Thursday, May 7, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, April 27, 2015

Well, as they say better late than never.

It took about a week for Rupertites to finally get a chance to view the Council Video from the April 27th session, with the city finally posting the video earlier this week, something has provided for a bit of a delay from our usual turn around time on Council developments.

And from that video review of the evening, those interested in municipal affairs can now see for themselves what appears to have been a bit of controversial session related to a housing proposal on the east side of the city.

While audio levels at times become rather distorted during the council session (something the city might want to try to remedy) those looking to the video record of the evening's proceedings for more background on the evening's events will be able to make sense of what those discussions were all about.

Those conversation related  to the proposed development for India Avenue did seem to take up the bulk of the council evening, whether through the Public Hearing phase at the start of the evening, or by way of the lengthy discussion during the Council session on issues related to the process of giving final approval to the zoning requirements to move the project forward.

The Public Hearing portion of the night lasted close to half an hour, first with an overview from the City Planner and then with a number of presentations made to Council,  as well as a presentation from the developer for a project on India Avenue. All of which provided for much for Council to think about when it came to the proposal which would see the old Baptist Church turned into Executive Suite Housing.

The topic of the India Avenue proposal also took up the bulk of Council's attention during the Regular Council session, with a fair amount of discussion related to the proposal some of it of a heated nature at times.

Beyond the housing issue, April 27th also provided for a Committee of the Whole Session allowing for comment from the public, there were three presentations on the evening as part of that process.

One from the promoters of an upcoming cultural event at the Lester Centre of the Arts

Council also received a presentation from a group which has concerns over the level of service provided by CBC radio in the community.

The final contribution to the Committee of the Whole portion of the night, found Council receiving a presentation from the Charles Hays Grad Committee.

As the Grad committee group made their case to Council  to have the city waive the rent for use of the Civic Centre for this years prom as well as for those of the future.

During its regular session deliberations Council also addressed a number of bylaw issues related to a proposed design change for a home to be constructed on Edwards Avenue.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for April 27 here.

Council also had a Special closed Session earlier in the day at 4 PM.

Further information from our overview and 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 April 27, 2015

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

Video Archive for April 27, 2015

( 0:00 -- 22:00 ) The Mayor started off the evening by outlining the Terms and process ahead for the Public Hearing for the Zoning Bylaw for a Property on India Avenue

The process started with a presentation from the City Planner Zeno Krekic, who outlined his work on the file and released his finding on a number of questions related to the zoning application. He reviewed some of the previous work provided to Council in the previous three presentations and delivered the final overview of the proposed development.

Mr. Krekic outlined the nature of two letters of concern from an area resident (from Antonio Ferreira) related to the proposed development and rezoning application, reading them into the record for the night.

Mr. Ferreira the author of the two letters to the City also appeared at the Public Hearing to publicly express his concerns related to the proposed development, calling attention to such issues as the large number of units proposed for the site (17) and the impact that such an increase in population could bring to the neighbourhood.

Mr. Ferreira observed that he would prefer that the zoning remain at the R2 level, which would limit the amount of units that could be built on the site.

As the hearing played out, he would be the only person to speak at the Hearing Process regarding the application.

Following the public comments from Mr. Ferreira, Geoff Greenwell the proponent of the project spoke to some of the concerns raised related to the development, making note of the nature of the housing proposed and the property tax delivery that the City could anticipate should the project go forward.

As a follow up, Mr. Ferreira called into question the nature of the rent that will be charged for the executive suite accommodations and whether Senior Citizens really would be able to afford the high level of rent expected.

One more contributor took part in the Public Hearing process with realtor Emily Kawaguchi, speaking in support of the proposed development, noting for Council the plans of the applicant would increase value of the property in the neighbourhood.

With no other residents coming forward, the Public Hearing came to a close.

Return to Regular Council Business

Committee of the Whole Session for April 27th

( 22:00 -- 29:30 )  Presentation to Council on concerns related to CBC Radio Service in the Community -- Katherine Palm provided an overview of a number of concerns that local CBC radio listeners have when it comes to the level of service provided locally by the National Broadcaster.

She highlighted how past City Council's had always been engaged in efforts over the years to keep the local broadcasting operation a vital part of the local community.  As part of her presentation she provided a short history lesson for Council as to the importance of the CBC to the community and how the service provides a vital link to the region.

She urged Council to support the efforts of her local group and Mayors across Canada to send a message to the CBC. Suggesting that the City write to the radio broadcaster to reinforce to them that Northwest BC needs CBC radio coverage, separate from that of Northern British Columbia with more employee resources directed towards the Northwest, with her group recommending up to four employees locally.

She reminded Council that the CBC is a municipal issue as they frequently promote the community across the province and the nation by way of their news items and features. She also noted that the CBC helps to promote the regional cultural talent and that her group hopes to raise the expectations for the CBC and not reduce them or give up on the service locally.

She asked for Council to provide a letter of support towards the goals of her group.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up a few thoughts on the issue of CBC service in the community calling back to her early days on Council with then Councillor Basso and the group she put forward to fight for CBC Service in the late 1980's, adding that she hoped this Council would pick up on the current concerns and take similar action.

( 35:00-- 42:00) Presentation to Council on the BYU Living Legends presentation coming to the City -- A group presenting a cultural event in the City on May 8th provided a short overview for Council as to what Prince Rupert residents might enjoy when their group arrives in the City.  As part of their presentation to Council a Video Presentation was provided for viewing.

The show will take place at the Lester Centre on May 8th at 7:30, the group will also be providing a show for students of Charles Hays Secondary.

( 42:00 -- 51:00 ) Presentation to Council from the Prince Rupert Grad Committee -- Michelle Montemuro provided Council with an overview of the concerns of the Grad Parents Committee regarding the rent for the use of the Civic Centre Facility for Prom celebrations this year.

She made noted a recent letter that the group had forwarded to the City and added a number of other points related to the use of the facility.

As part of her presentation she outlined the nature of this years Grad and the efforts of local parents and students to put the celebration into motion. As well, she highlighted the impact that the increased costs for the use of the Civic Centre are having on their efforts for this years celebration.

She raised further concerns over the new Council Bylaw and the rates that the City now charges for such community rentals and compared the approach the city is taking as opposed to other municipalities across the province.

As part of her presentation, she delivered a request from the Grad Committee, asking that the City waive all rental costs for the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre for the 2015 Graduating Class Prom and all future Graduation Class Proms.

As well, as part of the request, she added that the only charges they would charge would be the current fees for hours for the use of staff and for the use of equipment for set up and takedown at the Civic facility.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up a number of observations related to the request, asking why the committee had chosen to use the Civic Centre this year as opposed to such venues as the Curling Club or the High School.

Ms. Montemurro noted that the theme of this years Grad of Alice in Wonderland and the number of participants that will be involved in this years event made the Civic Centre as the venue most suited to their needs for this year.

She also noted that as a resident of the community she would prefer to make use of Civic owned facilities rather than going outside to a private use facility.

Councillor Cunnigham observed that the proposal was a cost neutral initiative and that it cover the wages and the equipment rental and would not cost the city one penny.

( 51:00 -- 52:37) Comments from the Public

No members of the public came forward to express any items of interest at the public session.

( 52:37 -- 55:00  )  Introduction of the Regular Council Agenda -- The Mayor provided the listing of Agenda and past Minutes of council sessions for approval by Council members.


( 55:00 -- 1:31:30 ) Recommendation on the Application for a zoning amendment for the property on India Avenue, a project to be known as Mountain View Executive Suites -- The City Planner outlined how his report was much the same as that from the Public Hearing earlier in the evening and asked for any questions from Council

Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to the Boarding House nature of the current application and what the City would have to consider should, at a later date the housing plan be shifted towards fewer units for such use as Seniors housing or other needs.

Mr. Krekic observed that the project has been reviewed as part of the proponent's business case for the development, noting that the proponent is not committing to any one of the uses available under the zoning, if he decides to change the nature of the project it wouldn't change much of the process.

Councillor Thorkelson then outlined a few more observations on the nature of the zoning process and how the City should be approaching such issues related to the zoning and when the City would have control over the nature of the development as part of the permit process.

Mr. Krekic noted that for this council session, the main aspect of consideration is to shift the zoning in place for the property in question.

Councillor Thorkelson asked for the timeline of consideration on the zoning and development permit process., while Councillor Cunningham had some questions related to the ability of the City to put any covenants on the property under consideration.

The recommendation was then read to give third reading to the zoning amendment Bylaw.

As part of the discussion related to the proposed amendment, Councillor Niesh outlined a number of his concerns related to the proposed development. Calling attention to the number of residents that the housing proposal would be home to, observing that in his opinion he believes that the level of 18 units is too much for the property in question.

He also made note of some of the past instances when the City has taken issue with parking spaces related to other proposed developments and how in his belief there is a lack of appropriate parking spots included for the India Avenue proposal.

Councillor Cunningham inquired if there were any other opponents to come forward other than Mr. Ferreira.  Mr. Krekic advised that his was the only expression of opposition to be received by the City.

Councillor Randahawa asked the City's Financial Officer to outline the value of taxation that the city could receive and the process involved for the developer.

Councillor Cunningham asked for clarification on the value of taxation revenue that the City could receive from the development, he was advised that it would depend on the valuation of the property.

Councillor Mirau, while acknowledging the concerns of Councillor Niesh, called Council's attention to the issue under consideration is just related to the zoning aspect and how it fits in with the city's desire to make use of an under utilized property and turning into a higher density use property that generates more revenue for the City.

Councillor Niesh countered that argument by stating that he wasn't against densification, but in this case, in his opinion the shift of focus for the property is out of step with the surrounding neighbourhood.  He further added that he wouldn't have such concerns about the proposal under discussion, should the project have instead been one considered in such areas as the downtown area.

He also offered up observations on how in the past the City has relied too much on what proponents have to say, but fail to deliver on, using the pulp mill issues of the past as part of his discussion points related to his concerns.

He then shifted focus by offering up a scenario of renting out an individual house to twelve individuals, parking twelve cars in the driveway, finishing his thought by asking Council what neighbours might think about such a change in use of a property.

The Mayor interjected for a moment to inquire of Mr. Krekic as to what process would happen if a different group or individual were to take over the property at some time in the future and look to expand or modify the building

He was advised that they would have to address such issues as parking and other factors involved with a new application.

Councillor Thorkelson then outlined her reasons for supporting the proposed development, pointing to the city's desire for increased densification. She then recounted some of Council's past discussions related to seeking out starter housing in the community and how it might relate to the concerns related to the number of potential renters in this proposal.

She also observed that the building is now an empty, abandoned structure and that this proposal offers up a chance to develop the property and the benefits that the City of Prince Rupert will receive from that development.

Ms. Thorkelson did however raise some notes on the situation related to the lane access to the property and who would have responsibility for improvements and maintenance to the lane. She also spoke to the topic of the retaining wall and the need for environmental aspects of the property to be examined.

Councillor Cunningham also asked a number of questions related to the issue of parking for the site.

Parking was also a topic that Councillor Niesh jumped on at this point of the discussion, suggesting that there could be concerns related to parking issues with the potential for street parking something that the city should be aware of.

Councillor Mirau offered up some thoughts on the nature of the development and whether the costs for site development of the area would be taken on by the developer, Councillor Cunningham and Niesh tagged on a question related to the back lane requirements, with Mr Krekic advising that all of those costs would be responsibility of the developer.

The Mayor then provided some of his observations related to the proposed development, noting that the it was an opportunity to develop a derelict building, noting how the city is facing a major population boom should LNG go through.  He outlined how the reality of the decision for council was one of trust in the developer to follow through on the proposal.

He expressed his opinion that the housing under review would be for executives over the next four to six years, the building would then be vacated, with the potential use of the building for Seniors more likely after the departure of those executives.  

Things became a little heated when Councillor Niesh addressed the issue of trust when it comes to the developer's plans, with the Councillor speaking to the topic as to whether the developer would hold to the concept of shifting to Senior's housing at a later date.

Councillor Niesh suggested that during the process over recent months the proponent has provided a number of different scenarios to both the city and Seniors during various presentations, leaving that matter of trust of some concern to him.

As part of his response to the Mayor's comments, the Councillor continued on with his observations as to what Council should believe when it came to the application, using language related to the proponent and a synopsis of the Mayor's overview that the Mayor took significant issue with.

All of which made for a period of the discussion that provided for a stormy overview between the two, when it came to their differing observations related to the development and developer in question.

Council then voted to pass the zoning amendment by a 4-2 vote, with Councillors Niesh and Cunningham voting against the amendment

( 1:31:00 -- 1:32:00 ) Application for a Development Variance for the Proposed development on India Avenue -- Mr. Krekic outlined the process involved leading up to the Development Variance.  Following his overview Council voted to approve the Variance.

( 1:32:00 -- 1:33:00) Application for a Development Permit for the Proposed Development on India Avenue --  Mr. Krekic once again provided the overview of the process involved, following which Council voted to approve the Development Permit.

 ( 1:33:00- 1:35:00 ) Report from the City Planner on a request for a variance permit for a property on Edward Avenue -- Mr. Krekic outlined some of the background on the property in question and the nature of the property owner's request.

Council voted to approve the motion and send the process to the notification stage.

Following that vote, Councillor Thorkelson observed that for the future the City should explore what measures they could use to ensure that what developers say they plan to build is what is finally developed.

Suggesting that it is something that Council should look have a discussion about in the future to avoid such unseemly discussions as to whether Council members believe anyone or not. Putting in place guarantees to be sure that they what they see at the development phase is what they in the end get.

( 1:35:30 -- 1:46:30   ) Application for a Development Variance Permit for a property on Edward Avenue -- Mr. Krekic outlined the nature and background for the application and the process involved with it.

Councillor Thorkelson had a few questions related to the application and observed as to her concerns over the increased height aspect of some of the applications that Council has considered in the past.

Councillor Niesh outlined his thoughts on the application, suggesting that even if Council turned down the application the developer could still build the same house, but with a lower slope roof.

Councillor Cunningham also observed that he didn't see any concern related to the application.

Councillor Randhawa asked for some clarification on the proposal from the City Planner.

Councillor Niesh also suggested that he had no concerns with the application.

Following that discussion Council voted to approve the Variance Permit, with only Councillor Thorkelson in opposition.

Reports from Members of Council

( 1:46:30 --1:47:00 ) With no items raised by Council Members for consideration, the council session was brought to a close.

You can access the City Council Review for April 27th 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 their website for further review.

Minutes of the Regular Council Session from April 27
Minutes of the Public Hearing of April 27 on the India Avenue rezoning

Council next meets in Regular session on May 11th in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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