Friday, November 3, 2017

City Council Timeline: Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday was presentation night for City Council with three different delegations providing for commentary and information for the council members.

Among those providing updates for Council were members of the North Coast Immigration and Multicultural Society who provided some recommendations for Council from the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the City.

A representative from the Ministry of Transportation was in attendance at Monday's meeting, with Darrell Gunn who is based out of Terrace putting the focus on Safe Winter driving initiatives.

The largest group on the night however came from the Graham Avenue area, attending council to register their opposition to a planned variance request for a property on Van Arsdol.  As part of a presentation to Council,  Ms. Judy Warren reviewed the groups main concerns related to the proposed subdivision of property in the area.

Later in the evening Council addressed the Van Arsdol zoning issues, as well as a pair of other land use themes.

The large turnout on the proved became part of the narrative of a discussion on the future of the Committee of the Whole process on the night as well, with the opportunity that it presents for the public to express their concerns on issues considered a key benefit of the COW segment of Council proceedings.

Council Members also had a short discussion on the nature of an updated Communication policy for the City, before Councillor Cunningham asked that the topic be tabled until a future meeting.

For some background on the items of note on the evening, the Agendas for both the Regular Council  and Committee of the Whole sessions can be reviewed 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 October 30, 2017

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 October 30, 2017

( 0:00 -- 2:26:00 Committee of the Whole Council Session -- The Mayor reviewed the list of minutes and agenda items to be noted by Council members, with Council then approving the Agenda while the past minutes of previous council meetings were adopted. As well, the Mayor noted that with a large delegation in Chambers for a variance request, that the group would speak during the Committee of the Whole Session.

( 2:26:00 -- 18:00  ) Presentation to Council from North Coast Immigration and Multicultural Society  -- A delegation from local organization provided an update on their work in the community and raised some areas of reconciliation that they wish to see the City address. Speaking as part of the Community Response Network they offered up a review of the work in child welfare, education, health care and Aboriginal Justice to name a few.

As well they outlined three areas of concern where they wished to see the city advocate for local residents:

Services such as options for sexual and reproductive health, noting some of the social concerns related to port development and the impact on residents in Prince Rupert.

Ensuring that residents of Acropolis Manor are included in community events and bringing the community to the manor are important.

The third issue raised, was to draw attention to the two totem poles currently in place at City Hall facing Third Avenue West.  The group called for the current poles which are Haida in nature, be corrected from their current status and updated to better reflect the First Nations of the local Tsimshian community.

Councillor Randhawa spoke to the groups efforts in compiling their report and recommendations and thanked the group for their work.

As a follow up to their three areas of concern, the group noted that Canada is one of 41 nations in the world that have embarked on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process, expanding on their work to recount some of their research and how their findings reflect some of the impact found in the community from past  procedures and policies.

They also observed that a letter has been circulated around the community seeking to make June 21st, National Aboriginal Day a national statutory holiday.

Councillor Thorkelson inquired if the group had a list of other items that they wish for Council to address, besides the concerns over the Totem Poles.

Council will review the requests from the group in the weeks to come.

18:00:00 -- 19:30  ) Presentation to Council from Kathleen Palm and Evelyn Basso with an update on CBC Radio One  -- With what the Mayor suggested might be a mis-communication, no members of the group were in Chambers to make their presentation, the Mayor noted that they had provided a written report for Council to review.

Councillor Thorkelson then suggested that Council offer another invitation for the group to appear at a future Council session.

( 19:30 -- 26:00Presentation from a delegation of Graham Avenue residents, related to a variance request for a property on Van Arsdol Street -- Mayor Brain noted that Council was in receipt of about 18 letters related to the proposed change in variance and invited the group to speak to Council,.

Ms. Judy Warren, a resident of Graham Avenue, spoke on behalf of the group assembled in Chambers on the night, she began her presentation by recounting some of her past work in the community with the Heritage Advisory Commission, appointed to and serving with that body for thirty years  by then Mayor Pete Lester. She reviewed some of the issues related to development in the City as part of that group, focusing on how they had put together the long standing Community Quality of Life Plan .

She observed that the Mayor had noted in the past that the City would be returning to the original Breton Hall plan, one which she noted was an excellent plan and has sound zoning bylaws and qualified staff that taxpayers dollars pay for.

She highlighted for Council how residents are tired of having to write letters and come to Council to say No to speculators who do not wish to abide by the OCC bylaws and zoning.

As for the Van Arsdol Street property in question she called "The Castle" the second most significant heritage home in the City of Prince Rupert and one that deserves protection, noting that the residents believe that the subdivision of the lot does not meet any bylaws or zoning rules, calling on the City to say No and give the planning department authorization to reject this kind of proposal without neighbourhoods having to fight to have the rules upheld.

A second participant approached council to share his thoughts related to the variance, reinforcing their message of the impact on their neighbourhood that the variance request presents. He asked that Council hold to the existing bylaw in an established neighbourhood and that Council consider that before making any decision.

With no other members of the delegation approaching to speak, the Mayor then noted that Council would discuss the issue later in the evening as part of their Regular Agenda on the night.

( 26:00 -- 35:00  )  Discussion related to Council of the Whole Meetings -- Councillor Cunningham began the conversation on Council's future plans for the process that provides a forum for residents to raise topics of concern. With Mr. Cunningham pointing to the engagement with the Van Arsdol delegation as exactly what the Council of the Whole process was designed to do, to allow residents to speak to issues of interest to them.

 He noted that the topic was not on the Agenda, but enough people that had concerns had come out to discuss it, he also observed that he believes that Council should provide further content to add to the COW process and how it is important to the community, and should be held as it has in the past even if no one has anything to contribute.

Mayor Brain echoed many of those same comments from Councillor Cunningham, the Mayor opined that some have branded it as a public engagement tool and that's not how he sees it, considering it more of an opportunity for the public to discuss specific issues that are public business.

He also noted that Council could have other forms of engagement such as the Redesign Rupert sessions, making for a mix of styles for seeking the opinion of the public.

He added his voice to keeping the Committee of the Whole as it is.

Councillor Mirau concurred that the night was an indication of how the Committee of the Whole can be used by the public, he offered up some thoughts on how during nights when there is noting on the COW Agenda that other methods of engagement could be used to make the process more valuable.

Councillor Cunningham noted his past requests for presentations from city departments and services could be made part of the Committee process, he also observed that the meetings are covered by local media and watched by residents at home and how the sessions could provide information to the public about what's happening at City Hall.

He highlighted the need for transparency and how if the council isn't talking about something, that  people may think they are hiding something, he suggested that by having an open meeting people will realize that Council isn't hiding anything and there isn't any secret society at City Hall.

To that the Mayor jokingly referred to the council as MI6.

For his contribution, Councillor Kinney noted the use of Committee of the Whole and thanked the residents of Graham Avenue for their participation, noting that they are always prepared and have done their homework when they attend Council sessions.

Councillor Thorkelson called attention to the opportunity that the process offers for residents to share concerns on issues beyond that of City business, recalling back to the 1980's and when she approached council on themes of the fishing industry and labour concerns. She made note of the days of nuclear arms protests in the city and how delegations used the forum at City Hall to share their message.

She observed how they weren't Agenda items for City Council of the day, but they were Agenda items for the residents of the community. She strongly championed the opportunity that the Committee of the Whole offers to the community and the purpose that is serves for the community.

She also recounted for the younger members of City Council of the days of Pete Lester, when the Council of that day regularly had members of City Departments on hand at the Council sessions to answer questions from council members as they came up during the course of a Council meeting.

She suggested that it would be a good thing to have the RCMP report, Fire Chief's report and information from other service providers included as part of the Council process on a regular basis.

She praised the report on Truth and Reconciliation and noted how it was the kind of information sharing that the Committee of the Whole provides a forum for Council to listen and ask questions on.

To bring an end to the Monday night version of the Committee of the Whole the Mayor asked for anyone else in the gallery that may have questions to come forward, with none offering anything for consideration, Council then brought the Committee session to a Close and move on to the Regular Agenda for the night

( 35:00 -- 27:00 ) Regular Council Session -- The Mayor reviewed the list of minutes and agenda items to be noted by Council members, with Council then approving the Agenda while the past minutes of previous council meetings were adopted.

( 36:00 -- 50:00  ) Presentation from  of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, speaking to the theme of Shift to Winter -- Mr. Darrell Gunn the Terrace based District Manager from the Ministry spoke to a number of topics during his time in front of council.

Prior to his presentation the Mayor noted that the City had partnered with the Ministry on the past summers downtown paving project and thanked Mr. Gunn for his assistance on that work.

When it came to his report, technical difficulties prevented his visual notes from being displayed on the City Hall screen, speaking from his notes he then updated the Council members on the Ministry's Shift to Winter Safe Driving initiatives, with a focus on reinforcing driver safety and winter preparations with motorists in the Northwest region.

He highlighted the increase in statistics that winter driving brings to incidents on the highways and how motorists can adjust to the change of seasons, from their advertising and message sharing initiatives that have helped to get the word out on road safety in the region.

He asked for the support of the city in providing space for advertising and message material in civic facilities and information models.

Councillor Randhawa asked if there were any initiatives designed for the high schools and colleges of the region to provide for safe driving education.

Councillor Cunningham asked about the overpass on Highway 16 and what designation does Highway 16 have for winter clearing.

Mr. Gunn noted that the Ministry is still committed to the Overpass at Mile 28, offering up that the original tender had to be pulled owing to language which needed to be addressed.

As well, he noted that with the change of government there was a review of the project. He added that as far as he knows the government is still committed to the project, though there is still need to revise some technical language on the tender process related to a retaining wall as well as some First Nation incentive language.

He suggested that early 2019 is the target for tender depending on the current timeline.

As for the winter highway designation, Highway 16 is a class A designation, which is the same as the Trans Canada Highway and those highways through the Prince George area.

Councillor Niesh also had an interest in the overpass question and thanked the Ministry rep for his answers.

Councillor Kinney inquired about when Cel coverage would cover the entire highway from Prince Rupert to Terrace, to that he was advised that the Ministry didn't have an answer at this time. Mr. Gunn noted that there has been some improvement, though he did offer to investigate further and provide an update to the Councillor.

Mayor Brain also made note of Brian Denton in the audience on the night,  observing that he has recently written a book on road safety in British Columbia and suggesting that the Ministry representative might have some interest in connecting with him.

50:00 -- 54:00   ) Report from the Community Planner, related to a request for a variance permit for a property on on Hays Cove Circle-- Mr. Krekic sat in for the community planner who was ill on the evening, he provided a review of a proposed renovation project for a single family home on the city's east side.

Council members discussed the request but offered no opposition to the variance request and then moved the motion forward.

For the benefit of the audience in attendance, the Mayor asked that the City Planner provide some background on how the notification process works and what time lines the City use when considering items up for review.

(54:00 -- 1:06:00  ) Report from the City Planner related to a request for a variance permit for a property on Van Arsdol Street-- Mr. Krekic once again reviewed the variance request and reviewed some of the additional background requested from the previous meeting on the topic.

He noted that the applicant had been received a preliminary letter of approval for subdivision and the City had conducted a public notification of the request with those living in the area. From that notification the city had received two general inquiries seeking additional information and earlier in the day, the city had received 18 further comments related to the variance, though he noted that many of them were directed towards other matters than the purpose of the variance.

Councillor Niesh outlined his concerns over the request, noting that with a property already on the lot and that any change making it non conforming is not something he would want to do as it would set a precedent for others in the community, he also offered his personal opinion that he could note believe that anyone would want to see the house currently on the lot destroyed.

Councillor Cunningham recalled the discussion of the last council session and how the Council had commented that they should let the residents of that area decide, he noted that from the presentation on the night they had clearly stated their preference with a resounding No.

He also called attention to a number of other concerns he had with the proposed change in the variance, noting that it is currently being used a B and B and they have no business licence for such a venture. He noted that he as asked the Bylaw department to look into that further.

Councillor Thorkelson then asked for the City Planner to explain the process of subdivision and to outline what the OCP says about the nature of development in that part of town when it comes to the size of lots and character of the neighbourhood.

Following his explanation as to how the process of subdivision takes place, he observed that the subdivision officer had not missed anything and that the process that was used fell under the city's guidelines.

Councillor Randhawa offered up concerns over such areas a parking issues and other community concerns and stated he was not in favour of the approval.

Councillor Mirau echoed many of the same comments as Councillor Niesh and said he was also in opposition to the variance request.

Mayor Brain offered up a clarification for the public as to how the process works and noted that the City has a legal obligation to accept any proposal that comes forward and then review the application and make their decisions based on that process, he added that he also believes that the proposal in front of Council was a poor proposal and how he was also against the variance request.

Council  then voted against the request, voting unanimously No on the issue, a decision which was greeted by applause by those in the gallery.

1:06:00 -- 1:18:00   ) Report from the Community Planner, related to a request for a variance permit for a property on on 1st Avenue West -- Mr. Krekic reviewed the request related to a triplex development proposed for a lot in the downtown area of 1st Avenue West. He noted for Council that from the public notification process the City had received two inquiries for further information and two written comments related to the proposed development.

He updated council on some of the questions that they had asked towards at the previous meeting.

Councillor Thorkelson observed to the size of the proposed building and asked how many units could be allowed for the lot in question and also stressed that any issues related to drainage should be addressed.

Councillor Niesh offered up his review of his inspection of the site and noted no real concerns for Council related to the proposed development and stated that he was all in favour of it.

Councillor Cunningham reiterated his thoughts over the drainage issues and called attention to the concerns that one resident of the area has when it comes to the proposed development, like Mr. Niesh Mr. Cunningham had visited the site and believes it will be an impressive building.

Councillor Mirau also offered his support for the project, noting that it achieves many of the objectives that council have discussed when it comes to housing in the community.

Council then voted to send the variance request for further consideration.

Council followed up that discussion with a vote to issue a development permit for the proposed development, with the Mayor adding that he was looking forward to seeing the project move forward.

(1:18:00 --  1:24:00  ) Report from the Communications Manager related to an updated Communications Policy for the City of Prince Rupert  -- Veronika Stewart provided a review of her work on an updated Communication policy for the city, noting that the original discussion began as part of Councillor Miraus's request for a review of recommendations  on Council's best practices from closed meetings.

From that discussion, the Communications Manager expanded on the existing policy, to have it reflect more of the modern technology available and staff resources. She noted that the only cost was that of staff time.

She asked that the previous policy from 2003 be repealed and approve by resolution the new communication policy in front of them.

Councillor Mirau thanked her for the work on the policy and observed that she had captured the spirit of his requests on best practices, he inquired about some of the elements of the new policy related to Corporate social media and how civic departments may make use of it and the authorization that may be required, asking why the city wouldn't choose to keep it under control of one person.

She offered up that some departments have their own content requirements such as the Recreation Department, who have been doing a good job when it comes to their sites.

She then reviewed the number of social media sites that she is administrator for on behalf of the City of Prince Rupert.

Ms. Stewart also offered up some thoughts on how the city approaches the closed sessions and what steps they could take, in order to strike the right balance between confidential issues and release of information.

Councillor Cunningham noted that he hasn't had an opportunity to review the document yet and observing that its an important document he requested that Council table the discussion until the next meeting before he offers up any further commentary related to it.

Council then approved to table the topic until the November 14th meeting.

Councillor Thorkelson also inquired how Council members could get answers to questions related to the policy, the Mayor suggested that she or other council members email those inquiries to Ms. Stewart for further review.

1:24:00 -- 1:24:30 ) Recommendation of adopt the 2017 Five year financial plan amendment bylaw -- Council provided for adoption of the amendment bylaw.

( 1:24:30 -- 1:28:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Cunningham inquired about some work done by city crews near the Western Canada Marine Response yard at Drydock Road, noting that the organization had done some remediation work in the area to create parking spots, with the city subsequently placing cement blocks to restrict access to that area.

He observed that the parking there is limited to begin with, and how the property owner pays substantial taxes already and  had spent their own money to fix that area, asking that the issue be looked into further.

He was advised by city staff that the company had gone ahead without city permission, without any permitting and began excavation on city property, noting that there are city infrastructure lines in that area and the city was protecting those elements of its infrastructure.

As Councillor Cunningham continued to raise his concerns on the topic, the Mayor cautioned him about challenging staff decisions as part of the council forum, noting that they had done what they were supposed to do in this instance.

And with those final thoughts, the evening's session came to a close.

You can access the City Council Review for October 30th 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.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from October 30, 2017 (not available yet)

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.

Council members will hold their next public session on November 14th.

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