Wednesday, January 11, 2017

City Council Timeline: Monday, January 9, 2017

It was back to work for City Council on Monday evening as the city's elected officials returned to their briefing notes and addressed a fairly short agenda put forward to ease them into 2017.

Only four items were on the to do list for the forty minute session on Monday, with council agreeing to offer up support by way of a letter for the North Pacific Cannery Museum in their bid to achieve a UNESCO heritage designation.

Council also revealed some notes from a closed session of 2016, that outlined their efforts to secure grant funding for accessibility lifts for the city's recreation centre.

A review of a proposed re-purposing of the Neptune Inn was also part of their work for Monday, with Council providing a first reading on zoning amendments required to move the process further ahead and towards a public information meeting.

Council also explored some of the issues related to upcoming legislation from the Federal government that will legalize marijuana, voting to start the process of putting in place a one year prohibition on the prospect of commercial marijuana operations in the city.

For some background on the items of note on the evening, the Agenda for the Regular Council session is available 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 January 9, 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 January 9, 2017

( 0:00 -- 1:00 ) Regular Council Session -- The Mayor read out the minutes of previous meetings and Council adopted both those minutes as well as the Agenda for the evening.

(1:00 -- 2:30  ) Correspondence for Action: Request for a letter of support to designate North Pacific Cannery Historical Site as a UNESCO site -- Councillor Mirau spoke to the motion throwing his support behind the request that the City provide a letter of support for the initiative, the motion was then unanimously adopted by those in attendance.

( 2:30 -- 3:30 ) Resolutions from Closed Meeting -- The City's Corporate Administrator outlined the background to a pair of grant applications that the city has made for enhancements to the city's recreation centre in the way of accessibility improvements to the facility. The Mayor offered further information to the theme, noting that the City had just received word that their request for a grant from the Rich Hansen Foundation had been approved for $20,500. The City also has a grant application submitted to the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

3:30 -- 26:30 ) Report from the City Planner related to a proposed re-purposing of the Neptune Inn  -- Mr. Zeno Krekic provided background to the proposal by Macro Properties to re-purpose the now closed Neptune Inn as a Seniors housing complex to be known as Hilltop Lodge.

He outlined the history of both the subject property and Macro Properties in Prince Rupert. Explaining for council what modifications to the existing building that Macro would make and how they plan to turn the rooms into single room occupancy units with a number of amenities included in the proposed development.

He also outlined a few concerns related to the proposed development with one key area of note the location of the building, which is not located near the downtown area of the city and is not currently on any of the city's transit lines.

He then explained the nature of the zoning requirements that Council would have to address to move the project forward, including the need for a public meeting to be arranged by the proponent and for covenants that the City would want to put in place regarding  limitations for use of Seniors.

Following his presentation Council members had some thoughts to share.

Councillor Mirau asked if the proponent had agreed to a covenant related to the building being Seniors residence, which Mr. Krekic noted they had.

Councillor Thorkelson who was participating at the meeting by phone had questions related to the size of the rooms and whether they meet the conditions of the city's density bylaw. Mr. Krekic advised that they had indicated that 36 units would be on the market which fits into the guidelines, while the City can't govern the physical size of units.

As a follow up item, Ms. Thorkelson asked about amenities related to the proposed development met the city's wishes. He noted that as the project came prior to amendments to the bylaw on amenities, it could proceed without having to provide any amenities, though he did advise that the applicant intends to put in some landscaping at the site, as well as to install a Gazebo for use of the tenants.

Those were property enhancements which the Councillor was pleased to hear about, though she did offer up some concerns about the location of the building out by the highway and how adding such features as landscaping and other elements would be a good addition.

Councillor Cunningham asked about wheel chair accessibility issues, while the topic was not addressed in terms of wheel chair access, Mr. Krekic did observe that from the proponents proposal there was an indication that some retrofitting was planned for seniors use.

Councillor Randhawa offered his support for the proposal but did note the transportation issues related to the site, asking if there was a plan to move the bus route closer to the Chamberlain Avenue location. Mr. Krekic advised that the proponents are involved in conversations to move a bus stop towards the Portage and Chamberlain area.

Councillor Niesh observed that it was the first opportunity for council to make use of its new process on land use issues, where council met in a workshop setting to discuss the proposal and get a preview of what it looked like, which he believes worked well this time around.

He also offered his support for the re-purposing of the building and having it return to active use, he also noted that it is not a care facility, but a seniors housing option. He suggested that Council move forward with the proposal and examine what the people have to say after the information meeting.

Councillor Thorkelson also suggested that council move the process forward, but also inquired if an amendment could be made to ensure that 20% of the suites on the bottom floor be made wheel chair accessible and that benches, a small park and a gazebo be included in the approval.

The City Planner outlined that the landscaping issues were within the city's control, but expressed his hesitation towards defining what the units should be designated as.

Councillor Thorkelson noted that as part of the process moving forward the City could review the public comments at second reading and address any issues at that time.

Mayor Brain sought some clarification related as to what the city can currently request of a proponent, while they continue to work towards their Official Community Plan regulation changes. He then suggested that the City move ahead with the zoning process and see where things are following the community meeting related to the proposal.

Councillor Mirau reminded Council of his ongoing interest in having the City adopt Multi Family Design Guidelines, noting that the city will be facing more and more of these discussions and the guideline process might solve any potentially complicated legal discussions.

Councillor Cunningham observed that this proposal is not much different than some of the existing Senior's Apartments downtown and that the one outstanding concern of distance from downtown can be addressed through a change in the transit route.

He also pointed out that the existing buildings downtown currently have a lengthy waiting list and how there is a need for this type of Senior Housing. He noted that if the transit issue can be worked out he would be in favour of it.

Council moved forward with the motion.

( 26:30 -- 37:30  )  Report from the Civic Engineer on a interim zoning amendment to temporarily establish commercial marijuana operations as a prohibited use in all zones -- Mr. Hans Seidemann provided the background to the report, outlining the options ahead for the City related to a proposed one year prohibition for commercial marijuana operators in the City.

His report provided a look at the current situation in other communities and what areas of concern that the city has related to the potential for some operations setting up in town with the city not having regulations and guidelines in place until it learns more about the Federal plans.

The interim prohibition timeline would have a sunset clause of January 1st 2018, as it's anticipated that the Federal regulations will be in place by that point.

Councillor Cunningham began the discussion on the theme, asking for some clarification on the current process in place and how the licensing and bylaws currently works.

Councillor Niesh reviewed some of the discussions held at UBCM on the topic and noted the option under review by Council was a smart move and just a way to protect themselves and how the one year prohibition would be a good first step to put some policies in place.

Mayor Brain observed that if Council was going to do this they should do it right once and by putting in place the one year prohibition they will have ample time to study the issue and review how other communities have handled the arrival of the commercial marijuana industry.

Councillor Thorkelson also agreed that it was wise to postpone any decision for a year and to host a public meeting and see what other communities are doing. She also observed that to her the Prince Rupert approach was a wise one, noting that she believes that recent moves made by the Terrace area might not be in their best interests.

Councillor Mirau asked about the urgency of the issue and noted that to the best of his knowledge the city is not dealing with any illegal operations within the city, but wondered about adopting an interim plan until more is known about the Federal plans and timeline.

Mr. Seidemann explained that the proposal under review was designed to protect the city from any illegal operations, becoming legal and essentially becoming grandfathered in. He offered up the scenario that if a business was to establish itself prior to any legalization, and then would suddenly become legal upon any legalization taking place, they could then apply for a licence that day and that would limit what controls the city would have over the business.

Councillor Mirau followed that up by asking about a timeline for the City's framework for any civic guidelines ready to be adopted by the time the prohibition comes to an end on January 1st.  He was advised that it was the belief of city staff that they would be ready, but if the situation required, then Council might have to consider an extension to the amendment.

The Mayor brought the topic to a close by reviewing some of his thoughts on when he believes the Federal legislation will be introduced and how he believes that would provide enough time for the City to address the issue.

Council then voted to approve the motion, moving the process ahead and noting that a Public hearing would take place on January 23rd and the Council would welcome the comments from the public related to the topic.

( 37:30  -- 41:00  ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Cunningham once again raised the issue of some of the dangerous conditions of some of the sidewalks in town, noting that for those stretches on property that is owned by out of town residents and how there are stretches where the sidewalks have not been cleared, calling attention to the city's bylaws in place regarding proper clearing requirements. 

He asked if city staff had followed up on his request from December that the city contact those owners in town, as well as those that are absentee owners. He was advised by the Mayor that he believed that those correspondences had been issued, Mr. Cunningham then asked if the City could now start to fine those owners and do the work themselves.

The City Manager Robert Long concurred with the councillor on the nature of the dangerous conditions that some of the sidewalk areas provided for and noted that they were now in the position to take the next step towards required enforcement.

Councillor Cunningham then raised a second item of interest to him and a topic which he noted he has brought up in the past, that being his desire that Council request various department heads to attend Council to provide updates on  current and future projects so that public is aware of what is going on. Adding that he would like to see the city move forward with that.

He noted that not everyone goes on the Internet to see what's going on with the city and how people do read the newspaper in town and how in his opinion the local paper is quite diligent in reporting what is going on.

He also suggested that the RCMP be included in providing a community report, noting how people frequently talk about transparency, and that the city is not hiding anything and how believes that having the city can bring forward the various departments for updates is something that they should be doing.

With no other items to address on the night the session was adjourned.

You can access the City Council Review for January 9th 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 January 9th, 2017 (not available yet)

The next regularly scheduled Council session takes place on January 23rd.

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