Tuesday, March 31, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, March 23, 2015

We catch up on developments from Prince Rupert City Council after our week away from blogging, with a recap of the events of the March 23rd session through our usual timeline feature.

Last Monday offered up a second opportunity for public comment on the Budget process, with one resident taking the opportunity offer comment on the city's plans for another tax increase to cover a pending budget shortfall.

That topic also provided the chance for the City to once again stress the pain that the province's caps on taxation on port lands is providing for the community.

Council also heard concerns over the state of repair of Rushbrook Floats and inequities in charges at the location.

As well, Council received a presentation from the City Planner regarding both a proposed housing development for the west side of the city, and zoning issues related to the relocation of Quickload Terminals to the old Canadian Freightway's location.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note see the Regular Council Agenda for March 23 here.

Further information from our overview and permanent placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the minutes added as they are posted to the city Website.

In Attendance March 23, 2015

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present  
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present
Councillor Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh-- Present 
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present 

Video Archive for March 23, 2015

( 0:00- 1:15 ) The Mayor started off the evening, by reviewing and having Council adopt past minutes and agendas, following which he turned the proceedings over to Ms. Bomben.

( 1:15--5:30 )  Report from the City's Chief Financial Officer, providing an overview of the 2015 Budget Preparations -- Ms. Corinne Bomben offered up some responses to public inquiries about the budget process. Providing a review of two items of interest on the theme.

Money received from the Legacy Fund will not be used to fund the current projection of a budget shortfall of 120,000, or it would appear any in years to follow.  Her main observation on that theme that using the Legacy Funds over eight years until that pool of money is exhausted would result in a larger increase of mill rates at the end of that eight year period.

She outlined how it is better to make for smaller increases each year to cover contractual and normal increases to supplies and services.

She also provided a short tutorial on how the mill rate process works and what the formula is to deliver the mill rate increase that the city uses to assess taxation levels.

For 2015 a projected mll rate increase of 1.9 per cent will deliver a final mill rate of 7.3766 per cent.

Committee of the whole Session

Council shifted from their regular council session to a Committee of the Whole session to allow for public comment. After going over the items of the Agenda, council members heard presentations from the public

( 5:30 -- 21:00 )  A Presentation from Wes Baker on the theme of required repair work and rate changes for Rushbrook Floats

Mr. Baker representing a number of users of the Rushbrook Floats facility provided a number of concerns from those that make use of the boat launch and dock area of the waterfront.

He called for Free Parking for all daytime users of Rushbrook Floats  from October 1st to May 1st, also to add a category of resident taxpayer to the payments scale for the annual pass for use of Rusbhrook Floats.

He called attention to the nature of Free Parking currently available at the Atlin Terminal.Cow Bay parking area, suggesting there is a need for fairness on the issue of parking.

He also recommended a charge of 100 dollars by way of a pass for all resident users, good from April to April. This Resident Taxpayer charge, homeowners and business users would be able to purchase one resident pass, which would help offset the high taxes for resident taxpayers.

He believes that this would reduce congestion at the docks.

The second part of the petition to council is to seek repair to the boat float ramp at the dock, calling attention to the deteriorating condition of the current ramp situation. Calling it an embarrassing situation for the city.

He called for a ramp similar to what is currently in use for Port Edward and suggested if the city can afford to create slips for yachts, it can make required repairs to the boat launch area.

He urged that the repairs be made before summer arrives.

For council's consideration he presented the various petitions he had collected around the community.

Mayor Brain advised that there is a full report about to be provided to Council related to issues surrounding the Rushbrook Floats area.  He added that the City would integrate the petition findings and Mr. Baker's presentation to that report.

Councillor Niesh asked if there was a currently a year long pass process in place, Mr. Baker outlined how the current situation that is in place was too expensive for local residents.

Councillor Cunningham suggested if there was not a possibility to create a split pass, strongly recommending that the City do something as he doesn't see why the local resident should be penalized in the winter months.

Councillor Thorkelson also offered up some thoughts, focusing in part on the concerns of commercial fishermen and made a number of observations related to the condition of the ramp and the parking situation in the area.

The Mayor asked the Chief Financial Officer as to the timeline for repairs for the boat ramp in the area, noting that it would be addressed in the weeks to come. The Mayor observed that he would be advise the public as to when that will be considered through Facebook and such.

Councillor Kinney asked for clarification on which pass Mr. Baker wished to have changed.

21:00 --40:00 ) Opportunity for Comment related to Budget Issues

The Mayor outlined that this session was the final opportunity for public comment on the process, reviewing the process taken to this point to inform the public of the budget considerations.

One resident, Denis Rowse offered up thoughts regarding Council's approach of increasing taxes each year as opposed to reducing staff or cutting costs for City operations.  He wondered how often Council considered cutting costs.

The Mayor offered up a short review of how the City came to its decisions for this year, advising that the City can't cut any further than it has cut, pointing to staffing arrangements that he called "cut to the bone".  He said that there is nowhere else to look to seek cost savings.

He called attention to the city's financial position at the moment and outlined that one of the reasons for the tax increase is the city's inability to collect full taxation from capped industries in the area. He highlighted the difference between Kitimat and Prince Rupert when it comes to ability to tax industry.

He offered up some commentary on how those caps are affecting not only local taxpayers and having a major impact on the city's small industrial base.  Suggesting that after a seven year period the cap should be lifted and the City able to collect full taxation from them.

He advised that the City is working towards finding a solution to that problem, making it the number one issue for this council.  Her observed that operationally to continue on with their core requirements they will require an additional 120,000 dollars this year.

The Mayor also observed as to the potential for future industry in the region and how the City will use income from the Legacy Fund to fuel additional staffing resources for planning and environmental issues related to that potential growth.

He noted that the LNG industry could be a game changer for the community and that council will be working hard on that file over the next four years and could take the burden off the taxpayer to secure some sort of investment.

Councillor Thorkelson then made note of a proposal that was circulating to provide a draft letter on the tax cap situation, suggesting that Council have local residents either write a letter of their own to the Province, or sign the draft letter regarding the issue and how it impacts on the community.

She suggested that the letters be made available at a number of locations in the city such as the Library, the Civic Centre and the MLA's office in order to generate as wide a response from residents as possible.

Councillor Cunningham offered up a number of comments related to the taxation caps from the province and the impact that they are having on the business community. He also made note of the shrinking population base and how the City still has to operate a municipality of a larger area with less resources available.

( 42:00 -- 1:02:30 )  Opportunity for General Comments from the Public on other issues

A resident made a presentation on the issue of safety in the Kootenay Avenue area.  Calling attention to speed issues and other items that require further attention from the RCMP.

She also offered up a lengthy list of other topics for councils consideration, ranging from maintenance of pathways to cruise ship season, concerns over the driving habits of local taxi drivers and skateboarding concerns.

A second citizen of the city approached Council with concerns related to parking issues and two hour grace periods at both the Atlin Parking lot and George Hills Way, calling for the city to examine the situation. Calling attention to the nature of parking around the region, with a focus on not only Rushbrook Floats and the Atlin Terminal/Cow Bay Road area, but Fairview Floats as well.

The Mayor once again pointed to the upcoming report for Council related to parking issues.

With no other residents approaching with topics of concern, Council returned to it's Regular Council session.

Bylaws and Reports

( 1:02:30 -- 1:23:00 )  Report from the City Planner regarding a proposed Zoning amendment for a section of Park Avenue --  Mr. Zeno Krekic, the City Planner outlined some background on the proposed housing development for an area of the west side of the City.  Mr. Krekic offered up the history of the property which is located between the campground area and the Fairview dock area.

He provided a review of the current zoning of P1 and the need for change to allow for the proposed housing development for the area. He made note of the prospect of a secondary access point for the Graham Avenue area, by way of a road from Park Avenue.

Mr. Krekic recommended that before advancing the proposal to the next stage, the proponent conduct a public information session related to the development and to provide certainty of purchase of land.  As well, city staff should conduct internal referrals and seek out a referral with transportation and infrastructure and seek out if a DFO referral is required.

Councillor Thorkelson raised a number of issues related to the proposal.

Her first was related to the nature of the development and the number of lots for the area in question.

Her follow question explored questions related to zoning on Graham and the previous proposal of a condo development for that area and whether this new development would impact on that project.

She then asked if the city could approach the zoning issue to seek out multi family housing requirements for the area currently under consideration by the proponent. Mr. Krekic suggested that the public information session that would be part of the process as an appropriate point to raise that issue with the proponent, though he cautioned that the best financial sense for the proposed development would be as currently set out.  Noting that the proponent does have future provisions in place for potential multi family housing proposals.

Councillor Niesh made note of the need to make sure that the advertising for the public notice makes it clear that the proposal is one that the City of Prince Rupert is considering to perhaps attract a larger audience.

Councillor Cunningham had questions about the city owned property that the developer is looking to access as part of the proposed development. He also pointed out an error in the application that mentions the City of Prince George as opposed to City of Prince Rupert.  He also made note of the involvement of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the process of review of the application.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up one more observation, seeking some clarification on the process ahead for the proposed development.

With Mr. Krekic's timeline outlined, Council then provided the proposed zoning amendment and Quality of life amendment its first readings, moving the process forward.

( 1:23:30 -- 1:34:00 ) Report from the City Planner regarding rezoning of land on Prince Rupert Boulevard for the purpose of stuffing containers  -- Mr. Krekic outlined the proposal from Quickload Terminals to make use of land at the old Canadian Freightways yard at Frederick Street.  With the requirement of council to rezone the land from M1 to M2 to allow for the stuffing of lumber into the containers.

He provided a short overview of the current operation on Watson Island and what it would look like once relocated to the Canadian Freightways yard.

Mr. Krekic noted that he had advised the proponent that he would be referring the topic to the Ministry of Highways, in order to hear comment from them regarding the change proposed for the property off of Highway 16.

Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to what other kind use could be in place if they rezoned the land and Quickload was to walk away from the area leaving it open for another industry to move in. Mr, Krekic advised that it would be a higher active use of land but not at the same level of M3 which is what the industrial park is currently zoned at.

Councillor Cunningham asked why there was a need to consult with the Ministry of Highways, he was advised that it was a good exercise owing to the increase of vehicles that would be introduce in close proximity to the highway.

City Manager Robert Long also added some thoughts to Councillor Thorkelson's question, advising that other uses could be excluded by convenant, a process that he recommended in this instance. Restricting all other uses, other than the storage of containers as part of the proposed relocation.

Council voted to move forward with the process, putting forward a timetable for a public meeting and  further consideration.

( 1:34:00 -- 1:39:00 ) Reports and inquiries from members of Council

Councillor Cunningham requested that Richard Pucci from the City Engineering Department provide regular updates to Council regarding city initiatives, Mr. Long observed that those updates would be more valuable to Council once the budget was passed and Mr. Pucci had some idea as to the budget he would have available to work with.

Councillor Niesh offered up public thanks to a local group that were working to keep the surrounding area clean through Chantal Bolton's Positive Prince Rupert project. The Mayor and Councillor Cunningham added their accolades to her work.

Councillor Thorkelson provided an update to Council on the nature of the current herring fishery season on the North Coast and the nature of the industry to pop the herring out of Prince Rupert where payrolls are cheaper. Which has had an impact on local employment at fish plants in the community.

Councillor Randhawa had some items of concern related to cellular phone service on the far east side of the city. The Mayor suggested that staff look into the issue and see what the city might be able to do to address the issue.

Councillor Cunningham made note of the 75th anniversary of the Credit Union and suggested that the City send them a letter to congratulate them on their achievement. The Mayor made mention that he would send the Credit Union a letter and observed to Councillor Cunningham that he needs to get Facebook access as that's where things are happening now.

The Mayor then adjourned the Regulars session, shifting to a closed session of council.

You can access the City Council Review page for March 23rd here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to media coverage of it can be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council session of the night.  Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to the website for further review.

Minutes of the Regular Council Session from March 23, 2015 

Council next meets in Regular session on April 6, that session takes place back at the Council Chambers at City Hall

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