Wednesday, October 7, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, October 5, 2015

With a week off following the work of the UBCM gathering in Vancouver in September, Council members returned to the council chamber on Monday evening for their first gathering since mid September.

Monday provided for a fairly light roster of agenda items, which were handled in fairly quick time, with a pair of items deferred to a later date. With a property variance and the Property Tax Exemption Bylaw pushed to a later meeting, pending further information and one property variance request approved on the night.

On the theme of housing, Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham engaged in a lively discussion related to how the City should approach the issue of social and affordable housing.

It was when they got to the portion of the evening given over to Council members where the topics began to multiply, with Councillors Thorkelson, Cunningham and Randhawa offering up a number of items for discussion.

Among some of those talking points, a a few questions for the City manager on recent hiring's by the City, the status of the Heritage Society and the need to get out the vote in the Federal election campaign.

Council also hear of concerns over reports of a private security force carrying weapons in the city, as well as an issue related to the filing of property tax payments and missed opportunities for property grants through electronic filing.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for October 5  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 October 5, 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 October 5, 2015

( 0:00-00 -- 0:01:30 )  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.

Reports and Recommendations

( 1:30 -- 17:00 ) Report from the City Planner related to property on Gull Crescent  -- 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 final consideration.

Councillor Niesh had technical questions related to the setback of the property in question as well as inquiries related to planning decisions by the City, while Councillor Cunningham had questions related to road safety and other notes related to the extension of structure on the property in question.

Councillor Thorkelson asked more technical questions related to what impact the deck in question might have related to its footprint on the property, as well as in relation to the neighbouring properties.

With Mr. Krekic unable to provide enough answers to satisfy the Council members on the evening, Council voted to accept Councillor Thorkelson's motion to table the the issue pending further information.

( 17:00--19:00 ) Report from the City Planner related to a property on Ambrose 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 Ambrose Avenue. Highlighting some of the factors that are to be considered with the development variance application under consideration.

Council members had no questions of the City Planner related to the application.

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


 (19:00--27:00) Report from the City Financial Officer on Permissive Property exemptions -- With Ms. Bomben absent from the evening's session, the task of answering questions related to the Bylaw issue fell to the City Manager to field.

Councillor Thorkelson led off the discussion on the issue, asking of parking lots had been included in the previous years exemptions.

Mr. Long noted that he usually leaves the details of the exemptions to the City's Financial Officer, advising that the City had decided to go ahead and accept the idea of the 100 percent exemptions currently under discussion.

Councillor Thorkelson continued to have concerns related to parking exemptions for churches, as opposed to some of the other structures that are considered for exemptions that don't have the large lots to be included in their footprint.

The City manager noted that since the Bylaw had been given three readings already they might have to go back and amend it before providing for final adoption.

With no clear answer to the question of parking lot exemptions,  Mayor Brain accepted the recommendation from the City Manager to table the issue to a council meeting down the road, when they have could more information on the topic to consider.

The motion was tabled pending further review.

( 27:00 -- 37:00 ) An update on the Housing Committee -- The Mayor provided a short update on the latest developments with the Housing Committees, calling attention of Council to work that the city has conducted on infill on the 208 lots owned by the City, examining those lots for possible use for affordable housing in the community.

Towards their work on housing issues, members of the committee took a bus tour of the city to examine those lots across the city, from that tour the Mayor noted that the next step would be to meet with the community groups and to try to determine what a project would look like in the community.

Councillor Thorkelson then offered up some thoughts on the issue, suggesting the need to develop some community enthusiasm to find some partners that may be interested in doing some building, approaching CMHC or BC Housing to come to Prince Rupert to have a community workshop on how groups can get involved in creating housing.

She observed that since the last Senior's housing was built the rules have changed both with CMHC and BC Housing. She suggested that the next meeting of the housing committee and for Council should focus on what the City thinks should go where and bring some ideas back to the public for discussion.

Councillor Cunningham weighed in on the debate, advising that in his opinion Council should forget about BC Housing or CMHC, concentrating instead on the Non Profit Housing association, get some non profit organizations  onboard and find out what properties the city can either donate, or lease for a dollar and get the project off the ground.

He noted that has been an eight month process so far and as far as CMHC and BC Housing go, the housing committee hasn't receive much in the way of substantial input from either body. Pointing out that the City has put a lot of time and energy into the housing issue but still haven't gotten anything off the ground

He offered up a project in Terrace that has had some success and suggested that the city consult with some of the other towns of the region to find out what they have done and follow some of their examples.

Councillor Thorkelson while sharing many of Councillor Cunningham's ambitions on housing, outlined some of the issues that the city is currently dealing with, noting some of her concerns with the model in Terrace that he had offered up as an example.

She also observed on the cost of building social or affordable housing, not including land costs and how its key for the City to find out what both CMHC and BC Housing believe that could be feasible.

She also outlined a shift in the approach that the province is taking when it comes to providing for affordable or social housing and how it impacts on how the City might approach the process of building a structure in Prince Rupert.

She offered up an example of a housing complex owned by the Fishermen's Union in Vancouver and how they have had to change their approach to renting out those spaces with the new changes now in effect.

She reinforced her desire to see subsidized housing built, noting that so far the only approaches to council from builders has been on a profit based concept.

Councillor Cunningham countered with his thoughts on how he believes BC Housing would approach the issue, and how they currently are selling off their properties to different groups.

He would like to see the city get more people involved in the process, with more models to look the better chance to get things done, observing that at the moment, the City is just spinning its wheels on the issue.

( 37:00--54:00  ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Thorkelson offered up some thoughts on the upcoming Federal election and the need to be registered to vote on October 19th.  She recounted some of the issues currently facing residents who may not be registered at this moment and not even know it.

She reminded Council and those watching at home that Elections Canada has opened up its Elections office in the city, located across the street from Hecate Strait Development Society on 1st Avenue East. Where residents can get more information on the process and register for election day, she also advised that the Unemployed Action Centre at the Fishermen's Hall is assisting those that may have questions on the paperwork required to register, if required. She outlined the range of identification options that residents can use to register for the vote.

She asked that the City put something on the civic website to provide the necessary information for residents to make sure that hey have the proper information required to register for the vote.

The Mayor also said he would handle the social media aspects of that desire to share information.

Councillor Cunningham had some inquires of the City Manager related to employment with the City, noting that volume of managers and supervisors recently hired by the City, asking if there were any plans in the future to add workers to the city employment rolls for those Managers to manage.

Mr. Long noted that through the planning for Major Projects the city has sought out management staff with expertise to work on the issues that the city needs done.

The Councillor then observed some of the work that the city work force has had to engage in over the last few weeks and wondered if they were going to get some help and not just more people telling them what to do.

Mr. Long offered up that the City is taking new approach to public works and how it is managed.

He also observed that the City has yet to issue a call for members for the Heritage Society, which had resigned en masse earlier in the year.  Mr. Long provided a short overview as to how that works, with the City responsible for some of the owned assets that they managed for them, he urged the previous panel to reconsider its decision to quit. Noting that they are an independent society.

The Mayor noted that the city doesn't appoint members to the Heritage Society, but that the city could issue a call for volunteers and perhaps approach the past members to lend a hand in mentoring them.  He also noted how it was important for the city to engage more young people to become involved in such groups as the Heritage society.

Councillor Cunningham returned to his theme that the City should be providing some guidance on the issue and that it has now been ten months since the topic was last discussed.

Councillor Cunningham also had an inquiry on the status of the Borden Street rooming house and asked that staff prepare a report on the issue to provide further information on the situation.

Councillor Thorkelson then called the attention of Council to an issue of concern to her related to two emails she received advising that there was a private security force packing guns in town making their presence known in the city.

She said she didn't know who had hired them, suggesting that it was probably the Port, but adding that she didn't know for sure.  Adding that she doesn't believe that there should be a bunch of armed people running around town with weapons and that if there is no bylaw in place to prohibit that then the City should introduce one.

The Mayor observed that the city should look into the issue, adding that he hadn't heard about it.

Councillor Randhawa had concerns about the internet filing for property taxes and how some were confused and missed the property grant application, he wondered if there was any appeal process to provide them with a second chance.

The City manager advised that unfortunately the City could not act on that owing to provincial legislation.

Councillor Randhawa suggested some added information next year to make sure that residents were aware of the issue and could offer reminders to taxpayers on how to access the grants.

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

You can access the City Council Review for October 5 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 October 5, 2015

Council now gets a three week gap between sessions with the next Regular session set for October 26th in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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