Thursday, August 20, 2015

Councillors Thorkelson, Cunningham at odds with Mayor over Agenda addition and concerns on land use

Discussion took on a heated tone on Monday
as Council discussed a late addition submitted
to the Council agenda for the evening
by Councillor Thorkelson
A fifteen minute discussion related to an attempt to add to the Agenda for Monday evening to address issues on the theme of land use got a tad heated in Council Chambers on Monday evening, as Mayor Lee Brain and two members of Council traded opinions on how best to approach the issue.

The at times heated conversation began with the introduction of a motion from Councillor Thorkelson to seek a late addition to the Agenda which would look for the approval of Council to hold three consultation workshops in the fall, with council to focus on three target areas of the downtown area, the large areas of undeveloped land as well as park and infill lands.

As well as part of the proposal she was looking to include the issues of Social housing, Market and Multi Family housing and Seniors housing to those sessions, so as to provide for more guidance for Council on land development issues.

For the Mayor that proposal was a bit of red flag, as he expressed his concerns over the work load it may provide for City Staff and what he called the short nature provided for consideration of the motion.

He also offered up his thoughts on the concept of community engagement, noting his past experience on that theme and how in order to have proper community engagement the City needs to address these issues properly, suggesting further that Councillor Thorkelson's Agenda addition and motion was pre-emptive and that it was not necessarily the right time for it to be considered.

"We need to do these conversations I absolutely agree, but this is coming at us at the last minute, we had a whole month to have this on Council's desk, you are presenting this to us, it's a loaded thing and is going to steer the organization in a direction, that personally being here full time now, I know that the organizations not prepared to take this on in their capacity and that's my personal opinion " -- Mayor Brain responding to an attempt by Councillor Thorkelson to add a late addition to Monday's Agenda

Those comments clearly caught the attention of Councillor Thorkelson who took issue with the Mayor's interpretation of the timeline  of events that led to the introduction of the motion for this council session.

Noting for the Mayor from the record of July, that she had served notice of her intention to introduce the topic at the July council session ( see our blog coverage of July here, perhaps Mayor Brain might wish to add the North Coast Review to his reading list each day... ) that led to another spirited exchange between the two as Mayor Brain took issue with the process that Councillor Thorkelson had used to move her motion forward.

Councillor Cunningham had a number
of concerns Monday when it comes
to how the city is approaching
Councillor Cunningham's contributions to the discussion focused more on the theme to engagement with the community, with his questions and commentary drawing out some news of a new initiative from the Mayor, who provided council with background on a proposed project with the University of Northern British Columbia to examine the city's focus for the future.

As the Mayor explained it to Council, the project with UNBC, which will cost 150,000 dollars would provide for much of the same kind of discussion and engagement that Council seemingly wants to have on the topic.

Mayor Brain further expanded on what he hoped to achieve with the UNBC endeavour, calling on his experience with public engagement he noted that the situation needs to be more than just a couple of conversations, otherwise the City could lose credibility in the community.

Adding that the process he envisions is one which uses a professional facilitator that has staff involved with it to take the pressure off the city's staff which has a number of projects ahead of it.

Councillor Cunningham would ask a number of other questions related to the Mayor's proposal and then also offer up his observations and concerns on how the City is approaching land development and engaging with developers in the community.

"I hear every day people want development, and then on the other side of the coin I don't want to see this City Council grabbing at every piece of development with the idea that were getting taxes out of it and ending up in another debacle like the pellet plant, a development in the wrong place at the wrong time ... We have a lot of people coming into this town, you can call them developers, carpet baggers, whatever you want, but their coming into town with an idea to make a buck, and while some of  the projects are very good, we sitting in this room are representing the people of Prince Rupert and we have to reach out to them ...  -- Councillor Cunningham expressing some of his concerns on how the City is looking at development in the community

The full overview related to the discussion on Councillor Thorkelson's hoped for agenda addition and how best to approach land issues can be found on our Council Timeline feature.

And while the conversation related to the topic proved to be a fairly vigorous discussion, it in reality served only as the opening bout for the evening.

The fifteen minute discussion made for an interesting preamble to what would turn out to be a much more heated debate later in the Council session, as Council members took differing views on Housing  issues that the city is facing, as well as offering another go round on the approach that city is taking when it comes to development issues in the community.

You can review the background related to Councillor Thorkelson's failed attempt to add to the agenda from the City's video archive, it starts at the thirteen minute mark and continues until the twenty eight minute point.

Background on past housing discussions and land use issues at Council can be found on our archive page here.

For more items related to the full overview of Council developments see our Council discussion page here.

No comments:

Post a Comment