Wednesday, February 24, 2016

City Council Timeline: Monday, February 22, 2016

Despite three different elements to the night, Monday's City Council session seemed to breeze by pretty quickly, with Councillor Joy Thorkelson taking the helm of proceedings in the place of the absent Mayor Lee Brain and steering Council through the range of items up for discussion on the night.

Monday's proceedings featured a Public Hearing related to zoning for a property on Drake Crescent, as well as a Committee of the Whole session that offered up an opportunity for comment from the public, though no residents took advantage of the monthly chance to question council on issues of concern.

When it came to the Regular Agenda, Council pushed through the few items that were there quickly, bringing the entire night to an end in less than one hour and fifteen minutes.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for February 22, 2016.

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 February 22, 2016

Mayor Lee Brain-- Absent
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 February 22, 2016

(0:00 -- 26:30) Public Hearing into zoning for a property on Drake Crescent -- Council received a presentation from City Planner Zeno Krekic, who outlined the nature of the zoning considerations related to the proposed housing development for the region. He noted that there had been no comments or submissions from the public received by City Staff.

The City Manager also expanded on how if City Council was interested in any amenities being offered in the development by the proponent, that the offer be established on a contractual arrangement with the City of Prince Rupert before moving on the process of completion of the zoning process.

He also noted that if Council wanted to limit the amount of units to be developed on that parcel of land, then the City would have to establish that limit.

The proponent of the project Kevin Stunder, from Aurora Resorts also took advantage of the forum to outline some of his past background as a developer and what his plans are related to the proposed Prince Rupert development. He also advised Council that he was the owner of the former bowling alley site and is looking to develop that as well.

As for amenities for the Drake Crescent development, he recounted some of his past experiences in developing previous projects and how he might incorporate some of those ideas into his plans or develop new ideas, particularly on the theme of trail development in the area. 

He observed that he hoped that Council could see the value in moving forward with some housing for the city on a parcel of land that fits in with the City's Quality of life official community plan.

Mr. Stunder also noted for Council that no final decision on moving forward on what the proposed development would look like would be made, until more assurance was found when it comes to the many proposed major developments in the region. Though he did add that he would hope to have a better idea as to what form his development would take and the timeline for it by this summer.

No members of the public stepped forward to offer up any comment or express any concerns related to the proposed development.  However, Keith Lambourne, a local realtor and representing the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce on the evening did make a short presentation providing the support of the Chamber for the proposed housing development, noting that the city has a demand for housing and no supply at the moment.

With no other contributions on the evening, Council brought the Public Hearing to a conclusion.

(26:30--35:00)  Committee of the Whole Session --  Council shifted its focus to the monthly opportunity for members of the public to approach council with comments, issues or concerns related to Civic developments, however on Monday no member of the public took advantage of that opportunity.

Council did hear a presentation from a resident of Terrace, Mr. Martin Holzbauer, who outlined how the City could access increased funding through the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program. Highlighting, some of the issues related to the current program and how communities could approach the province to expand the program to businesses and individuals to provide better benefits to municipalities.

Council asked for a copy of his presentation for further study.

(35:00 -- 37:00Regular Council Session -- Councillor Thorkelson, serving in the position of Acting Mayor, outlined the past minutes and Agenda for the Monday evening session, which were accepted by council.


(37:00 -- 1:01:00) Report to Council from the City's Chief Financial Officer -- Ms. Corinne Bomben offered up the annual review of the City's financial situation, providing a video display session which outlined the details of the financial plan for the year ahead.

The report opened by providing some of the service challenges that the city faces through the operation of the Digby Island Ferry, noting how neighbouring communities benefit from their proximity the service, but only pay a user fee.  She further noted for Council that residents of Prince Rupert not only pay the user fee but also provide a subsidy, which for 2016 is expected to be at the 1 million dollar mark.

The ongoing issue of Provincial Tax Caps on major industrial operations was reviewed, with all of the city's industrial operating activity qualifying for these capped rates, which means that the city receives diminishing revenue from those areas. To go along with the industrial cap issues, Ms. Bomben also outlined the nature of the low returns the city receives from the provincial offset grant process.

The Tax Cap Legislation burden was highlighted, showing the impact that is found on residential, light industrial and commercial sectors which require increases each year to make up for the transfer of that burden. Which is the main contributing factor towards the tax rate increases in the community.

Budget requirements related to preparing for growth were reviewed, noting that the city will continue to fund planning for Major Projects initiatives through Legacy Inc, those programs last year provided for studies on land base use and population surveys, as well as the start of the Re:Design Prince Rupert program through UNBC's Community Development Institute.

This years budget will provide for the same level of funding to the Major Projects initiatives.

There will be no increases to the mill rates when it comes to the funding of civic operations, however to focus on reserves and future capital replacement issues, the Finance Department is recommending a 2 per cent increase to the mill rate for 2016 for those purposes.

To help those following at home, Ms. Bomben then outlined how the mill rate works and how home owners could determine how it would be applied. Noting that the "mill rate" would be reduced once again as it has over the last four years and explaining how that would impact on Taxpayers in the community.

She also outlined the variety of grants and tax deferral options available advising residents to contact City Hall to learn more about them.

As well, she noted that BC Assessment will release their revised roll which could provide an impact on the proposed mill rate.

To close her presentation the City's Financial Officer noted that the public will have two opportunities to offer comments on the Budget Process, the first at a community forum at the Lester Centre on March 14th, the second at the March 21st session of Prince Rupert city Council.

Council was asked to defer any decision until after those public consultation sessions in March.

Council members asked for some clarifications on the industrial taxation levels and how much revenue the Recreation Department would be receiving through the increase in fees adopted earlier in the month.

Councillor Mirau asked for some clarification and discussion on the nature of the Ridley Island Tax Sharing Agreement on Ridley Island between the City and the District of Port Edward, she provided some background on the topic and offered to provide a more expansive report on the situation for the next council session.

Council then accepted the Report for further consideration.

( 1:01: 00 -- 1:03:00 )  Correspondence from the City of Port Coquitlam -- Council received a letter from the City of Port Coquitlam, the City's Financial Officer outlined the nature of the request that is seeking a larger contribution from the province for major projects. A shift in the funding process which would mean that local governments then would only be required to put up 10 percent of the cost towards those major infrastructure projects.

Council voted to endorse the letter.


(1:03:00 -- 1:11:00  ) Report from the City Planner on a proposed change to Zoning requirements for a property on Drake Crescent  -- Council reviewed the findings of the public hearing and discussed further the desire to see parks and amenities included as part of the proposed development.

City Manager Robert Long, provided some clarification on the topic, while the City Planner Zeno Krekic outlined some guidelines as to how the process works. On the topic of the proposed amenities for the area in question, the City Manager noted there were two paths that the developer could follow one, being through a financial contribution, or as discussed earlier by way of active participation in the development of those amenities.

Councillor Niesh spoke in favour of the proposed zoning change, noting that there has been no opposition expressed regarding the proposed development. However he noted rezoning the land at the moment was not urgent, as the developer had observed that he won't be moving ahead until some indication of major industrial development in the community is moving forward.

Councillor Kinney noted the contribution of Keith Lambourne and  his perspective on what is required for housing in the community at this time.

Councillor Thorkelson then put forward the motion to direct staff to discuss and work on a proposal and contract with the developer, regarding amenities and the number of units to be built on the property in question.

Adding the note that the finished agreement be provided to Council first, so Council could hold discussion  on the issue before taking the zoning requirement to a final vote.

Councillor Cunningham asked that it be brought to Council as soon as possible, with hopes of having it added to the Agenda for the next meeting.

Councillor Mirau outlined his one concern on the process, offering his belief that the city remain consistent in their policy development with this development and any other developer that may follow.

Council then put the motion aside until the March meeting.

1:11:00 --1:29:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

There were no comments, Reports or Inquiries raised by members of Council on Monday evening.

You can access the City Council Review for February 22nd, 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 February 22nd (not available yet)

Council next meets in Regular session on March 7th  in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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