preserving the exiting heritage house. Most properties in the City are already zoned to permit a Laneway house of this size and form, but this one isn’t because it has a bit of a complex history, and they need a zoning relaxation for parking, so they are going through the Heritage Restoration Agreement process. This is First and Second reading, and will need to go to Public Hearing. If you have any opinions, be sure to let us know.
Indigenous Land Acknowledgement
The City has had a bit of an ad-hoc approach to land acknowledgement, and as our Reconciliation work progressed, we recognized this as a gap. However, we also recognized that our knowledge of the history of this land has been eroded by colonialism, and that a land acknowledgement that fails to address that uncertainty does less to respect the many peoples who lived on these lands before they were displaced. Even some of the common terms we use to describe Indigenous communities, like tribe, First Nation, or band, can be the result of Indian Act governance models, or other programs that worked to break the connection between Indigenous peoples and their lands. We don’t want to continue to mask the history of the peoples, the families, communities and other groupings that existed here.
As with much in our reconciliation file, this is a work in progress. The proposed land acknowledgement is intentionally incomplete, and meant to evolve as we continue to learn and build relationships. But not having any acknowledgement until the rest of that work was done also felt inconsistent with the principles of reconciliation we have adopted.
Parks and Recreation Access & Inclusion Policy
The City’s Recreation services have a discount program to improve accessibility for people living in lower income households. We are expanding that program slightly to include discounts on the Active 30 Pass.
Recruitment 2021: Social and Cultural Vibrancy Grant Committee Appointment
We have a committee of community volunteers that reviews grant applications for Council, and we make appointments to that committee!
Stage 2 – Part A Sustainable Transportation Zoning Bylaw Amendments for Two Readings – Bylaw 8231, 2021
We are adding red tape to the Zoning Bylaw. In this case, we need to update the requirements for end-of-trip cycling facilities for new buildings. We often think of cycling infrastructure as bike lanes, but people who use bikes recognize that having a safe secure place to store a bicycle when you are not using it is a big barrier to bicycle use. As e-assist bikes, cargo bikes, and other Active Transportation innovations are becoming more common, these challenges become more prevalent. The changes to the zoning bylaw will assure cycle storage spaces are more accessible, accommodate non-conventional bikes, that there is sufficient short-term storage (bike racks) and long term storage (secure bike rooms or cages).
In case you think we are going overboard here, our requirements for secure bikes storage (in a per-unit count for residential, a per-sq-foot count for commercial) will still be much, much less than the requirements for car parking.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
Budget 2022: Public Engagement Community Survey Results
We asked the public to provide feedback on the budget process, and we got some. This report shows the feedback we got. People are concerned about housing, infrastructure, and climate. More people are happy with (or accepting of, I guess) modest tax increases that perhaps we would expect. The Survey had almost 600 completed responses, which is fewer than last year, but we are doing this earlier in the process this year, and we are asking that people register on the platform, so there is less chance of people responding multiple times. The number would be pretty representative, except it is a self-selected survey, not a random sample and not a true representation of New Westminster’s population. For example, 78% of respondents were homeowners, where only 20% were renters (where the census tells us the breakdown in the general population is 56% owner, 44% renter). This is all good data and feedback as we continue to work on our 2022 budget. Even if some of the detailed feedback demonstrates we have some work to do to increase public knowledge about how the City’s budgeting works.
Downtown Livability Initiatives
This report outlines some of the work staff is working on to address both resident concerns and recent motions at Council about livability in the downtown area, as COVID and other crises have been compounding the strain on existing social services. There are both short-term (happening right now) tactics and longer-term (will need to be included the 2022 budget deliberations) strategies, each looking at different aspects of overlapping issues.
There is work here addressing pretty core services like waste management and getting better access to toilets, and more complicated work improving outreach, seeking more funding for shelter and other services. Fundamentally, the important part here is that everyone is on board (Fire, Police, Fraser Health, Service Agencies, the City’s Bylaws and ED staff, the downtown business community, etc.) and are working to address the issues with compassion. Everyone recognizes that unhoused members of our community are members of our community who have every right to be present in our community, and to have dignified access to services.
Multifamily and Curbside Residential Glass Collection
We have a contamination problem in our recycling program, which started when we went from sorted recycling at the curbside to comingled recycling back in 2012. However, more recently, the business that accepts our comingled recycleables is getting persistent that we need to reduce that contamination, or face significant fines. The most common contaminant is glass, so we are going to spend a bunch of money to collect separate glass at the curbside and creating a separate glass stream for mutli-family.
I’ve got some complicated reasons for opposing this that may not come though as well in a short blog post. In short, I do not feel Recycle BC is taking enough responsibility for the Extended Producer Responsibility they are legally required to provide and you pay for every time you purchase a packaged product. They should be paying for this. I also do not see the environmental benefit of burning fuel and putting tonnes of GHG into the air to down-cycle a few tonnes of inert glass. I could probably be convinced I am wrong on both points, but have not yet heard anything that will change my mind.
Ultimately, this is a service people are calling for, and it will cost homeowners a small amount every year, so perhaps I’m tilting at windmills, but in the end Council voted to approve staff’s plan to put this program together. Let’s see how it goes.
We adopted the following Bylaws:
Council Procedure Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8276, 2021
As mentioned above, this Bylaw that adapts our Procedures Bylaw was adopted by Council. We will hybrid meet for the foreseeable future.
Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 8280, 2021
This Bylaw that gives permissive property tax exemptions to certain properties in New Westminster was Adopted by Council.
Finally, as has become our practice, we had some Motions form Council:
Enforcement Against Derelict Vehicles, Mayor Cote
Therefore be it resolved that Council direct staff to bring forward for Council’s consideration some potential amendments to the Unsightly Premises Bylaw No. 5969, 1991, with the purpose of creating a ban on the outdoor storage of derelict vehicles.
Funny we don’t have a Bylaw like this, and it seems to make us unique in the Lower Mainland. Let’s see what staff come back with.
Federal Government’s appeal of Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Rulings regarding Indigenous Children, Councillor Puchmayr
Therefore be it resolved that the City of New Westminster asks that the federal government abandon all future litigation, and immediately comply with the rulings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
I have no comment on this, we need to do better than fight Indigenous youth in court.
And that was a full agenda. See you again in two weeks, which will be November 1st, so have fun out there. And by the way, why doesn’t anyone ever say “New Westmonster” in a clever way wound Halloween? Feel free to take that and run with it.