Friday, July 29, 2016

City Council Timeline: Monday, July 25, 2016

The one major drawback of City Council's summer schedule of reduced meetings was pretty clear on Monday evening, as the need to catch up on a range of issues that face the city's council members meant that a marathon two and half hours of work was required to tackle the night's agenda.

Much of Monday's session dedicated towards the issue of the sale of a parcel of land on Graham Avenue to the Bryton Group, with residents of the area adding their voices to the conversation, prior to Council addressing the topic later in the evening.

Monday's session started off with a Public Hearing related to zoning changes for a property on Drake Crescent and Prince Rupert Boulevard.

A Committee of the Whole session was also featured as part of the evening's work, and it was at that time that a number of residents took advantage of that opportunity to offer comments on the city's plans to sell a parcel of land off of Graham Avenue.

That topic would make for a portion of the Regular Council session, along with a number of other items on the evening that made up the items of consideration in the Regular Session.

Before the evening would come to an end, Council had also discussed a number of variance requests, moved forward with a proposed development for the Drake Crescent area and  addressed the topic of moving forward with a one kilometre rule related to liquor establishments in the community.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, the Agenda for the Regular Council session for July 25, 2016 

Council also had a Closed Session scheduled previous in the evening.

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 July 25, 2016

Mayor Lee Brain-- Present 
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present 
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney--  Absent
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present 
Councillor Joy Thorkelson -- Present 

Video Archive for July 25, 2016

(0:00-- 26:30) Public Hearing related to property at Prince Rupert Boulevard and Drake Crescent Monday, July 25, 2016 --  The public hearing opened up with a presentation from Kevin Stunder of Aurora Resorts who offered up some background to his company's concepts to create residential housing in the region, providing three different plans that are being considered. 

The three versions for consideration highlighted parking options, green space provisions and layout reviews for the two buildings that have been proposed to house up to 80 units on the land in question.

Councillor Randhawa had one question related to traffic concerns, while Councillor Thorkelson inquired about the nature of the covenants that the developer had reached with the City related to the development.  

Those two covenants involved limits on the amount of units to be built and a contribution either by way of constructing a trail in the immediate area of the housing development, or providing cash towards it.

Councillor Cunningham asked as to the mix of housing that is planned as part of the development and what the scale of rents would be.  He was advised that the mix would be one, two and three bedroom units, as for rents it has not been determined if the building would be stratified as of yet.

Mayor Brain then called on City Planner Zeno Krekic to then provide some background related to the proposed development and answering a number of question raised by Council members.

When it came to the public comment phase of the evening, two members of the public came forward, with Realtor Victory Prystay offering his support towards the proposed development suggesting that it would help to answer some of the housing concerns in the community at the moment. One other resident came forward to express some thoughts towards the nature of the design of the property in question.

With no other members of the public coming forward to comment, the Public Hearing came to a close.

( 26:00 --1:10:00 ) Committee of the Whole Session for Monday, July 25, 2016 -- The Committee of the Whole Session began with the introduction of the Graham Avenue Alternate Approval Process added to the evenings proceedings.

Prior to opening the forum to the public, the Mayor noted that the AAP process did not require a public hearing, but that Council had chosen to allow for comments related to this particular AAP initiative.  He noted the rules that govern the Committee of the Whole public comment period, advising that each participant should limit their comments to three minutes.

 With the guidelines delivered, the topic was turned over to the public for comment.

Eleven residents came forward with a range of comments related to the proposed sale of land off of Graham, among some of their notes on the issue:

The opening couple to participate issued a request for a postponement of any decision until September and the call for a public hearing, noting that many in the neighbourhood are away during the summer months.  Others raised Concerns related to infrastructure and traffic issues on the west side were also raised during the course of the public comment period.

Some noted that they are not against development, but that they don't know what the nature of the development of the land in question will be. Also raised were concerns over stated value of the property that the city hopes to sell, with suggestions that the city should not sell the land to a private developer and that further review of the value of the land should be conducted.

Questions related to aspects of the Community Charter, the use of the AAP mechanism and how the city is approaching the issue were raised as part of the public comment period, with concerns raised that if the city feels that they have to sell this land at a fire sale price to move a housing project forward then they may have the wrong developer in place.

One participant expressed concerns over a lack of information available to residents of the area as to the plans for the development, as well as adding his voice to concerns over the financial return that the city is to receive from the sale of the land.

Another resident of the area, echoed the call to wait until the summer is over and consult the neighbourhood as a whole, noting that it is the long time residents that have made neighbourhood what it is today and deserve more of a say into what will affect them, adding that Council should listen to their concerns.

Other items of note from the residents included the nature of comparing property values from one side of the city to the Graham Avenue area, making note of the tax levels found in the west side area.

Only one participant offered up unqualified support for the proposed development.

Keith Lambourne, a local realtor and head of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce spoke in favour of the sale of the land, noting the need for housing in the community and calling attention to the fact that there is a need to get some shovels in the ground when it comes to housing proposals in the community.

Kevin Stunder, who has been providing some consultation work on the land in question for the Bryton Group provided some insight into the nature of the land valuation that had been determined for the lots being considered. Noting that an independent appraiser had offered up the value in question, adding that the lots in question are considered undevelopable and that the project would not extend into that area and that the property would provide definition for the existing development plan.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up some comments related to their concerns, noting that the land in question is not at the moment an actual park, asking the delegation to Council if they are asking that the City develop that land as a park. She then expanded on her thoughts as to what such a potential community enhancement could look like.

As a form of further background on the issue, she noted that the land in question had been sold by one private owner to the Bryton Group and that the city had no say over that sale, however she noted that they do have a say over the stretch of land in question. She added that if the residents are using the issue as a way to stop a development they don't want in their area they should say that, but if they are actually proposing that the land could turned into green space then they should express that concept which she would be interested in following up on.

Councillor Cunningham offered up his thoughts on the issue of the land appraisal in question, with the Mayor seeking some background on the topic from the Corporate Administrator.

As the public comment period came to a close, some of the Graham Avenue residents reviewed their key concerns related to the land issue, repeating many of their previous themes and offering up some further background as to the nature of their neighbourhood.

The Mayor then outlined that Council would consider the issue later as part of the Regular Council session.

As for other topics for consideration as part of the Committee of the Whole session, no residents came forward to offer up other items for discussion, the Mayor then suspended that aspect of the proceedings and moved on to the rest of the Agenda for the evening.

(1:08:00--1:08:30 Regular Council Session for Monday, June 27, 2016  -- The Mayor reviewed past minutes and the current agenda for the evening. 

Reports to Council

(1:08:30 --1:10:30 ) Report from the City's Chief Financial Officer outlining the June Financial variance report -- Ms. Corinne Bomben provided the background to the report noting that most operating departments are within budget, though the Airport Ferry revenues are down due to the departure of Hawkair. She also outlined how the Cow Bay Marina is heading into its busy summer period.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up some observations and asked questions related to the Cow Bay Marina financial items.

Council voted to receive the report.

( 1:10:30--1:13:30 Report from the City Planner regarding a request for a development variance permit for a property on Ambrose Avenue  --  City Planner Zeno Krekic provided a review of the background on a request for a variance permit for a property on Ambrose Avenue. 

Council voted to approve the motion and moved the item to the public notification process.

( 1:13:30 -- 1:18:00 ) Report from the City Planner providing details on the request for a variance permit for a development by Horizon North -- Mr. Krekic outlined the background to a request to change the parking requirements for a proposed work camp location to be created behind the Lester Centre of the Arts in the area of the old trailer park. The main thrust of the request is to reduce the amount of parking required at the proposed site from 168 to 110 parking spaces.

The City Planner offered up some notes for consideration from Horizon North's camps located in Alberta and how those parking provisions can be compared to the Prince Rupert proposal.

Councillor Niesh provided a few thoughts in support of the proposed development.

Council voted to approve the Motion and the process now moves on to final consideration.

1:18:30 -- 1:19:30 Report from the City Planner providing details on the request for a variance permit for a development on Atlin Avenue -- Mr. Krekic outlined the background to a proposed variance for work on a deck to the property in question.

Council voted to approve the Motion and the process now moves on to public notification.


( 1:19:30--1:25:30 ) Drake Crescent Zoning and Covenants  -- With Council having hosted the Public Hearing related to the proposed development on Drake Crescent, council offered up some final thoughts on the topic.

Councillor Mirau opened the conversation, highlighting how the project is consistent to the city's land use policies and making note of the covenants in place related to density. Councillor Cunningham also outlined his support to the proposed development, noting the willingness of the developer to get some boots on the ground and to launch the project. 

The Mayor observed as to the voluntary contribution aspect of the developers plans when it comes to amenities in the area in the form of a trail.

Councillor Niesh echoed those comments offering his salute to the developers work with the city on the proposal. 

Councillor Randhawa outlined his support calling attention to the nature of the city's housing supply at the moment. Councillor Thorkelson had a question on procedure on the  motion, asking where the covenant comes into play as far as the motion is considered.

It was noted that the covenant was not included in the original motion, with Councillor Thorkelson recommending that an amendment be added to include the two issues related to the issue.

Council then gave third and final reading to the required bylaw.

( 1:25:00 -- 1:32:00 ) One Kilometre rule on Liquor establishments -- The City Planner provided some further background related to the proposed rule to regulate the distance between liquor establishments in the community to one kilometre from door to door.

Councillor Niesh noted that the rule was designed to protect the local operators in the community.

Councillor Mirau expressed his concerns over the introduction of more red tape for local business, calling attention to some recent developments in Kamloops, adding that he believes has more important priorities to deal with.

Councillor Cunningham countered those concerns, adding he believes that the bylaw is good one for the city and that it is designed to assist the local small retailers in the community, addressing his concerns over the prospect of the introduction of liquor sales into larger retail options.

Noting that if the Council chooses to change the regulation, or add a variance to it, they can address it again should the population grow or the demand to change the bylaw arrive.

Councillor Thorkelson noted her concerns over alcohol issues in the community and that she didn't believe it was wise to increase access to alcohol through the grocery stores in the community. Adding that she frequently finds that the senior level of government in Victoria introduces issues that don't consider the impact on local communities.

The motion was carried with Councillor Mirau voting in opposition to it.

1:32:00 -- 2:25:00 Graham Avenue Land Sale -- With the public comment period of the Committee of the Whole providing for much of the background for consideration on the sale of land off of Graham Avenue, Council gave consideration to the two recommendations to remove park dedication to the land in question and allow for the sale of the land to the Bryotn Group.

Councillor Niesh led off the conversation on the issue, noting that it had become a rather contentious one for the city to deal with. He observed that many of the Graham Avenue residents had left the chambers and how he wished they had remained for the remainder of the session noting that he had listened to their concerns, and wished that they were there to hear his comments.

He then provided some of his notes from his nine hours in the neighbourhood the previous Saturday, where he sought opinion from area residents. From his review he called on 78 homes, though noted many were not home. For those that were home he culled a number of responses on the issue of the land in question.

From those he spoke with, 23 agreed with the development, 20 were for the sale of the property, seven were neutral, five were against the development and six were against the selling of the land, which he determined offered up about 80 percent approval of those he polled.

He heard some concerns over the process that the city had used to seek opinion through the AAP and suggested that the city could have done a better job of informing the public on the issue.

Other comments were related to the nature of the development and the valuation of the land that had been determined. The councillor also observed that some residents felt pressured by their neighbours to sign the AAP documents.

He noted that the land in question is considered undevelopable and not something that he would consider parkland and that the sale offers a chance to generate revenue for the city and if the city goes ahead with the sale it could generate increased tax revenue through property development.

Councillor Mirau challenged Mr. Niesh's observations related to a lack of information available to the public, noting that there was some misinformation disseminated through the neighbourhood by area residents, something which was hard for the city to confront. He noted some of the efforts that the city took to inform the public, including his participation in the information campaign and a recent video that he hosted to present the issue to the public.

Further to the misinformation aspect of the issue, he noted some of the concerns that he had heard during the process, such as traffic issues and loss of foreshore access that did not reflect the nature of the land in question and any impact of sale of it, suggesting that comparisons to Stanley Park or or Prince Rupert's Service Park were completely ridiculous, noting that you can't build a staircase to nowhere.

Councillor Mirau also observed that he lives in the section two area and that when residents of the neighbourhood organized a recent meeting related to the issue, they did not extend an invitation to him. Suggesting that they had puprosely chosen not to invite him, knowing that he would offer a different perspective.

His other observations on the issue included the aspect of the purchase price, noting that while it is true that the land does have more value to the developer than it does to the appraised value, there is a flaw in that rationale, as the city charges tax rates based on assessed value.

The comparison of per square foot costs were also a subject of his thoughts, with the councillor noting that the nature of the lot in question doesn't warrant the same consideration as that of a building lot.

He also reflected on the aspect of adding value to the land, challenging the perception in the neighbourhood that the plan is that of a fire sale, calling that belief among area residents as wrong, noting that the city is looking to get better value for the taxpayers and how this project accomplishes that.

He also addressed concerns over the Alternative Approval Process noting concerns in the neighbourhood over making it a city wide issue and not limiting it to the area in question, which residents suggest would have provided for a very different result.

Using a past discussion related to the a previous council's efforts to find land for an Emergency Service building, Council, Councillor Mirau noted that in his opinion it would be unfair to limit discussion on any parkland issue to just residents in one area of the city.

Councillor Thorkelson's contribution to the discussion first started with a question on procedure and what council was currently taking under consideration, after some clarification on the theme she then offered up something that she and Councillor Cunningham had discussed, outlining their thoughts when it came to putting a covenant in place on the land in question.

Councillor Cunningham followed up on that theme, first expressing his concerns over the valuation that was determined for the land, suggesting that the city could have received more money for the land in question. He added that he wasn't opposed to the development as it stands as long as Council controls the development there and that any value from the sale won't come until the proposed development moves forward and could offer other options for discussion.

Councillor Randhawa offered up some comments over traffic and infrastructure issues that the residents had expressed, adding that he also believes that it is too low and suggested that the city seek out a second opinion on the land valuation.

Councillor Niesh observed that Council could sit around for months and still not get a price that all would agree on, noting that they had hired a professional to provide the value of the land in question. He also provided some thoughts on the obstacles to developing land in Prince Rupert and how the city needs to be aware of those issues that face them. He also reminded Council that the land in question is not really a park, but more of a drainage ditch.

The Mayor offered up some background from a meeting he held with Graham Avenue residents a few months ago, noting that at the time the City hadn't decided on how they were going to approach the  process towards the issue. He recounted that at the time he had communicated to the residents that the property adjacent to the lot in question had already been rezoned in another process, with the original owners having sold the land to someone else.

He added that as long as the development plan fits into the existing guidelines and permit process the developers don't have to come back to Council and can build whatever they wish as they already have the zoning in place and own the private properly. He observed that whether the land in question was sold or not the developer can build what they wish and the L shaped lot would be trapped in front of a development and only accessible through the public property by way of private property.

He also noted that by selling the land, the City was adding additional value to a lot that would otherwise be trapped, providing for additional units which provide more tax revenue for the community to do the things that we need to do. For the residents of the region, the Mayor observed that Council had created parkland with its designation of land on Atlin as the Odd Eidsvik park which would be available for use.

Councillor Randhawa reiterated his belief that the city should seek out a second opinion on the valuation of the land to see if there may be more revenue to be received by the city.

The Mayor then outlined the results of the AAP process and moved forward with the vote on the issue on the night, declaring that the City of Prince Rupert had obtained the assent of electors to move forward with the proposed park dedication removal and to direct staff to move forward with the sale of the subject lands to the Bryton Group, to be consolidated with the adjacent lands.

Council then  moved towards their final vote to approve the sale of the land, with the two covenants proposed by Councillor's Thorkelson and Cunningham put in place.

Heading into that vote, Council members worked their way through the wording of the covenants, offering up  a number of revisions before settling on the final terminology.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up a friendly amendment that specified the subject lands value of 21,000 dollars, or if a second appraisal provides a second price, that price will be used.

Councillor Niesh offered up concerns over the dates of the timeline specified, suggesting that they were unrealistic and suggesting that those dates should be changed by one year, Council then approved those changes.

Councillor Mirau then weighed in with his concerns over the nature of the covenants in place, noting that from his perspective adding such specific conditions fundamentally changes the proposal and while supporting the concept of a covenant in general, he doesn't believe that there is a need to set the timelines in place, suggesting that Council could work in good faith with the developer on those issues that concern council.

He expressed his concerns over property rights as key to Western civilization and noted that if Council puts covenants in place at the last minute that are that specific, could give cause for other developers to be be hesitant to invest in the community.

Councillor Thorkelson countered some of Councillor Mirau's observations, noting that she wasn't too concerned about private property rights, pointing to other countries that are democratic states and how they approach restrictions to property issues. She then addressed the Graham land issue observing that in her opinion the residents of the neighbourhood feel strongly about this development and are using the issue of the so called park as a way to try influence the developer into doing what they believe was promised, that being a seniors housing condo unit, adding that would be something that she would like to see in that location.

She noted that at the moment the City does not have in place changes to the city's building standards and that putting the covenants in place is the only tool that the City has to address what the City and the residents of the neighbourhood really want.

Councillor Niesh highlighted the need to ensure that some form of progress was made on the land in question, adding that it was time for the developers to start building, or to step aside and let someone else develop the land.

Councillor Mirau challenged a number of Councillor Thorkelson's observations, with a particular focus towards what tools Council had to ensure that the city's wishes were followed by developers, noting that the City's planning department and building inspectors can exert control. He then turned his attention to Councillor Niesh's comments, noting that putting covenants in place at the last moment is not the path to follow and that if council is not going to respect private property rights, he questioned as to what are were doing.

The Mayor observed that there are still residents in that neighbourhood that believed that senior's housing was to be part of the development, noting that the proposed moves by the city provides some assurance to the residents and is the city's only tool to achieve that at the moment.

Councillor Cunningham also noted that by putting conditions on the property in question the city is providing for some certainty towards making sure that the development moves forward. Noting that the timelines that the city has in mind should not provide any problems for the developers to meet.

Councillor Niesh then offered up suggestions for revision to the timeline requirements to ease up some of the concerns.

Councillor Mirau reinforced for Council that he was in favour of the need to develop Senior's housing but stressed that the way to achieve that is to ensure that proposed multi family guidelines are put in place as soon as they possibly can, adding that the lack of those guidelines is creating some of the problems that the city is facing at the moment when it comes to housing. He then returned to his fears on how developers may view such last minute changes and what impact that they may have on those development plans.

The Mayor observed that the city at the moment is seeking to find the right balance to address housing concerns, and in this particular circumstance the topic of this development has been stressful for the residents and that he doesn't see the covenant as providing an issue for the developers, while the city will be providing some security for the residents who have expressed their concerns.

Councillor Cunningham noted that Council members have already heard that there is a need for new housing in the community and how the prospect of port development will drive the market more than anything.

Councillors Randhawa and Thorkelson provided a few final thoughts before Council finally got to the motion, with Council voting to approve the motion by a vote of six to one, with Councillor Mirau standing in opposition to the amendment, but noting that he was in favour of the selling of the land in question.

With the vote, the final terms of the covenant were put in place which specify that:

The construction of the site be completed in full by December 31st of 2019

A percentage of not less than thirty percent of the total number of units be solely dedicated for seniors and provisioned with wheelchair accessibility,

A development permit must be obtained by December 31st of 2017.

And should any of the provisions within the covenant not be met in full within the timelines as specified, the City of Prince Rupert shall have the right to take back the lands previously sold at a rate of the original sale price at appraised value less twenty percent for administration costs.

( 2:29:00--2:32:00  ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Thorkelson offered up a short update on the state of the fishing season to this point, advising that the Canadian Fish Plant was providing minimal work on fish caught on the North Coast, with the fish then transported by truck to Vancouver for further processing and shipment overseas. 

She observed that the current level of employment at the Prince Rupert plant was 250 workers, when at this time last year with a functional canning line the employment levels were at 748.  She stressed that even though there were good returns in the pink and chum fishery, the changes at the fish plant would mean that the community would not see the same economic impact to the community of years past.

Councillor Randhawa made a request that the city consider putting a crosswalk in at the Atlin Terminal area across from the Cow Bay Cafe where it seems the majority of visitors and residents are crossing across at.

Councillor Cunningham asked that city staff provide him with the ice schedule for the Civic Centre from last year, as well as the revised one from this year, so he could make comparisons and address some concerns he had received from the public.

You can access the City Council Review for July 25 here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to local media coverage, if any, 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.

In addition to the city's official minutes, the City's Video archive provides a helpful record of the events from each public council session.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from July 25, 2016 (not available yet)

Council members continue with their summer schedule for Regular Council sessions, featuring only one session per month, the next scheduled Council session takes place on August 22nd.

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