Wednesday, September 16, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, September 14, 2015

When we last left Prince Rupert City Council, they had perhaps set a record for one of the fastest of Regular Council sessions in recent years, a compact edition that checked in at under 45 minutes.

Not so this week, with a Public Hearing, Committee of the Whole and Regular Council session taking the city's local politicians towards the three hour mark on Monday night.

The Public Hearing aspect of the night provided for the bulk of the evening's discussion, with a large number of local residents taking to the council microphone to outline their support, or opposition, to a proposed zoning change for the city's Masonic Hall on Sixth Avenue East.

Homeless issues dominated the public comment session of the Committee of the Whole portion of the night, with a pair of residents providing some of their thoughts to council on an issue that has been one of the mainstays of discussion for Council members this year.

When they finally made it to the Regular Council session, the Mayor and Council members addressed a number of bylaw and zoning topics, including a follow up on the Public Hearing on the Masonic Lodge rezoning as well as a further discussion on the status of the city's Housing committees, with a focus on the homeless situation in the city at the moment.

After close to three hours of at times energetic discussion on those two topics, Mayor Lee Brain brought the gavel down on the evening just before 10 PM

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for September 14  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 September 14, 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 September 14, 2015

0:00 - - 1:25:00 )  Public Hearing related to rezoning proposal for a portion of the Masonic Hall for use as a storage area for MacKenzie Furniture -- The evening for Council opened with the Public Hearing portion of the night, with City Planner Zeno Krekic providing some background on the issue, including his overview on the current level of light industrial land available for use in the community and the changing nature of such social group locations as the Masonic Hall which no longer are used as much as in the past.

Among some of the notes of interest from the City Planner, he noted that the applicant would be installing new fencing, speed and safety restrictions in place at the site of the Masonic Temple location, with hours of operation from 9 AM to 6 PM, with a restrictive covenant in place restricting the loading and unloading of trucks from 8 PM to 8 AM, the average number of trucks anticipated to access the site is somewhere between 5 to 10 per month.

As well there is a restriction in place on the site that will see it only used for storage of furniture for MacKenzie furniture.

Mr. Krekic also outlined the number of correspondences that were received by the City regarding the proposed zoning change, with the City noting that nine correspondences had been provided to the city.

Following the overview, the proceedings were turned over to the public for their thoughts and comments related to the proposed zoning change for the property in question.

Jim West, the treasurer for the Masonic Hall outlined the financial requirements of the organization which requires money for upkeep and upgrading of the Hall, noting that at the moment the Masonic organization believes that renting a portion of the space out to MacKenzie Furniture will provide the necessary financial cushion that they need at this time.

Rob Eby of MacKenzie Furniture provided Council with the background to their decision to seek out the storage space at the Masonic Hall, which he outlined would offer more retail space for his 1st Avenue West location.  He observed for Council that at the moment finding storage space is a challenge with few warehouse type locations available in the community.

He then provided his company's response to a number of Council's previous concerns related to speed, safety, noise and other items listed during previous Council sessions. Followed by answers to a number of questions posed by members of Council.

As well, for their part both Rob and Brian Eby from MacKenzie's highlighted the impact that their store has on the community, both in service and financial contribution through commercial taxes, as well as the expansion plans that they are currently working on.

A number of residents then followed with their observations on the zoning issue, those in favour noted the community nature of the Masonic Lodge and need to provide that group with this kind of assistance, while those opposed highlighted concerns of safety on surrounding streets, the location of the Tot Park adjacent to the Masonic Lodge as well as thoughts related to changing zoning in residential areas.

By the time the public comment period had ended thirteen people had offer up their thoughts on the rezoning issue, four  against the rezoning, 9 in favour, of those speaking in support of the rezoning a majority of those participating on the night had affiliations with either the Furniture store or the Masonic Lodge.

Council then brought the Public Hearing to an end, with the topic of rezoning to be addressed again during the course of the Regular Council session.

( 1:25:00 -- 1:32:00  )  Committee of the Whole Session for September 14, 2015 -- Two items dominated the Committee of the Whole session, an Update on the city owned Legacy Corporation, which first featured a short presentation from the City's Financial Officer, Corinne Bomben who outlined the financial aspects of the corporation as of December 31, 2014.

A follow up opportunity for questions from the public on the Legacy Corporation received no contribution from the public in the gallery on the evening.

The Committee of the Whole session was then opened up to general comments from the public, with Larry Golden approaching council with some concerns about the city's current homeless situation, suggesting that the City should conduct a homeless count on a monthly basis.

His commentary was followed by more observations from another resident, Mike Calli, who offered up more suggestions for Council as to how to address the issue.

That would be the last public contribution to the Committee of the Whole Session on the night.

( Council took a break from 1:32:00 - 1:40:00 )

( 1:40:00 - - 1:41:00 )  Regular Council Session  -- Adoption of Past Minutes and Agenda for the evening. -- Council reviewed a number of past minutes and accepted the Agenda for the evening's Regular Council session.

Petitions and Delegations

( 1:41:00 -- 1:45:30  ) Report from the City Planner related to property on Prince Rupert Boulevard  -- Prior to a report from the City Planner, Councillor Randhawa excused himself from the chamber stating a conflict. Following the Councillor's departure, Mr. Krekic outlined the nature of the issue under discussion which was a request for a property variance and to take the issue to the public notification process.

Councillor Thorkelson had one question on the topic, asking what kind of distribution of notification  is required in each neighbourhood and how that is determined. She noted that she had received complaints from some residents in the city that they had not received proper notification of upcoming consultation or requests for comments.

Council voted to carry the motion.

( 1:45:30 -- 1:58:30 ) Report from the City Planner related to a property on Atlin Avenue --  With Councillor Randhawa back in the Council chamber, Mr. Krekic provided a review of the proposed plan to add to the height of a property on Atlin Avenue. Highlighting some of the factors that are to be considered with the development variance application under consideration.

Councillors Thorkelson and Niesh asked a number of questions and offered comments related to the proposed variance. With Councillor Thorkelson noting a number of concerns she had received from some of those living in the area.

Council then voted to carry the motion and moved the process forward.


( 1:58:30 -- 2:32:00 ) Rezoning of the Masonic Hall  -- Council picked up the themes of the Public Hearing related to the Masonic Hall rezoning proposal, starting with questions for the City Planner.

Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to the dangers in place of the type of rezoning being considered on the night. Mr. Krekic highlighted some of his previous notes on the theme, focusing on the lack of light industrial zoned land in the city at the moment and how it's a wake up call for the City to look at that issue.

He also noted how the proponents of the warehouse space have addressed many of the community concerns that have been raised.

Councillor Niesh, while noting the work and importance of Mackenzie Furniture to the community spoke to his concerns related to the location of the proposed Warehouse location in the residential area and close to a park that is heavily used by children in the community. He further offered up some of his thoughts when it came to safety concerns and large trucks in the community.

Councillor Cunningham spoke to some of the concerns raised by Councillor Niesh and then outlined his support for the proposed re-zoning. Noting that he had also sought out the opinion of those living in the area and found that many were not concerned about the rezoning issue.

Councillor Kinney also offered his support for the rezoning, calling on Council to look to the past and the number of businesses that have left town and how he wouldn't want to see MacKenzie's going onto that list, observing that Council needs to start working to assist business operators in the community.

Council Mirau also spoke to some of the concerns of Councillor Niesh, offering up his support and a number of points  related to the proposal. He pointed out that the proponents of the warehouse space have answered many of the concerns, allowed for a pair of covenants on the property and adopted a number of design adjustments to the Masonic Hall space.

He also noted that the topic of the need for more industrial space is a discussion that Council needs to have in order to avoid having the need to encroach on residential areas to serve the needs of the commercial and business community.

Councillor Thorkelson followed up with a number of questions for the City Planner, ranging from what kind of inquiries the city has received for other similar types of uses. As well she asked what kind of covenants the city can and can't put in place on property around the city.

The City Manager, Robert Long picked up on some of the explanation on those issues for the Councillor.

Following those explanations, Councillor Thorkelson noted that she did agree with everything that Councillor Niesh had stated, but also had sympathy for the points raised by both MacKenzie's and the Masonic Hall.

However, she did note that she had concerns about the location of the proposed warehouse in a residential area and with a park nearby, recounting for Council her observations of trucking issues near the Fishermen's Hall at Overwaitea.

She suggested the concept of a contractual basis to address safety issues related to the operation of the warehouse, calling for a swamper to be on hand when the trailers arrive and a flag person be in place when the trailer is leaving to watch for children near the park.

The City Manager noted that the didn't think that City could sunset any clauses into zoning and that the only option that could be put in place was a voluntary opportunity for the proponents to highlight the safety requirements they would agree to.

Councillor Niesh reminded Council of the contributions of Mr. Thompson a former employee with the City, who outlined a number of points during the course of the Public Hearing and how Council should take note of those suggestions.

Councillor Cunningham noted that the proponents of the warehouse proposal were following the rules and taking the right approach, while across the city there are illegal business operations taking place in residential areas, with little consequence.

Council then gave third reading and adopted the motion with Councillors Thorkelson and Niesh voting against the motion.

 (  2:32:00 -- 2:42:00   ) Report from the City Financial Officer on Permissive Property exemptions -- Ms. Bomben provided a short overview on the topic highlighting some of the changes requested by Council at the September 1st session.

After  her overview Council had a short discussion on the process to be adopted, with Councillor Thorkelson agreeing to the 100 per cent exemption proposal but raising a concern about what proposal staff will bring to Council regarding a four year guarantee on Community enhancement grants to those groups and whether that list has been increased in the last year.

Ms. Bomben provided an overview as to where that process stands at this time, noting that staff will wait for direction from Council on those issues.

Councillor Randhawa made an inquiry as to where the extra thirty percent that would be provided to the exemptions would come from, Ms. Bomben noted that Council would have to examine where they would allocate that money from, deciding whether to cut costs raise taxes or find new avenues for revenue streams.

The motion was carried

( 2:42:00 --2:48:00 ) An update on the Housing Committee -- The Mayor provided a short update on the latest developments with the Housing Committees, noting that the topic of homelessness, which was raised earlier during the Committee of the Whole public comment period is one topic that the Committees are looking to address.

Mayor Brain noted that the progress of the work of those committees is  perhaps not quite where Council would like it to be, but hat they are making progress.

From that point, he turned the review over to Councillor Thorkelson who spoke to the topic of homelessness in the community. She provided a short review of the affordable housing survey of June and what the City learned from that project.  On the theme raised earlier of a count once a month, she suggested making use of the soup kitchen numbers to determine the status of those that may be homeless or on the cusp of homelessness.

On the larger issue of the homeless situation, she stressed the need to push BC Housing to take action on the problems facing residents in the city. Noting that she knows of three homeless camps in the community, which she believes hold a total number of twenty five people, but reminded Council that the wet and cold months are almost here.

She made note of comments made previous of the idea of putting trailers on BC Housing land to try and solve the immediate need and also noted that BC Housing has stated in the past that they are willing to convert current apartment buildings or hotels into social housing if they can find a willing seller.

She also commented that the housing issue is one that they should take to the UBCM gathering in Vancouver later this month, as well as pushing the issue further with BC Housing both in Victoria and Prince George.

The Mayor offered his own observations related to the housing situation in the community.

Council then voted to give the bylaw first, second and third reading.

( 2:48:00 -- 2:51:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

The Mayor outlined the schedule ahead for City Council members at the UBCM convention in Vancouver next week, noting some of the topics that Council members hope to take with them to the Convention.

He also called attention to the Southeast Conference which the City is hosting over the next three days, as they discuss common issues with communities of Southeast Alaska.

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

You can access the City Council Review for September 14 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 September 14, 2017

Council next meets in Regular session on October 5th in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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