Wednesday, December 9, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, December 7th, 2015

The final regularly scheduled Council session for 2015 cracked the three hour mark on Monday evening, as Council members hosted a Public Hearing and a Presentation from union leaders for Canadian fish plant workers to go along with their Regular Agenda of items for the evening.

The Public Hearing took up one  hour of the three hour session, the presentation from some of the union executive of UFAWU/Unifor almost another at the end of the evening, leaving the middle hour to Council to tend to a number of zoning issues, a couple of them fairly controversial.

Council members also received a number of reports from the City's Financial Officer, heard a Housing report from the Mayor and took note of Councillor Cunningham's concerns over a now little used regulation by the Province related to liquor outlets in the province.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for December 7, 2015.

Council also took part in the latest of their Special Closed Sessions which was held 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 December 7, 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 (participating by phone)

Video Archive for December 7, 2015

0:00 -- 55:30 )  Public Hearing into the rezoning of land on Stiles Place for a proposed Condominium development --The Public Hearing process began with an overview of the zoning amendment bylaw by the City Planner Zeno Krekic, including the shift in conditions for the area around Stiles Place that has been proposed for development.

Following the City Planners review, the proponents of the development provided an expanded review of what they have in mind for the property, which would see an eight storey condominium development developed along the slope between Stiles Place and Bill Murray Way.

Mrs. Cynthia Pyde provided some history related to the land in question and what she and her husband Frank visualized for the community as part of their development. Following her comments, the development team from Swiss Real outlined how the project has come together and what the project will look like and provide for the community upon its conclusion.

Only one council member had questions for the group, with Councillor Thorkelson asking if they had any plans to develop affordable housing as part of the secondary building on the proposed site, she was advised that the project design would see that building used for medical clinics and retail development with no housing concept included in that design.

Public Comments followed those presentations, with nine participants providing their input to Council, with six members of the public raising a number of concerns related to the project, the majority of them related to noise, traffic issues and the high end nature of the housing for the project itself.

A number of those that did offer up their concerns were residents of the Harbour Side Apartments, or nearby condos along Bill Murray Drive which would be the most affected by the development in the immediate area.

Three participants offered their strong support for the proposal, noting how it signals that Prince Rupert is ready to see development, welcoming the concept of condominiums that will allow residents of the city to downsize from owning homes but remain in the community.

After one hour and with no other comments to be offered from the public gallery, the Public hearing was declared at an end. With Council to review the zoning issue as part of their Regular Council agenda.

Five Minute Break

( 59:30--1:00:00 )  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

( 1:00:00--1:03:00) Report from the City Financial Officer on 2016 Capital Works and Purchases  --  Ms. Corinne Bomben provided a review of where the city is at when it comes to planning for Capital works and projects of the year ahead.

Ms. Bomben outlined some of the items of note from her report, including an advisory that the City will have to consider a proposed 2 per cent increase to the mill rate on property taxes for next year.

As for projects, she highlighted the Shawatlans water project as one area where work would take place this year, with some funding from Prince Rupert Legacy Inc, and the Canada Builds Grant.

As well the Digby Island Ferry Dock in Prince Rupert will require repairs, as well as a number of retaining walls in the community. With the Second Avenue Bridge also requiring work in 2016.

Councillor Thorkelson asked for some further background related to the proposed increase to the mill rate, asking for clarification on what the Financial Department was looking for and what impact on the tax rate.

Council voted to approve the motion

( 1:03:00 --1:16:00  Report from the City Financial Officer on 2016 Community Enhancement Grants -- The City's CFO provided a review of the Grant process with the recommendation that with operating funds remaining much the same as the year previous, with stresses from general inflation and negotiated wage increases.

With the proposed mill rate increase as outlined previous, she offered up a recommendation to Council, suggesting that the proposed 2 percent increase could be eliminated by capping Community Enhancement Grants

Towards that theme, Ms. Bomben recommended that council not provide any new Grants for 2016 and when it comes to existing Grant recipients that a cap be placed on funding for the Grants to $850,000 dollars, down from the requested amounts for 2016 which are at 1.125 million dollars.

Following her report Councillor Mirau offered up a motion to have staff deliver a report to Council for the next meeting in January that will outline disbursements with no new grants to be made for 2016, along with baseline disbursements for 2016 that would be parallel to 2015 disbursements and that four criteria be established for considering grant allocations.

They would be: Frequency of use by community members, diversity of services provided, overall value to community as a whole and consideration of the lowest possible impact on public service levels.

Councillor Mirau spoke first to his recommendation, noting how the City needs to set clear and concise policy when it comes to grant allocations, allowing Council the ability to develop priorities.

Councillor Cunningham had concerns over the concept of a cap on any kind of funding, noting how some facilities have been underfunded and continue to struggle and how the City has to decide who gets what kind of funding.

Councillor Niesh offered his support for the motion from Councillor Mirau and agreed with the concept of the cap for this year, noting how the City finances dictate what they can allocate.

Councillor Kinney agreed with the motion, but urged for caution and how the City needs to be careful when it comes to some of the groups who are in the most need.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up her opposition to the concept, recalling how past decisions by council may have provided ramifications on revenue streams that are required and are now having an impact on their community partners. She noted how Council is having a rough time delivering this budget at this time, she also took issue with the criteria aspect of Councillor Mirau's motion, suggesting that is Council's job to determine not that of City staff.

She called it disgraceful that the City is talking about cutting funding to the key Grant recipients because of decisions made in the past, asking Council how these organizations will continue to provide those services.

She recommended that the City should take the grant figures from last year and accept the idea of the 2 percent increase to provide the required funding.

Councillor Randhawa noted the importance of the Grant recipients to the community, but also called attention to the burden it could place on the taxpayers, offering his support to Councillor Mirau's motion.

Council voted to carry the revised motion from Councillor Mirau to review the process in January following the receipt of further information from staff, only Councillor Thorkelson was in opposition to that motion.

( 1:16:00 -- 1:20:36 Report from the City Planner regarding  a development variance permit for property on 8th Avenue East-- Mr. Krekic provided some background on the request. Councillor Mirau inquired of staff if there was an ability to delegate such types of variance requests to staff for approval, removing them from the need for approval by Council members.

Mr. Long and Mr. Krekic outlined some of the factors involved in that concept.

Council then voted to approve the variance motion.

( 1:20:30 -- 1:21:00 ) Motions from Closed Sessions of Council -- The Corporate Administer outlined that Council on November 23rd at a closed session had approved the recommendations of the Engineering Department and Associated Engineering, awarding the Shawatlan's  pump station upgrade to the Electrician, it was approved by all members in attendance


( 1:21:00 -- 1:37:00 ) Report from the City Planner regarding rezoning of land on Stiles Place -- Council reviewed the background to the rezoning issue, which had been previously addressed as part of the Public Hearing earlier in the evening. From that point Council members offered up their comments related to the proposed zoning issue and condo project development.

Councillor Cunningham opened up the discussion by offering up some questions related to traffic issues in the area that need to be reviewed.

Councillor Thorkelson expressed her opposition to the project, noting that developers are asking the City to accommodate their business of development, but that the city's desire for affordable housing as part of new projects continue to go unanswered.

She added that the developers were looking to change the city for their benefit, with city setting in motion the prospect of many high end developments in the city, but that the poor were not being provided for. She further noted that Developers stand to make millions in the community and must be directed through cross subsidization to provide affordable housing.

Councillor Cunningham agreed with Ms. Thorkelson on some of those points, noting how it was up to the City to decide how it should extract money form these developments to put towards affordable housing, though he noted it was not the city's job to force them to build the affordable housing.

Councillor Niesh spoke strongly in favour of the zoning change and the proposed development, offering his 100 percent support to the project. Noting how Council frequently complains that we don't have money for Grants and other purposes, and here is a chance to access money.

He also observed as to the nature of the project, dismissing the idea from Councillor Thorkelson that it's a high end property, but offers residents the opportunity to downsize their life, and a proposal that alleviates some of the housing problems in the community. Adding that the more houses the city sees built will provide a domino effect that will provide accommodation for people that are looking for a place to live.

Councillor Mirau echoed a number of the same points as Councillor Niesh, suggesting that Council has to move forward on housing policy, with spot zoning preferable to blanket zoning. Suggesting that the increase in supply would reduce the cost of other housing in the community. He added that the project satisfies the concept of densification in the downtown.

Councillor Randhawa had similar comments in support of the project, adding that he hoped that the project included the hiring of local workers.

Councillor Kinney also was in favour of the project, calling it a great idea, noting how it was designed to allow Seniors to find accommodation in town without having to relocate upon selling their homes.

At the end of the discussion Council voted 6-1 in favour of approval of the rezoning of the land (with Councillor Thorkelson opposed) and setting forward the prospect of development for the lot in question.

( 1:37:00 -- 2:03:00 ) Report from the City Planner on the rezoning of the Kanata School Lands  --  Mr. Krekic provided the background to the rezoning application, noting the plan of the proponent to develop the old school property into multi family housing units. He observed to the various public information sessions that took place related to the proposed housing project.

Council members had a number of questions related to the application and what plans the proponent had when it comes to the housing for that area, as well as questions related to adjacent land buffers associated to the site and plans for a playground and park area as part of the area development.

Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham had the most concerns related to the nature of the development, with the timeline of development that the proponent has in mind which is LNG dependent, calling attention to another area of development that the city has made accommodations for the same developer on in the Graham Avenue area, where no development has taken place as of yet.

She had comments related to the concept of park development and how that would leave the city required to provide ongoing maintenance for any such project, as well as concerns that the proponent could begin the process of removal of trees, whether there would be development or not.

With Councillor Thorkelson returning to her theme of affordable housing and how in the Graham Avenue proposal there is again no inclusion of any form of affordable housing as part of that development, a theme she believes is constant with the current proposal for the Kanata lands.

On that topic she took issue with the concept of earlier in the night from Councillors Mirau and Niesh, that creating housing would provide a cascade effect, reducing the pressure on the housing situation.  Ms. Thorkelson challenged the two councillors, by noting she has read a number of studies on housing that show other outcomes to their thoughts on housing, asking that they find a study that supports their concept.

Councillor Niesh picked up on that comment, noting his belief in the concept of the cascading effect and how this is not Vancouver, but Prince Rupert and how it's developers that will be creating housing in the community. Observing ow the City should be looking forward to the idea that someone wanting to come to town to invest and to develop housing here.

Councillor Cunningham also had concerns related to the developer involved in this proposed project, relaying a list of some of the issues he has with the way they have approached the development.

He also wondered if they were developers, or speculators,  recalling how the same developers cleared much of the land off of Park Avenue, but have yet to begin any form of development.

He suggested that Council table the motion until further information from the proposed developers, a motion that Councillor Thorkelson seconded.

From that motion, Council decided that they would sit in private session with the developer to investigate the issues further, with that meeting to be scheduled before December 18th.

The rezoning issue would then be brought back to the public session in January of 2016.

( 2:03:00 -- 2:04:30 )  Report from the Director of Operations regarding a road closure request -- The heard a review of a request from Macro Properties to close a number of roads in the Digby Towers/Sherbrook Gardens area around Prince Rupert Boulevard and Albert Avenue.

Council approved the motion.

Correspondences for Action

( 2:02:00 - 2:50:00 ) Presentation from Members of UFAWU/Unifor requesting the support of Council -- Citing conflicts, Councillors Thorkelson and Mirau excused themselves from the Council session, Prior to the presentation from members of the union representing shore workers at the Canadian Fish Plant.

As for the presentation, with a number of union members in attendance in the public gallery, Arnold Nagy and Conrad Lewis from UFAWU/Unifor provided a review of the issues facing the local shore workers in the community, delivering a history lesson for council on the nature of the industry over the years and its importance to Prince Rupert.

They also offered up some background on the nature of the job losses that they estimate could be as high as 500 union members, as a result of the decision by Canadian Fish to close its canning lines at the Oceanside plant, including for Council the prospect of a number of secondary job losses that could be found from other businesses in the area as a result of the Canadian Fish decision.

Noting for council that unless the jobs in the fishing industry in Prince Rupert were protected, the community was facing another exodus of workers and families much like what happened when the pulp mill closed.

Part of their presentation included the request for the support of Council towards their efforts to have the Federal Government address the issue by providing the same kind of legislation that currently exists on the east coast, with four key elements of note of: Adjacency, Owner Operator provisions and Fleet separation.

The underlying theme of their presentation was the declaration that fish that is harvested in the North should benefit the North and that a strong message needs to be sent to Jim Pattison the owner of Canadian Fish.

They finished their presentation that the City of Prince Rupert would not be backing UFAWU/Unifor but backing residents of Prince Rupert.

Following the presentation, Mayor Brain read out the request from the union and after a short discussion, those Council members in the chamber voted to offer the city's support to the request to the resolution related to the request from UFAWU/Unifor.

To wrap up their comments to Council, both Mr. Nagy and Mr. Lewis noted that the community was becoming very involved in their efforts to address the issues of the canning line closures and that they were finding support from across Canada when it comes to the prospect of securing jobs in the fishing industry on the North Coast.

( 2:50:00 -- 2:55:00 ) Report on the Housing Committee -- The Mayor updated Council on the latest developments, observing that progress is being made on a number of initiatives, one which incorporates such social services as mental health and addictions into the review of housing needs.

With three groups in the community, the City of Prince Rupert and agencies of the province working towards a proposal for a housing project in 2016.

The Mayor also noted that he has been named Chair of the Group and that there are two meetings planned for December, with the prospect of moving forward with a development proposal by March.

He also outlined some of the work that they have put in place towards that process, calling the latest developments as "Good Traction and Good News"

( 2:55:00 -- 2:57:30 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Cunningham called attention to an issue related to liquor licensing in the city, asking that the City look at putting back in place the one kilometre rule related to licensed liquor establishments. Noting that the province ignores that rule now, and that if the two large supermarkets in town were to introduce liquor outlets in their stores, it could have an impact on the private operators in the city and provide for further unemployment in the community.

Council voted to approve his motion to have City Staff investigate the issue further.

You can access the City Council Review for December 7th 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 December 7th (not available yet)

Council next meets in Regular session on January 11th  in Council Chambers at City Hall. That will mark Council's first scheduled meeting of 2016.

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