Thursday, August 20, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, August 17, 2015

Land Use concerns and Housing issues dominated the majority of Monday's two hour plus City Council meeting, with the discussion and rhetoric at times becoming quite animated, with Mayor Lee Brain and Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham controlling much of the discussion on the night.

When Council members weren't exchanging commentary and trying to move their positions forward, there was a bit of civic business taken care of, with issues such as a pair of zoning amendment issue and loan payment approval taken care of during the evening's work.

Council also hosted a Public Hearing and Committee of the Whole session, with opportunity for public comment, an opportunity not taken advantage of on the evening by anyone in the gallery.

As well Council heard presentations from Scott Farwell of Tourism Prince Rupert and from City Planner Zeno Krekic, who provided another updated on the status of the results of the City's Go Plan Survey process of the last few months.

Council also released information from Closed sessions of Council from earlier this year during the course of Monday's meeting.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for August 17  here.

Council also had a Special closed Session earlier in the day at 5:00 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 August 17, 2015

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

Video Archive for August 17, 2015

Public Hearing related to proposed Zoning change for area of Yellowhead Centre --

( 0:00 - - 8:00 ) The Mayor opened up the Public hearing process by calling on Mr. Zeno Krekic the City Planner, who provided the overview on the subject  of rezoning some land in the Yellowhead Centre to be used as an impoundment yard.

As part of the review he noted that the city at the moment does not have much in the way of industrial land stock in place and how in order to address that shortage in relation to the request for an impoundment yard on Saskatoon Avenue, some rezoning will be required for the site in question.

He noted that from the notification process conducted by the City, three correspondences had been received by the City expressing opposition to the proposed re-zoning amendment owing to noise, concerns over excessive lighting pollution and unsightliness.

Following the Report Council opened the floor for commentary, however no one in attendance stepped forward to offer comments on the re-zoning amendment under consideration.

Councillor Thorkelson at that point asked for Mr. Krekic to show the map of the proposed rezoning area one more time, however the Mayor observed that they could consider the map and other issues related to the topic during the Regular Council session to follow.

With no one coming forward for commentary, the Public Hearing portion of the re-zoning consideration process was brought to a close.

( 8:00  -- 12:30 )  Introduction of the Committee of the Whole Session for Monday evening -- 

The Mayor outlined the nature of the Committee of the Whole process and explained what was involved as far as public commentary and involvement with the Session.

The first item for the session was a review of the City of Prince Rupert's Annual Report by the City's Financial Officer, Ms. Corinne Bomben, she provided a short update on the document and the process to have it adopted by Council.

Following Ms. Bomben's presentation the opportunity for commentary was offered to the public in attendance in the gallery, however none took to the microphone to address any concerns or offer comment to Council.

With no other residents coming forward, Mayor Brain then brought the Committee of the Whole Session to a conclusion.

Regular Session of City Council

( 12:30-27:00 ) Late addition to the Regular Session Agenda --- The Mayor outlined a motion from City Councillor Joy Thorkelson to address a number of Land use issues in the community, with Councillor Thorkelson seeking approval from the City to hold three consultation workshop sessions in the fall, targeting the downtown area, the large areas of undeveloped land as well as park land and infill policies.

As well, as part of those workshops, she would like to see the issues of Social housing, Market and Multi Family housing and Seniors housing included in those sessions, so as to inform guidance to Council when it comes to approaching land development issues related to the Official Community Plan and/or the zoning bylaws need to be updated.

The Mayor then outlined his thoughts on the motion under discussion, noting that the City is considering entering into an eighteen month community engagement process with UNBC's Community Development Institute to examine and create a vision of the community for the future and would take on topics such as those that Councillor Thorkelson had suggested.

He advised that the program would be called something like Re:Design Rupert and would be branded as such, if the City was to go ahead with the project it  would employ the use of a Facilitator and staff to address the unprecedented change that Prince Rupert is facing.

With that on the horizon, the Mayor then noted the current short staffed nature of City staff and how that could make for challenges for the motion under consideration, he also expressed his concern at the the short nature provided for the motion.  He then asked if Council wished to move forward with the conversation related to the motion.

From that point, Councillor Niesh offered up his thoughts that he is concerned about the nature of dragging things on when it comes to development. He also pointed out that the lack of public interest in Council topics is something that Council may wish to consider as part of the process ahead.

Councillor Mirau, spoke to the planned UNBC engagement process and how he believes it will adequately capture the vision of what Council wishes to achieve from the impact of major development.

Councillor Cunningham offered up his concerns on how Council is approaching development, where the city is grabbing at developments to gain taxation revenue, calling on past projects such as the Pellet Plan, referring to it as a debacle and a project in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He also had some thoughts when it came to development, noting that there a lot of people coming into town, calling them carpetbaggers or developers, whatever you want to call them coming into to town looking to make a buck. And while he noted that there are some good proposals, he reminded council that they are representing the people of Prince Rupert, and Council has to reach out to them.

He also had questions related to the Mayor's comments on the over taxing the City staff on Councillor Thorkelson's motion, when City Staff will also have to be involved in the Community engagement plan which would take eighteen months to complete and in his opinion require the time of City Staff as well.

He then turned to the nature of community involvement and how no one in the community attends them for the most part, he then challenged the community to get off their butts and come down to City Council and start engaging City Council or Council will be making decisions that they don't like.

He then offered his support for Councillor Thorkelson's motion, suggesting that Council should be engaging the public and not outside interests such as UNBC.

The Mayor then provided some of his thoughts on community engagement, calling on what he described as his experience on the topic and how in order to have proper community engagement the City needs to address the issue properly.

Calling Councillor Thorkelson's motion as  pre-emptive and not necessarily the right time for it.

Councillor Cunningham them asked how much the UNBC process was going to cost the City.

The Mayor advised that 150,000 dollars had been put aside in the budget for the project, with the money to come out of Planning for Major projects, with other stakeholders contributing to it, providing for an honest broker to help deliver the project and a vision in a meaningful way.

The Mayor then returned to the motion under discussion and how he believes that Councillor Thorkelson suggestion is a last minute arrival and how there was a whole month that could have been used to examine it, calling it a loaded thing designed to steer the direction .  He also noted that as he was a Full Time Mayor now he was more aware of the  limitations of the City's organization.

Councillor Thorkelson then outlined her response to the Mayors commentary and took issue with his interpretation of the string of events that led to her introduction of the motion for this council session, noting that she had made notification at the last Council session of her intention to introduce the issue to Council.

The Mayor responded to her comments with his observations, suggesting that her motion under consideration on the evening was somewhat different than what she offered notification of.

Councillor Thorkelson then reviewed her comments from the July session and then outlined further commentary related to her motion for the evening, calling for a vote on her motion to add it to the discussion on the night.

With that the vote was called and the motion was defeated.

From that point the Mayor then called for the adoption of the evening's agenda, minus Councillor Thorkelson's addition to the Agenda, the Agenda was adopted, with Councillor Thorkelson registering her vote in opposition.

 ( 27:00--28:00 )Adoption of Past Minutes and Agenda for the evening. -- Council reviewed a number of past minutes and accepted the Agenda for the evening's session

Petitions and Delegations

( 28:00-- 41:00  ) A Presentation from Tourism Prince Rupert  -- Mr. Scott Farwell provided an overview of the plans from Tourism Prince Rupert to revise their constitutional process to shift the focus of Tourism Prince Rupert from a member based organization to a stakeholder model.

As part of his review he noted some of the changes to the Tourism Prince Rupert website and how it better reflects the Tourism options available in the community for visitors and provides a fuller overview of what the community has to offer.

As they shift to the stakeholder model, Tourism Prince Rupert will be reducing members on the Board of Directors by two seats and will be looking for a review of how Council approaches its placement on the Board.

Councillor Cunningham inquired as to some of the background on the shift in focus and what participating stakeholders would be receiving from Tourism Prince Rupert and the nature of their voting rights in the organization.

He also reminded Mr. Farwell that Tourism Prince Rupert had requested a lower amount from the City and how he believes that the City should have involvement with the process and would like to seem more frequent sessions.

The Mayor observed that the City would obviously need some time to review the changes.

Councillor Randhawa asked for an update on the status of the Tourism season this year compared to years past, with Mr. Farwell noting that visits to the information centre were on the increase that suggests that there are tourism is at least on par with last year which was a good year.

( 41:00 -- 1:05:00  ) Presentation from the City Planner regarding an update on the GO Plan Survey -- Mr. Zeno Krekic provided another update on the City's LNG GO Plan Survey, following up on his previous information session for Council of July.  As part of Monday's review, Mr. Krekic noted that of the first survey, held in the month of June, the controlled component randomly selected 1,284 households out of 5,586 in the city, receiving a response of 80 percent.

The majority of the secondary survey's were received on line, numbering at 400 responses on a voluntary basis. With those details to be delivered as part of future analysis.

He advised that the Non Market Housing Survey conducted in June provided for 131 responses, a good number of which were received during a Block Party at the Fishermen's Hall and that results would be posted to the City's website by the end of the week.

Mr. Krekic reviewed some of the different data scenarios that the survey provided for, focusing on one topic of increases in rent and impact on such things as displacement and issues such as renovictions.

He outlined how the numbers generated provide for a base line for future study on issues such as shadow population, housing stock and community fabric.

His analysis offered up comparisons on population between Stats Canada, BC Stats and the City's findings from this survey period, noting that the Go Plan Survey suggests that the City has a shadow population of about 500 at the moment that is not included as permanent residents of the City.

He observed that those numbers could  grow significantly should a major project currently being proposed for the region move forward into the development phase. He also explored how the increase of people arriving in the community could impact on the current vacancy rate in the city and the effect it could have on rents and affordability in the area.

As part of his documentation he brought Council up to date on some of the current work being done to analyze lot availability and suitability in the area, as well as to potential uses for that land in the city.

The schedule ahead calls for the current work on analysis to be completed by January of 2016, with public engagement to follow in the new year.

The Mayor offered his thanks to Mr. Krekic for his work and that of staff on delivering the work related to the project. Noting that other communities are interested in learning more about what the methods that City has put in place as part of its process.

He then opened the floor for commentary on the report.

Councillor Cunningham echoed the thanks to City Staff for their work on the project, then asked if the City was close to identifying what areas they should direct their attention towards when it comes to housing in the community.

Mr. Krekic suggested that some conclusions could be delivered within four to five weeks on land use for some of the infill lands, while green land usage will be require a longer process. As for affordable housing those results could be delivered in 2 to 4 weeks, while innovative sustainable housing prospects could take a bit longer.

Councillor Cunningham returned his focus on the immediate housing issues, while the Mayor noted that Council would require for a workshop session to be scheduled in the fall to explore those themes further with a public engagement session to be hosted at the Lester Centre.

The online report on Population Survey and Housing Survey will be provided online at the City's website under the Planning for Major Projects category.

( 1:05:00 --1:06:00   ) Approval of the 2015 Annual Report  -- Having held a public comment session during the Committee of the Whole session, Council approved the 2015 Report.

( 1:06:00 -- 1:08:30Report from the Chief Financial Officer -- Request for approval of the Debenture payment -- The City's CFO Corinne Bomben provided background on the request for an interim lump sum payment of 2.1 million dollars on a portion of the debenture related to a 2005 loan of 7 million dollars for a number of capital projects. Council approved the request for payment.

( 1:08:30 -- 1:11:00 ) Report from the City Planner regarding a proposed development variance permit for a property on Piggot Place  -- Mr. Krekic provided the background related to the permit application. Council approved the variance permit, to send the project to the public notification process.

(  1:11:00 -- 1:13:30 ) Correspondences for Action -- Request from Kate Toye to have the Mayor attend a Child Friendly summit in Vernon later this year. -- The Mayor outlined some of the background to the meetings in Vernon, amending the motion to allow for any council members interested to attend. After an inquiry from Councillor Cunningham as to the cost of the summit for Council, the motion was tabled until further information on the event could be provided to Council.

( 1:13:30 --1:15:00  Resolutions from prior closed meetings -- The City's Financial Officer outlined the nature of a resolution from the Closed session of the April 16th, 2015 announcing that Council had accepted the advice of their retained consultant and awarded a contract for removal of and dismantling of the Watson Island mill site to the NRI Group.

Ms. Bomben also outlined the nature of a resolution from the Closed Session of July 20th, 2015 that Council had accepted the Director of Operations report and awarded a contract for the Lester Centre roofing replacement project to Eby and Sons Ltd.

( 1:15:00 -- 1:26:00    )  Report from the City Planner regarding rezoning of Land on Saskatoon Avenue for an impoundment yard -- Mr. Krekic provided the details on the proposed rezoning amendment, calling attention to the lack of industrial land in the city at the moment, a situation that can be addressed on a short term basis by rezoning of existing industrial areas.

Following the presentation, Councillor Mirau noted some of the objections received by Council, particularly those related to noise outside of 9 to 5 operational hours and if those concerns had been discussed with the proponent of the impoundment yard prior to the evening. Mr. Krekic advised that the City had not discussed that topic with the proponent.

Councillor Thorkelson had questions related to amendments that permit a use that is different and whether there should be some rules put in place to those amendments to address concerns of the public.

Mr. Krekic noted that such things as fencing, screening and other security measures required for the to be addressed as part of the zoning amendment and then into the development permit process.

Councillor Cunningham observed that the proprietor involved has been in business in the city for a number of years and that he would not be one to antagonize his neighbours, adding that he believes that the operator of the tow service would work towards addressing the issues raised by those who had offered comments on the application.

Council then voted to approve the rezoning amendment, making note of the number of the concerns of those living in the vicinity of the subject site.

Following that Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to whether there was a need for a resolution to address the noise and light concerns, adding a motion to the resolution to ask the proponent to follow the guidelines on noise and lights during the after hours operation of the impoundment yard.

Councillor Randhawa inquired as to whether those conditions would impact on regulations regarding safety, the City planner advised he would examine that issue further

Council then adopted that amendment to the zoning amendment.

( 1:26:00 -- ) Update on the Housing Committee -- The Mayor provided a short update on the status of the Housing committee and how they plan to make use of the data received through the various surveys related to the Go Plan.  He reviewed the pilot project that Prince Rupert Aboriginal Services is engaged with at the moment, noting that summer vacation planning has slowed the momentum of that project at the moment.

The Mayor also observed how the fall will see more engagement on topics such as Social Housing and Senior housing to name a few of the topics to be reviewed.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up some observations from the Planning for Major Projects surveys and the social impact that could be felt in the community owing to concerns over rent increases or other factors related to the need to move out of their homes.  Of note to her was the startling percentage of 21 per cent of respondents who indicated they would be looking for new accommodations in the next year. A figure she says would translate to the movement of over 1,100 households in the community over the next year. With half expecting to move within six months.

That she suggests shows that Prince Rupert is a fluid community and will need to ask for more details as to where the council needs to direct its efforts when it comes to housing needs in the community.

She also noted that those that work with those at need and at risk in the community believe that the need at the moment in the community is for housing for the homeless, offering up a range of options that the City could explore to address that issue.

Councillor Cunningham also had some thoughts related to the Go Plan and while he's happy with the collection of data,  he noted that he's disappointed that six months after the City formed its housing committees they are twiddling their thumbs and still don't have any real idea what the problems or needs are in the community, or have any strategy in place to address those issues.

He added that identifying the issues is the most important aspect at the moment when it comes to the Housing situation in the community, he pointed towards the need for Seniors Housing and how the city at the moment has few options for them when they sell their houses, a situation that he believes is resulting in the departure of Seniors from the community.

The Mayor disagreed with Councillor Cunningham's perception that the City is spinning its wheels, or delaying the process on housing issues, he observed that the City needs statistical relevant data to take to BC housing to make the City's case for more housing.

He hailed the work of the Go Plan data collection as something that would be hard for anyone to contest when he City presents it to such groups as BC Housing.

On the theme of Senior's Housing, the Mayor reminded Council as to the proposal for a waterfront development and how if that project was approved it would alleviate some of the concerns about Senior's finding accommodation once they sell their homes in the community.

He expanded on that theme, by noting how there are private property developers who own their property in the community and have been approaching the city regarding their development plans and  that while the City may wish to place requests for development, at the end of the day it is the developers land and they are coming to the city for re-zoning.

He outlined his thoughts on the difference between private and public land and the need for balance.

Councillor Cunningham returned to issues of Senior's Housing and the need for affordable housing not high end proposals, he outlined the lengthy waiting list for access to three antiquated buildings.

He pointed towards Terrace where they have begun the process of addressing their needs of the last four or five years and how the City needs to look towards some of its public land for development for Senior's housing.

Councillor Thorkelson weighed in with observations for the Mayor regarding the aspect of control over what can be developed on land in the city, noting that she believes that he is wrong in his approach on the issue and that Council does have control over land through zoning, such as they just did over the impoundment yard.

Going further on the theme she offered  up her interpretation of the Mayors comments on private land ownership, adding that she believes that the City is being driven by private developers who want private project for private profit. Noting that the only control the city has in those cases is through zoning and the development process.

She pulled out the city's zoning manual and reviewed some of the guidelines that the City has in place as part of its zoning tool kit.  She then returned to her theme of earlier in the evening of the need for a discussion to develop some kind of a plan in mind regarding development, or the city will be developing the city in response to private developer drivers.

She followed up on comments from Councillor Niesh of earlier in the evening as well, noting that he was being honest on his remarks regarding the development process at the moment, a situation which in her position sees the offering up comment or concern on developments as the process moves on.

She further offered up her concerns over downtown development and how the city appears to be approaching the zoning issues in the downtown area and the impact that could have on the area.

She then turned to the planned eighteen month engagement  process that the Mayor spoke of, noting that it would not address the immediate development issues that the city has been considering in recent months.

As well she called further attention to a proposed housing development at the Kanata school lands, which she fears will be create a bunch of multi-plexes on the outskirts of town, in her mind creating a volume of lower end apartment buildings in that area of the city.

The Mayor interjected into the discussion at that point, observing that nothing has been done as of yet regarding any of the proposals and then challenging the Councillor over putting words in his mouth on the issue of control over land development.

He also took offence to the Councillor's interpretation that he is being privately driven when it comes to land development in the city.

From there he outlined the process that the City is currently taking when it comes to land development and how he believes there is a need to engage the public and review how the City wants to move forward on land issues and how the city looks.

He reviewed the timeline of the current projects under consideration from the development projects being considered at the moment, to the collection of housing data for further use. He suggested that where the conversation needs to move towards is a more engaged community process where the City can get residents more involved with discussions related to land use, social housing and other concerns of interest. Stating that he is looking for a good process to move forward with when it comes to land use and development.

He highlighted some of the opportunities that are arriving in the community, with proposed developments for the area for the first time in a number of years.

Mayor Brain observed as to the nature of Councillor Thorkelson's suggestion of earlier in the evening and how he believes her process as outlined doesn't feel coordinated to him in a way that would address the bigger strategy.  He also called for a culture of leadership in the community, where young people such as him are handed the keys for the way ahead for the city and how it is up to them to re-engage the community.

Following the Mayor's overview of the discussion, Councillor Niesh spoke to being tired of being stuck in the 1990's and how he was ready for some things to happen in this town, noting that council has expressed concerns that there is nowhere for people to live, yet on the other hand express their troubles with a proposed development that would offer up some sort of relief to those issues.

He outlined that he believes that when it comes to process, the City needs to start approving some of these proposals, highlighting the number of studies of the past and how the city needs to start seeing things happen in the community.

Councillor Mirau as well had a few comments on the disagreements over process and how the City needs to create a culture of change and be good stewards for the community.  He also noted that when the Official Community Plan was drafted in 2008, things such as LNG development were not even considered at that time. And how the Official Plan will need to be tweaked or updated to reflect the new situations in the community.

He called for Council to create a cohesive approach and vision towards guiding development in the community.

The Mayor then offered his agreement to Councillor Mirau's comments, adding that the topic is an emotionally charged issue and that Council needs to not use a rushed approach towards the direction the city wishes to take. Suggesting that Council have a bit more patience towards the process that they are trying to put in place to address land use and housing issues in the community over the next year or two.

Councillor Cunningham followed those thoughts up by highlighting his concerns over how the City has approached zoning concerns over the last few months on a number of the proposals in front of it.

Councillor Thorkelson returned to her original motion of the start of the night and how the only way at the moment to have community input towards the large scale proposals in front of council at the moment is to take an intermediate approach to consultation with the public to learn where the community wants to go.

She reminded the younger members of Council over the discussions related to CN park and the controversial nature of that time, which resulted in the Mall being located in the parkland area that was previous to that site.

She also noted that while the Mayor might be an expert, she doesn't have any letters behind her name to be an expert in communications and certainly is not an expert in getting people together, but that she does have life skills in that direction, observing that she does believe that any time you get people together to have a discussion it's better to have a larger group where people can talk about the issues.

She reinforced her belief that if the City wishes to move housing proposals such as the Kanata lands forward, the city needs to have public discussions to determine where the City wants to go regarding development and gain direction from the public as to what they wish to see in the way of the way forward for the city.

Towards her comments on public participation, the Mayor pointed towards the UNBC proposal that he hopes to see launched by the fall, which he notes would make use of a professional facilitator with a staff of people to run the process, which would reduce the burden on the city's staff to address such levels of engagement with the community.

He also noted that the Council has been elected to make these kinds of decisions and that Council has control over the shape of developments proposed in the community.  He called for Council to take a step back and look at how the process should move forward.

Councillor Mirau then offered up a proposal the Council meet with senior city staff and hold a workshop to determine what kind of principles for development they wish to have. Which will provide greater clarity for both council and any developers that wish to move forward their projects in the community.

In response, Councillor Thorkelson stated that Councillor Mirau had some good ideas but expanded on her concerns over the nature of the current process and how she would like to see the city address the issues with a more thorough conversation related to them over the next few months.

Councillor Cunningham asked for Councillor Mirau to put his suggestion for the workshop forward as a motion, as he believes that would be more constructive than wasting half the night, the motion was voted on and carried.

To close the evening the Mayor noted that he hopes that by the end of the four year term he would like to see a permanent public engagement process that lasts well beyond their terms, but that he wants to see Council adopt a more structured process when it comes to discussions on these issues.

And with that the council session came to an end for the evening.

You can access the City Council Review for August 17 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 August 17, 2017

Council next meets in Regular session on September 1st  in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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