Thursday, September 15, 2016

City Council Timeline: Monday, September 12, 2016

With Council members already making their travel plans for Vancouver Island and the UBCM Convention later this month, the only regularly scheduled City Council session for September took care of business in a fairly quick amount of time, running to forty minutes from start to finish on Monday evening.

Included in the evening's work was a Committee of the Whole Session where Council members heard a few concerns from one city resident on the evening, the focus of which involved the city's building code and concerns on pit bulls in the community.

As for the Regular Council session, only three items were included on the Agenda, with Council addressing a zoning request for some exterior work on the Prestige Prince Rupert Hotel, putting in place the final approval on a revised ice fees process at the Civic Centre and introducing the topic of this years Property Tax Exemptions for the year.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, the Agenda for the Regular Council session for September 12 can be reviewed here.

Council also had a Closed Session Scheduled for 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 September 12, 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 September 12, 2016

(  00:00 -- 7:00:30  ) Committee of the Whole Session for Monday, September 12, 2016 -- The Committee of the Whole Session for the most part featured discussion from one resident who had concerns related to the City's building code, noting that there is an update as of 2012 that changes the emphasis from the 2006 version and asking Council to increase vigilance to ensure that building permits are being displayed properly.

He also had a concern on the number of pit bull dogs in the community, recounting some close calls he himself has had with local dogs and their owners. He stressed the need for the city to make sure that bylaw requirements are being met when it comes to troublesome dogs.

Councillor Thorkelson asked some questions for clarification on the issue of the pit bulls and the concerns related to them.

That made for the only public contribution to the Committee of the whole session

( 7:00:30 -- 8:30:30  Regular Council Session for Monday, September 12, 2016  -- The Mayor reviewed past minutes and the current agenda for the evening, adding an additional item that of the notice of motion from Councillor Kinney from the Committee of the Whole session. 

Reports to Council

( 8:30:00 -- 13:00 ) Report from the City Planner related to some exterior work to be done on the Prestige Prince Rupert Hotel  -- Council received a report from City Planner Zeno Krekic who outlined the nature of some exterior renovation work towards corporate branding that the Prince Rupert Hotel is looking to do on the downtown property.

Councillor Cunningham offered a few observations and asked questions related to some of the aspects of the exterior work that is planned.

Council voted to approved the development permit to allow the work to proceed.

( 13:00 -- 17:00 ) Report from the Director of Recreation on the revised schedule for Ice Fees at the Civic Centre -- Mayor Brain provided some background on the nature of report on Recreation Fees before turning the topic over to Council members for discussion.

Councillor Randhawa expressed many of the same concerns that he had outlined during the Special Council Session of September 8th, noting that he wanted to see the rates set at a five percent increase.

The Mayor noted that there had been agreement on the levels set at ten percent for prime rental periods, Councillor Cunningham took note of a separate issue of the rental space for food wagons at the City Centre, advising that he has been told by some operators that the cost of is prohibitive for their set up at the Civic Centre parking lot.

He asked that the Recreation Department should seek a compromise with the operators and make it affordable for the future.

The Mayor offered up his opinion that the fees for the trucks in his mind are reasonable but they could discuss the topic later.  He returned to the theme of the Ice Fees, observing that the discussion from last week was available on YouTube for those interested in learning more on the issue.

Council then voted to implement the revised Ice Fee Schedule, with Councillor Randhawa once again casting his vote against the increases.

( 17:00 -- 39:00 ) Report from the City's Financial Officer on Permissive Property Tax Exemptions -- Corinne Bomben, the City's CFO provided some background to the bylaw request with an amendment proposed to add two properties to the list and remove three from the exemption list.

The two organizations that have applied for the exemptions include the Navy League Prince Rupert Branch and the Royal Canadian Legion. While the Prince Rupert Marine Rescue Society, Prince Rupert Search and Rescue Society, Prince Rupert Amateur Radio Club and a Heritage property at Number 1 Pacific Place will be taken off the list.

The net result would be an additional exemption of approximately 1,600 dollars which is above the estimates previously provided for 2017.

The total estimated exemption for 2017 was estimated to be at $314,586.

Should the bylaw be adopted Council must do so by October 31st.

Following her report, the Mayor called for questions from Council members, an opportunity that provided Councillor Joy Thorkelson to reinforce some of her past concerns as to how the City approaches the topic.

She noted that she finds it quite unfair that someone may apply for a Community Grant thanks to the stringent conditions placed on that process, while then turning around and not applying the same standards when it comes to the Property Tax Exemption process.

She suggested that Council pause on the issue and that a more expansive look be given to all of the current Property Tax Exemptions outside of the Churches and Schools which have received the Exemptions, a civic distribution which she observed in her mind were the same as Community Grants.

She further outlined the flaws in the current process, where many of the groups or organizations seeking the Property Tax Exemption requests never have had to come before Council to explain their request, or require the same amount of scrutiny as the Community Grant applicants.

Councillor Mirau sought the counsel of city staff on the issue, asking what the criteria was fin the process of applying the Permissive Property Tax Exemptions. While he agreed on the equity between the Grants and Exemptions, he said he believed that the province set the regulations in place.

Councillor Thorkelson disagreed with that interpretation, calling on some past council years where the City had cut the exemption rates, reinforcing her concern that those who own property are receiving an easier path, than those groups that are applying for the community grants that the City has a number of restrictions on, noting that the has considered the process unfair for a number of years.

Councillor Niesh agreed with some of Councillor Thorkelson's concerns, asking for clarification from the Financial Officer.

The Mayor and Councillor Thorkelson exchanged some opinions on how the current process works, with the Councillor observing that other communities don't use the same approach as Prince Rupert uses, adding that some of those that she had reviewed did not offer any kind of property tax exemption breaks.

She added that she wasn't opposed to any of the groups on the list that were looking for exemptions, but that she wanted to see applicants in both categories handled in an equal fashion. She offered up the idea of offering up half grant exemptions on the property side, in order to provide other worthy organizations with the funding that they require through the Grant process.

Councillor Niesh offered up an example of a local group that has applied for a Tax Exemption for a building which is becoming run down and has not seen anything happen in it for years. He suggested that council should look at it some in the future, but in this instance they probably have to move forward with the requests in front of council.

Councillor Cunningham offered up his agreement with some of the concerns of both Councillor Thorkelson and Niesh, but issued some caution when it comes to how the city approaches the issue for service organizations, stating that he doesn't want to see anything in place that would affect those groups. He also noted that some of the groups on the lists operate on city property, asking why the City would want to tax itself.

Councillor Thorkelson brought her contribution to the discussion to an end, by once again calling on Council to approach the issue in a equal fashion for both the Property Tax Exemption process and Community Enhancement Grants.

Councillor Randhawa called for Council to move forward on the requests under discussion, but that they review the process in 2017.

Council then voted to move the recommended motion forward, with the intention of reviewing the topic again in the future to see if Council wished to make changes to the process in place.

( 39:00 -- 40:00  ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Cunningham returned to some comments from the Committee of the Whole session of earlier in the evening, agreeing with the resident who brought up the concerns over dogs in the city. He suggested that the City website provide better awareness of the Dog Bylaws in place, adding that the city might consider taking out ads in the local newspaper as well. He also called attention to the staffing levels of the Bylaw office which currently only has one employee to enforce the city's regulations.

Councillor Kinney added that he believes there is an even larger issue with cats in the community and that the same amount of awareness should be put in place to address those concerns.

Councillor Randhawa offered up his thanks to city staff for their efforts in keeping the city looking good during the tourism season.

That salute to city workers brought the Regular session to an end, with Council members then moving to a Closed Session.

You can access the City Council Review for September 12 herewhere 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 September 12, 2016 (not available yet)

Council members head for Victoria later this month for the week long annual UBCM meetings. 

The next regularly scheduled Council session takes place on October 11th .

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