Thursday, January 28, 2016

City Council Timeline, January 25, 2016

Monday night turned into a three hour marathon for the members of City Council featuring an evening of discussion, observations and a few flashes of frustration and temper percolating through the course of the evening.

It opened with a one hour Open Comment session for the public, with the majority of those approaching Council expressing their concern over the decision of Council in January to reduce funding for the City's Public Library.

Following that one hour discussion, Council turned to its Regular Agenda on the evening, featuring a report on the city's thoughts related to a 1km zone rule for liquor establishments in the community, a request for a variance permit for a property in the city and a zoning change request for a proposed housing development on Drake Crescent.

As well, Council received a number of Terms of References for three Committees that were under consideration on the night. While the Mayor delivered his latest update from the Housing Committee.

The evening wrapped up with comments from council members.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for January 25, 2016.

Council held a Special Closed Session which took place 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 January 25, 2016

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 January 25 2016

Prior to the start of the Open portion of the Committee of the Whole, Mayor Brain noted the decision to remove a Bylaw proposal from the Regular Agenda from Monday's meeting. Reading out a clarification statement related to the decision to withdraw the Road Closure Bylaw Motion for that evening's session.

Noting some background related to the proposed road closure bylaw and the sale of closed road lands adjacent to Graham Avenue, advising  that the City had removed the item from the Agenda. 

The Mayor then informed the public that it  had been discovered that the during the preparation of a secondary survey, that this process was unusable park land and not road right of way and as a result the City is not currently able to proceed as indicated in the public notices related to this matter.

( 0:00 -- 1:03:00 ) Committee of the Whole

The Mayor invited members the Public to approach the microphone to bring matters on interest to the attention of Council. 

Six members of the public gallery made presentations, the majority of them related to concerns over the decision by Council to reduce funding to the City's Public Library.

Many of the comments provided a testimonial to the importance of the Library to the Community, with concerns noted over the ability of the Library to provide services that the public.

To go along with those vignettes of just what the library means to the community, came concerns over how the funding decisions were made and questions and suggestions on how the issue should have been approached.

Included among those that expressed disappointment in Council's decision of two weeks ago was Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who took advantage of the moment to issue her first public comments related to that decision.

Observing that while the Mayor may feel that he speaks for Council, she believes that he speaks only for the majority of people who voted in favour of the funding reduction.

Calling the decision  made earlier this month an error and a self imposed cap, something which she notes has forced the city to take money from Peter, to pay Paul.

She also reminded Council members that the City has added lots of money to the City's budget in the past year, with many items added to the City's burden, noting that she was in disagreement with how that was handled.

Ms. Thorkelson stated that the funding cut was done in an exceedingly poor manner,  and by trying to take 66,000 dollars from the budget of the library in one fell swoop, it will put the library into the kind of financial pit that it was in just after the mill close.

Reinforcing for good measure how the Mayor did not speak for her, she returned to her theme that the funding decision was poor one and that it was absolute idiocy to put in a cap that could not be lived in.

Her thoughts resulted in a sharp exchange with Councillor Niesh, who offered up a short comment noting Councillor Thorkelson's absence from that meeting and how she could have spoken to the issue at that time.  A response that brought a flash of anger from Ms. Thorkelson, who reminded Mr. Niesh of her commitments in the fishing industry, which required her to be out of town and unavailable for participation in that council session.

Another discussion point that proved contentious involved the presentation to Council from one resident that focused on how the City spends money, and issues related to the Legacy Fund and the city's process of information related to its spending.

A tone and line of questioning that had the Mayor fully engaged to defend the city's efforts over the last year and something which even drew the City Manager into the discussion, as he shared some observations on how the City conducts its business and reviewed some of the changes in procedure the city has adopted over the years.

One final participant on the evening shifted the focus of the discussion towards the number of LNG projects proposed for the region, Highlighting his concerns over the placement of some of them and the impact that they may have in the area. In particular he focused a fair bit of his attention towards the project proposed for the Tuck Inlet area and the concerns that he has regarding the impact of that project on the city's east side.

For those around the city hoping for a sliver lining for the Library the Mayor brought the one  hour open comment period to an end by pointing out for the public that Council was only starting to enter it's budget process and should they discover an additional 66,000 dollars from the budget they would immediately allocate it towards the Library.

( 1:03:00 -- 1:04:00 ) Regular Council Session -- The Mayor outlined the past minutes and Agenda for the Monday evening session, which were accepted by council.


( 1:04:00 -- 1:25:00 )  Presentation from the City Planner on the 1 km rule for liquor outlets in the community -- The City Planner provided an overview of the options Council had to consider on whether to create a bylaw to create a 1 km distance rule for liquor outlets in the community. Mr. Krekic's report was in response to a request from Councillor Cunningham at a previous council session.  

Of particular concern for Council was the prospect of the city's two grocery chains at some point seeking to sell wine in their Prince Rupert locations in a store within a store concept.

After discussion on the impact of allowing the grocery stores to sell wine and beer in their stores and whether the issue required a bylaw, or some other civic mechanism, Council chose to accept the recommendation to consider the issue as part of their review of the City's Official Community Plan.

( 1:25:00 -- 1:29:30 ) Report to Council on a request for a development variance permit for a property on Conrad Street -- After a review of the application and some discussion on the topic Council voted to approve the motion.

(  1:29:30 -- 1:58:00  )  Report from the City Planner on zoning changes related to a proposed Housing Development at Drake Crescent -- Mr. Krekic reviewed the nature of the zoning changes and outlined some background on the proposed housing development.

Council discussed a range of issues related to the zoning application as well as to general observations on the Drake Crescent proposal.

Councillor Thorkelson also outlined her thoughts on how the City should be approaching the growth of housing development proposals in the community to ensure for parks, public open spaces and other amenities as part of the process in the future.

On the Drake Crescent motion in front of Council, they moved forward with the zoning process and will hold a Public Hearing on the Drake Crescent proposal on February 22nd.

( 1:58:00 -- 1:59:30  ) Report from the Corporate Administrator on the General Election Bylaw -- The City's Corporate Administrator provided background to the issue and noted that the School District required a by-election to fill a vacancy on the local school district board, adding that the City had found that they did not have the sufficient staff on hand to hold the by-election and had put the process out to tender and awarded it to city resident Joe Zelwietro.

Mr. Mandryk then outlined the cost of the by-election process and asked for council to approve the bylaw request.

Councillor Mirau asked as to the timeline to adopt the bylaw and the city could move forward with the by-election for the School District. Mr. Mandryk advised Council that they would hold a special Council session on January 27th to move the process forward and then make the appointments of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Assistant EO at the February 9th Council session.

( 1:59:30 -- 2:14:00   ) Terms of Reference for the 2030 Mayor's Select Standing Committee on Sustainable Cities -- Mayor Brain outlined the terms of reference that would be in place to form his committee, noting it would focus on such issues as renewable energy production, food production and other sustainable related initiatives. With the goal of integrating them into the city's core planning objectives.

He added that the Committee would embrace three general areas, jobs and the economy, greener communities and social well being to help develop a culture of placemaking.

The makeup of the committee would consist of a combination of local experts and outside advisors where gaps exist in the local community, as well as select city to staff to ensure proper integration of policy into other areas of work that the city is moving forward on.

Councillor Thorkelson called the proposal an excellent idea, but took note of a number of items from the synopsis of the Mayor's Terms of reference. Noting the definition of it as a Mayor's Select Standing Committee, adding that she would prefer to see it as a Committee of Council.

She also expressed her concerns with that selective aspect of the proposal, suggesting that it might result in some in the community feeling as though there is no room for their participation,.

The City Manager also provided some background on the nature of Select Committees and how it would work in this particular instance, allowing the Mayor to appoint people from outside of Council.

The Mayor observed that Council was welcome to join in on the Committee and that he encouraged their involvement in the process.

Council then voted to accept the Terms of Reference for the Committee

( 2:14 -- 2:31:00  )  Terms of Reference for the Planning for Major Projects, OCP and Affordable Housing Policy Development Special Committee --  Mayor Brain introduced the Committee plans, highlighting how the Committee will be looking at policy relating to managing applications for amendments to zoning, planning and procedures, affordable housing issues, secondary suites policies, planning for major projects and other items.

The intention is to integrate all the aspects of the city's planning work to be coherent to each other, as well as to provide a framework for policies to manage what the Mayor described as a plethora of short and long term planning tasks and initiatives.

The City Planner, Mr. Krekic would be the facilitator for the Committee which is expected to be in place for eight to ten weeks, with a plan to have all the findings available for council's adoption at the end of the ten week process.

The Committee is a time limited project, featuring short, mid and long term goals with the ultimate plan to integrate all of the policies into one entity.

Councillor Thorkelson took the lead when it came to questions related to the Mayor's Terms, starting with a number of issues related to her concerns over the affordable housing desires of Council.

She also expressed some confusion over whether it had been designed as a committee of staff, or whether it's one which members of Council would take a more active role in developing policies forward.

The Mayor noted that in the time frame of the Committee work, that there should be room for specific conversations with Council as to what they want to do when it comes to specific concerns.

The City Manager offered up his overview as to how he interprets the committee structure and planning and what would be required of council members as part of the process.

Council accepted the terms for the Committee creation, with council members to advise Mr. Krekic this week as to the nature of their interest in the project.

The first meeting of the Committee will take place in February.

( 2:31:00 -- 2:45:00 )  Terms of Reference for the Community Services/Small Business Advisory Committee -- Councillor Mirau highlighted the focus for his Committee, which is designed to develop a better spirit of collaboration and gain perspectives that aren't normally heard at Council.

Adding that one of the goals of the committee is to make it easier for business to operate and grow in the community. When it comes to the  Committee structure, he noted that the Committee would be accepting resumes and the involvement of small business owners, developers, and different people like that who could provide their perspectives.

However, a number of red flags appeared from the Terms for Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who in particular had much to say on the nature of the tasks to be taken on by the Committee and expressed a fair bit of concern over having outside interests such as the Chamber of Commerce involved in advising Council on just about everything, asking what the purpose of the committee was.

To bring the discussion to a close, Council voted to accept a suggestion from Councillor Niesh that would see Mr. Mirau withdraw the current terms of reference and fine tune the presentation to be delivered to Council at the next Council session.

( 2:45:00 -- 2:49:00  ) Report on the Housing Committee -- The Mayor outlined the progress from the Housing Committee advising that the consultant Shauna Wouters would be presenting a draft report by February. With plans to deliver a draft proposal on housing to the Provincial Government by March.

Mayor Brain also noted that for council the task at the moment could be to identify what lots may be available for development and what those developments should be, suggesting that they focus on one particular development of the City's choosing as to what the City believes is necessary.

( 2:49:00 --3:03:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Niesh opened up the Councillor comment portion of the night by raising another item of concern related to the Recreation Department, which he would like to see brought to the attention of the Recreation Commission.

Offering up some background on items related to a local group looking to start up a slow pitch league in the community but having run into some obstacles from the City in finding field access along the way.

Noting that one of the city's ball fields is currently being used as a dog park, adding that access to another field in the Crestview area is no longer  apparently allowed for use in that capacity.

Before he got too far into his review however, the Mayor interjected and observed that he didn't believe that raising the issue in the council chamber was the right process that should be used.

Suggesting that the proper approach would be to take the issue to the Recreation Department first, noting that he had the same concern with the Councillor's approach tonight as he had related to the last discussion on the theme of a Gymnastic club in the city.

Those comments resulted in a fairly sharp exchange of points on that theme between the Councillor and Mayor, with Councillor Niesh pointing out that this portion of the evening was called "Concerns and Questions to be raised by council," noting that he was doing just that.

Councillors Cunningham and Thorkelson also joined in on the discussion, with Councillor Cunningham noting that he was still waiting for some dialogue related to the Gymnastics Club issue for the Recreation Commission and that the same process should be used when it comes to Councillor Niesh's latest concerns.

The Mayor returned to his notes on how there is a need to try and resolve the issue before making it a public item and throwing city staff under the bus, while Councillor Thorkeson had concerns about what impact on the morale of workers might be, noting that she did not believe Council members should be disrespecting the work of city workers as part of a public discussion in Council.

She also outlined her thoughts on the proper approach towards these types of issues, noting her belief that going through the City Manager when it comes to dealing with issues related to city staff.

Those made for the final comments on the night, bringing the three hour session to an end

You can access the City Council Review for January 25th , 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.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from January 25th

Council next meets in Regular session on February 9th  in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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