Thursday, November 17, 2016
City Council Timeline: Monday, November 14, 2016
The near two hour meeting, focused attention on a few Prince Rupert zoning issues, notes on a business facade grant program and a report from the City's Finance Department.
Those matters were rattled off fairly quickly, providing for an illusion of a fast paced meeting for the night, a concept that would shortly be dashed as the Council members settled in for the main event.
The final item of the night featured discussion on a motion from Councillor Thorkelson that would outline six conditions by the city when it comes to any discussions with Pacific NorthWest LNG related to their terminal project.
The most controversial of the six elements considered being that of Councillor Thorkelson's first condition that the project be relocated.
That lengthy and at times passionate discussion consumed over an hour of the Council session before Council members decided to send the issue off to a sub-committee for further review.
For some background on the items of note on the evening, the Agenda for the Regular Council session for November 14 can be reviewed here.
Prior to the 7 PM meeting, Council also had a Closed Session Scheduled for earlier in the day, the notice to close it to the public can be examined here.
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 November 14, 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 November 14, 2016
( 0:00 -- 1:00 ) Regular Council Session for Tuesday, October 24, 2016 -- The Mayor reviewed past minutes and presented the current agenda for the evening.
Reports to Council
(1:00 - 17:30 ) Report from the City Planner pertaining to an application to amend the current zoning for a property on Summit Avenue, known as the Skyline Apartments -- Prior to the start of the report and discussion of it, Councillor Barry Cunningham excused himself from the Council Chambers.
City Planner Zeno Krekic then provided some background to the history of the zoning of the property and how the request to return to previous density permissions, as applied for by the current owners contradicts the new zoning bylaw process.
He outlined how the new bylaw process was achieved, with public information sessions and feedback from the public at the time, and which was supported by Council. He also observed that his report noted that the site had technical challenges and lacked parking that would be required for any build out.
The recommendation from the planning department was that Council deny the application to change the zoning.
Mayor Brain opened up the question period for the report asking for clarification on the request from the building owner, following up with questions related to whether the site could accept any expansion from the zoning changes.
Mr. Krekic observed that his report was only dealing with the issue of the zoning request and that his office has not conducted any kind of site assessment related to any expansion plans at this point.
Councillor Niesh raised questions related to the amount of notice that the building owners had been provided regarding the change to the zoning and observed that the question of density related to this site, was one that was more than what the City has been dealing with in recent times.
He also noted that the property is owned by local residents who have held onto the property in good times and bad and that this may be their retirement, returning to his theme of the lack of proper notice by the city of the change to the zoning that he believed was part of the issue under discussion. He also asked the city planner how many extra units the zoning change might provide for.
Mr. Krekic first responded to the topic of proper notice, advising that with the Official Community Plan in place the City doesn't advise every property owner of changes, which is why the city goes through the extensive consultation process.
As for the extra units that could be added to the site, Mr. Krekic observed that the current building is host to 36 units, Mr. Krekic estimated that any expansion could provide for up to 75 units. He also made note of the various city services such as water, sewer, roads and parking that would be required, adding that he believed parking would prove to be a problem if the owners were to add more units.
Councillor Randhawa also outlined his concerns over the nature of the way the City has informed the owners of the zoning changes and suggested that the owners be invited to council to discuss the subject with Council.
Councillor Kinney then put forward the motion to table further consideration of the zoning issue until the building owners had an opportunity to appear in front of Council.
Councillor Mirau asked for clarification related to the current zoning bylaw and then observed that he didn't believe that council had enough information to make a proper decision at this time.
Mayor Brain also shared his thoughts on the motion, adding that he too was moving towards tabling the motion until they had more information, though he did offer up some thoughts on the larger issues of how the city approaches zoning changes, cautioning council on the prospect of changing zoning decisions back to the forties. He offered up some of his concerns over the potential density options and how the decisions that Council makes are decisions that affect the community thirty years from now.
Councillor Thorkelson recalled her time on Council during the revisions to the bylaw and zoning process, noting that she believed that it had been debated well and thoroughly during that period within the community, with the public properly informed of the issues during that consultation period.
She also concurred with the sentiment to invite the owners to Council chambers to outline what plans they would have for the property in question.
Council members voted to defer their decision related to the request, seeking to have the building owner appear at Council to outline the impact of the new bylaw process on their plans.
( 17:30 -- 24:00 ) Report from the City Planner on an application for a Development Variance Permit for 121 George Hills Way - The Prince Rupert Yacht Club -- Council received a report from Mr. Krekic outlining the nature of the request, calling attention to the height provision for the development that is outside of the city's guidelines. He observed that the nature of the replica light house that would be installed as part of the project exceeded the maximum height limitations, he did however note that the impact on the harbour area would be minimal.
He also outlined the modifications to the lighting system that the Yacht Club intends to install and how with those changes to a lower output would not impact on neighbours in the immediate area.
He explained the process of notification that the City conducted, providing a map to show the areas that had been contacted regarding the project. He further outlined the details of the four comments that the City had received related to the proposed modifications to the property.
He then recommended that Council approve the Variance permit.
Councillor Cunningham inquired to the nature of the light and suggested that the Yacht Club could "black out" the segment of the light facing the city side.
He then put forward a recommendation to move it further into the approval process, however the Mayor had to correct Councillor Cunningham's suggestion that the process should move to a public hearing, noting that was not the process that is in use for Variance permit applications.
Mr Krekic offered some final thoughts on the proposal, noting that the city doesn't regulate the emission of lights or have restrictions in place for such a situation.
Council then voted to send the permit application to the final notification stage.
( 24:00 -- 25:30 ) Report from the Economic Development Office regarding the Business Façade Improvement program-- The Mayor outlined the nature of the application to the Northern Development Initiative Trust to seek a grant of up to 20,000 dollars for the program.
Councillor Thorkelson noted some of the past work on accessing grant money and inquired, how the money had been distributed and if the city had become over subscribed to that initiative.
City Manager Robert Long answered questions from Council related to the topic, noting that the program had not been over subscribed adding that the city did get the grant and were encouraging a number of other applications. Noting that there had been one business that did previously receive a grant and provided for upgrades to their facade.
Council then voted to approve the motion.
( 25:30 -- 26:00 ) Report from the City's Financial Officer outlining details of the September Variance Report -- The City's CFO, Corinne Bomben noted that there was nothing to report, advising that everything was on track for the end of the year. With operating and utility budgets on target for the end of the year with the same for capital items and that things are coming to a slow down and the City is expecting to be on target.
Council received the report for information purposes.
( 26:00 -- 1:45:00 ) Notice of Motion from Councillor Thorkelson related to the Pacific NorthWest LNG project proposed for Lelu Island -- Mayor Brain noted that Council would read over the motion rather than have her read the full motion out and then invited Councillor Thorkelson to begin the discussion on her motion.
The various elements of her concerns and the six conditions that make up her motion can be found from the Council agenda of Monday night on pages 2 and 3 of the agenda package.
For her review she outlined her concerns over the presentation from Pacific NorthWest LNG at the last council session, making use of some of the issues (the Whereas elements) from her motion that she believes the city should consider seriously when it comes to the impact of the Environmental Assessment Statement related to proposed project at Lelu Island.
She called attention to the importance of the commercial fishery to the community and how the proposed location of the LNG plant would impact on that fishery and the jobs of workers in the community.
She also made note of the ongoing consultation that Pacific NorthWest currently has with area First Nations related to the proposed development and highlighted her concern that they should also be required to consult with the City on the project that will have an impact for Prince Rupert residents.
Among her observations were areas related to monitoring of the city's water supply, and how Prince Rupert's interests were not looked after as part of the recent Review process and Decision statement.
Her lengthy preamble to the discussion also explored the need for alternative energy, reduction of carbon footprints and protection of the air shed for the region, recalling for council the days of the pulp mill in Port Edward and the impact that it had on the city's air.
The main thrust of the discussion on the night revolved around her request that the City pass a motion that would not support the Pacific NorthWest proposal unless six conditions were met by the proponent.
That presentation of her six conditions for Council to consider was met by loud applause by members of the public gallery who had attended the evening's council session to support Councillor Thorkelson, many of them members of UFAWU-Unifor which represents local fish plant workers in the community.
One after the other Council members weighed in on that theme, offering a range of commentary and asking questions related to whether the City could make demands for a project that was not even located within the city boundaries.
Councillor Mirau led off the debate over the motion, noting that his intention to the issue wasn't to be dismissive of the proposals but to ask some very pointed questions about Councillor Thorkelson's motivation behind the wording of the motion and the content that she had put into it.
He first recalled some of his own personal experiences, ranging from his work with a local First Nation organization and his family ties to the fishing industry in the community.
Mr. Mirau then put forward the belief that the motion damages the city's negotiating position with Pacific NorthWest LNG, noting that the city is still in active negotiation with the company and don't have a deal in place. He also acknowledged that some of the issues she raises are of concern to him particularly when it comes to the impact that the project would have on the community.
He asked why she would put forward a motion such as this before the City has a mutual agreement with the company. A question which solicited the comment from Ms. Thorkelson that it would be kind of strange to put forward the motion after any agreement had been reached with the proponent, adding that she hopes that her motion would lead to an agreement.
She added that she doesn't believe that her motion weakens the city's bargaining position, noting that she believes it should be the city's bargaining position. She reinforced for Council that she wasn't against LNG going ahead, but that LNG shouldn't impact another major industry that could be here for time immemorial if we treat the habitat correctly and that we can have the two industries live side by side, if the LNG industry is built in such a way that it doesn't impact on the salmon habitat.
She also raised other areas where she had fears of an LNG impact, noting the impact on climate change, green house gas emissions and how those issues need to be addressed. Comments which once again received a loud response from the crowd in attendance.
Councillor Mirau turned the discussion back towards the role of local government and the scope and jurisdiction that the city has over the Pacific NorthWest proposal, noting that the Federal government had the final authority over whether the project goes ahead and the City doesn't.
He reminded council that as he viewed the situation, the City could by its actions end up without an agreement and the project could still go ahead leaving the city with nothing.
Other Council members offered some of their thoughts on the issue as well.
Councillor Cunningham, noted his support for some of the issues raised by Councillor Thorkelson, offering up a friendly amendment to the motion, changing some of the language that he believes would provide some negotiating room with the company.
He also called attention to the fact that the company had negotiated with every neighbour around the city, but for the most part has ignored the City of Prince Rupert which he noted represents more First Nations residents than the villages around here. Adding that he believes the company should be listening to the city and if they don't negotiate in good faith with the city then it would be time to bring the hammer down on them.
He also took note of the two sides of the argument in the community and the need to address them, with the need to develop more industry in a responsible way, adding that if that means that the project has to be moved so be it, but that is a decision that is not going to change whatever the city does.
Mayor Lee Brain then spoke to the issue, first acknowledging the group in attendance in public gallery for the night, he then observed that the project is unfortunately located in Port Edward, a community which has already signed a tax agreement with the company. He noted as well that in a strictly legal sense Pacific NorthWest LNG doesn't have to have a tax agreement with the City of Prince Rupert as it's technically not the community that they are operating, something which has put the city in an awkward position with the company.
He recounted for Council some of the discussions that the he and the City's senior management team has held with Pacific NorthWest LNG and how they haven't signed any kind of an agreement as of yet as the City isn't confident that the company can mitigate the impacts.
As well, the Mayor added that by not signing anything the City has shown that they aren't for or against the project as of yet, observing that he isn't going to be a Mayor that signs off on something that would be detrimental to the community.
The Mayor then returned to some of the themes previously outlined by both Councillors Mirau and Cunningham, adding further observations on the number of consultations that Pacific NorthWest has engaged in with other communities and First Nations.
He then reviewed some of the past work on the issues of major growth and impact that the city has been addressing over the last two year. Highlighting some of the measures the city has taken through its Major Projects planning and investments into infrastructure, noting the impact that any investment may have on the city.
The Mayor then went on to tie those themes together as to how the City needs to continue to negotiate with Pacific NorthWest LNG to put forward those concerns, as the project could go forward regardless if the city says no, and the city will then have to manage the impact of the project.
Addressing the crowd in the gallery he spoke to to the site selection of the project by the company, he observed the he understood the issue that the public has with the location of the site, adding that there have been red flags raised in the past about it and that it was safe to say that it was not the best location for it to be developed on.
He then noted that the project had gone through a three year process and been approved by the two senior levels of government and that the Environmental Assessment doesn't require that the proponent has to provide infrastructure money to the city.
He then observed that despite the pressure related to the talks, the city has been tough on the company over the last two years of negotiations but that they aren't there yet.
Adding that from a legal perspective he doesn't want to be a Mayor that doesn't sign an agreement on a project that then goes ahead, leaving Prince Rupert in a situation where the company doesn't have to give the city a dime.
As for the six conditions, the Mayor noted that the first one, related to the relocation of the project was unrealistic and beyond the scope of the city, while the other five conditions were topics that the city could have some ability to find success on.
Councillor Thorkelson rebutted many of those comments from the council members, making a passionate appeal for the city to offer its support towards her motion, noting that she is a negotiator in the commercial fishery and understands how negotiations work. During this period of her presentation she revisited many of her previous themes of the evening, banging on the table frequently to emphasize the issues she was raising and outlining why she believes the city should support her motion.
Her comments brought forward another interruption from the gallery, who loudly cheered her points and the approach she was taking with Council on the topic.
Other Council members had comments related to the discussion as well, Councillor Cunningham suggesting that the issue be tabled at this time to allow for Hans Seidemann, a city manager to be tasked to compile a report on the issue, allowing the city to use his facts to make an educated statement on the issue.
Councillor Kinney offered up his belief that it was time to bring some youth back to the community and that jobs are what is required to see that happen, and while the City should protect its water and other resources that the city needs industry.
Councillor Niesh outlined why he could not support the motion, calling on the same themes as the Mayor and Councillor Mirau and adding he has concerns over the city not being involved in discussions related to the project. He noted the controversy that the project has generated in the community but added that he wants to see the city grow and see jobs return to the community. He added that while he doesn't support the project 100 percent, when it comes to the motion in front of council he doesn't see how it puts the city in a position of being able to talk to the company about the issues that are of concern to it.
Councillor Randhawa also spoke to the issue, echoing many of the concerns raised by the other council members, noting the need for new industry and his desire to see the city continue to talk with the company.
Councillor Mirau returned to the theme of how the issue has become a flash point for the community and Council, noting that he believes it is the role of Council to advocate for the best interests for the people of the City of Prince Rupert. Noting that this project provides a larger challenge as it is outside of the city and involves government levels that have higher authority than the city has.
He outlined his desire to see less polarizing language to the motion or any amendment that is added to it.
Councillor Cunningham again called for a tweaking of the motion, adding that he believes that the City could make Pacific NorthWest meet some of the conditions that have been outlined, the Mayor followed up on that them, observing that five of the six conditions are areas that the city can negotiate with Pacific NorthWest LNG, however on the controversial issue of the demand for a relocation, the city can only offer up a suggestion to the company to consider the nature of the location it has chosen.
After ten more minutes of back and forth discussion on how the wording of the motion should be framed council then voted to table the issue, sending it to a city sub-committee and directing the environmental consultant on city staff to provide a report and wording that will help to clarify for the city how it should word its motion.
( 1:45:00 -- 1:46:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council
Councillor Cunningham thanked the group of volunteers in the city that have been busy cleaning up the side of the highway in recent weeks, adding that it was something that the City should recognize.
Councillor Randhawa asked as to when repairs for the Third Avenue Traffic light at McBride would take place, the City Manager advised that the part was on order, however it was unknown at the moment as to when the repairs would be completed.
You can access the City Council Review for November 14th 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 November 14, 2016 (not available yet)
The next regularly scheduled Council session takes place takes place on November 28th.