Wednesday, May 27, 2020

City Council Timeline: Monday, May 25 2020

Monday's Prince Rupert City Council session provided for only a few themes for discussion, with two of the night's topics gaining the most attention.

A first reading of a zoning change for property on Kootenay made for the most conversation on the night, as Councillors explore a range of issues related to a proposed Social Housing development on the city's west side.

And the ever popular theme of wolves in Prince Rupert also made for a significant part of the night's discussion period.

Council had less to discuss on the review of the City's Audited Financial Statement, though they did join in with the mayor to praise the work of city staff over the last year.

City Manager Robert Long also provided some guidance for Council on zoning issues, as well as to offer a look at how the city will cautiously move forward with providing services during the ongoing COVID concerns.

Some background on the work of Council on the evening and the various Regular Agenda elements for the May 25th Council session can be explored here.

Council also hosted a Closed Session earlier in the evening, the details as to why they required the doors to be closed for the 5PM meeting can be reviewed here

The regular monthly Committee of the Whole session and its public comment opportunity, did take place after a two month absence, though using a revised format for public engagement, (see notice 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 Monday, May 25, 2020

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present ( in Council Chamber)
Councillor Nick Adey --  Present  (by phone)
Councillor Barry Cunningham --  Present (by phone)
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Absent
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven --  Present (by phone)
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present (by phone)
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa --   Present  (by phone)

Video Archive for Monday, May 25, 2020

Committee of the Whole Session

( 0:00--3:00 ) After a few technical glitches Mayor Lee Brain outlined the introduction to the Committee of the Whole session

City Council adopted a revised format for the process, with Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller reading out submissions from the public.

For Monday's meeting only one submission was received, that from Larry Golden who inquired about whether any layoffs have taken place related to COVID-19, what plans are in place to upgrade civic facilities to meet any new regulations as well as what budget implications those measures may have.

The Mayor deferred an answer to later in the evening when the City Manager Robert Long would provide for a COVID-19 update.

With that the Committee of the Whole session came to an end and Council moved on to its Regular Agenda.


Regular Council Session

( 3:00 -- 4:00 )   Regular City Council Session for Monday, May 25, 2020  -- Mayor Brain called the Regular Council Session to order, with Council adopting minutes of previous meetings and the agenda and revisions for the night.

4:00 -- 5:30 ) Report from  City Manager related to a Variance permit for a property on Cormorant Road -- Ms. Miller read out the City Manager's report, providing background on the request for the variance related to a deck for the home.  The recommendation for Council was to approve the variance and send it to public notification.

Council approved the variance and forwarded it for public notification 

5:30:00 -- 12:30 ) -- Report from Chief Financial Officer related to the 2019 Audited Financial Statements   --  Ms. Corinne Bomben provided a review of the findings of the Auditors who this year had to conduct their work in the midst of the pandemic.

From their overview, Ms. Bomben noted how the City's Financial position has continued to improve, noting the welcome change from years past . She attributed that improving situation through the success of Legacy Inc and CityWest, increased tax revenue from new industrial investment along with grant support from both levels of senior government the city has managed to reverse the trend of dwindling cash reserves and minimal capital investment.

She did note of two current challenges for the city however, the first the deferred capital expenditures and the COVID pandemic, observing how the latter now brings some significant uncertainty towards economic activity and investment, noting how undoubtedly there be impacts to civic revenue streams owing to COVID 19.

On capital expenditures she noted that while it was not recorded as part of the city's financial statements  the lack of reinvestment into capital infrastructure during the recent 20 year localized recession has left the city in a position where much of it is long overdue for replacement leaving the city to play catch up.

Towards those issues, she noted the need for a new RCMP detachment is required by the Federal government to be replaced at the city's cost, expansion of the landfill site with a new cell, roads need more paving, water-main breaks continue to provide challenges and infrastructure at parks and recreation facilities is also in need of replacement.

Ms. Bomben observed how while it all sounds like bad news, there is a difference into 2020, with the city looking towards shrinking its infrastructure deficit, noting on additional paving plans, work towards funding the new RCMP detachment, water projects and expansion of the new landfill cell.

She noted on the progress that the city has made, the sense of teamwork that is helping the city move forward and advocate for the needs of the community, recommending that the city stay  the course noting that as she sees it, it is clearly working.

For his part Mayor Brain paid tribute to city staff for their efforts and noted how everyone had bought into the vision, and how collectively everyone was moving together in one direction.

He observed as to the tough times that the pandemic have provided for the community and how the public should be thankful for the leadership of staff and how they have helped the community move forward.

Councillors, Randhawa and Skelton-Morven and Niesh all concurred with the Mayor's sentiments.

Councillor Cunningham noted how everyone was quite happy with the way the city is running right now.

Councillor Adey also expressed his happiness with the job that is being done and expressed his confidence in their ability to manage any challenges ahead.

Council then accepted the audited Financial Statements.


( 12:30 -- 30:30 )   Overview from City Manager Robert Long related to zoning amendment for property on Kootenay Avenue -- The City's corporate administrator Rosa Miller delivered the overview, which outlined the plans from BC Housing to redevelop the current area of Social Housing on the West side of Kootenay Avenue to provide for additional living units. 

The proposed development would replace 28 existing units and an add additional 37 units for a total of 65 non market rental units on the site.

Ms. Miller observed that once rezoning is granted the proponent would be entitled to change the plans and pursue alternative development concepts permitted within the zoning bylaw, Council may require a section 219 covenant on the property, though it wasn't recommended they pursue that at this time.

It was also noted that due to the current COVID pandemic the proponent would be required to follow Ministerial order 139, and prepare a public information package for distribution to the neighbourhood, with an invitation to provide comments to be submitted to the Corporate Administrator.

Council was asked to provide first reading for the proposed zoning amendment bylaw and that Council instruct the applicant to distribute a public information package and waive the requirement for a public hearing, as well for Council to advise if a section 219 covenant be required should the re-zoning bylaw pass.

Mayor Brain then called on City Manager Robert Long to comment and provide some clarity towards the suggested waiving of the Public Hearing aspect of the issue under discussion.

As the City Manager explained it, the city has basically two levels of authority, the first the OCP which indicates whether or not the uses are appropriate in certain locations, and if the zoning comes in something already in the OCP with a permitted use, the city can make use of the notification and responding process as opposed to a public hearing.

Mr. Long observed that there are some difficulties in managing a public hearing process at this time due to COVID.

He did add however, that Council has choices, first putting forward the recommendation that Council proceed with the public notification without the Public hearing, but noting that if Council was uncomfortable about that option they could do both.

The way it was further explained was that the City would have information out in the neighbourhood about the development and then subsequently host a Public Hearing when the city is clear about how it can be safely done.

The Mayor made note of some recent information from the Province when it comes to public hearings.

To move forward, Mayor Brain suggested that Council would pass the first reading on the night and the order 139 to distribute the public information package; with the second reading to be used for further discussion as to whether they wanted to go with a Public Hearing and whether there was a need for a covenant.

The City Manager concurred with that strategy, observing how council would cover both sides of the issue by that approach.

The Mayor observed that the city has been working closely with BC Housing on a variety of projects and noted how they have been doing heavy public engagement with that neighbourhood through the year and how the proposed project would be just the start of further plans and projects for the area.

For discussion Council members for the most part agreed with the plan as outlined by the Mayor.

Councillor Adey noted how it falls firmly in line with a community objective to create more housing in the community and wondered as to what will happen to the current tenants that will have to be relocated during the construction period.

The Mayor noted more information would be coming from BC Housing for the second reading.

Mr. Adey also asked for what scope the public notification area would consist of.

The Corporate Administrator advised that the usual radius is 50 metres around the property to be affected, the Mayor noting that usually projects like this would require a wider radius.

That spurred on some discussion as to how the engagement with the neighbourhood should take place, Councillor Cunningham noted how they need the housing but asked that a very thorough job of notification take place, including advertisement as well as to expand the area of notification to a wider area of the neighbourhood.

The Mayor reviewed what was required by the province when it comes to such engagement, noting how some of the elements of a public engagement session can't take place, he did observe as to how Council could opt for a Public hearing to allow for the neighbourhood to have a say, suggesting some form of digital process could take place.

Councillor Niesh suggested that the information packages be distributed to a wider group of residents and be put online, adding that anyone could request information not just the local residents of that area.

The Mayor offered up the prospect of an online Webinar for the topic, to allow for a presentation, suggesting that the City could work with BC Housing on that concept, that as a way around some of the COVID challenges towards public engagement on such issues.

To bring the discussion to an end, Council chose to go with a first reading of the motion and then to re-examine their plans to move forward at the second reading.

Councillor Adey asked to make sure that any outstanding questions such as the section 219 covenant be addressed at that second reading.

Councillor Cunningham reinforced the call to expand the public notification and how the public be engaged as much as possible on the topic.

( 30:30  -- 35:00 ) City Manager's COVID overview --  City Manager Robert Long provided a short update on the second phase of the city's plans to resume services to the public. First noting how the city intends to open the doors to City Hall on Wednesday to one person at a time, with access to civic officials and services by appointment only. He noted that the city would move cautiously to ensure for staff safety, but noting of the limitations that they have at the moment at City Hall.

Mr. Long also observed how the city continues to work with provincial officials towards resuming services in Recreation and such.

He addressed some of the questions of Mr. Golden from the Committee of the Whole, noting that there have been no official layoffs, he did observe that some have gone home for health issues and other issues related to COVID.  Adding that where work could be  reorganized they have done it, making noted of the efforts of the recreation department.

As for preventive measures, safety items such as protective barriers have been put in place, with all of the distancing measures for staff following the provincial protocols.

He also noted that work continues on infrastructure work such as water-main breaks and others as they adjust to what will be a new normal.

Mr. Brain then asked about a timeline towards resuming services, Mr. Long observed that they hope to have the tennis courts reopened by the first week of June, though advising that the City still can't open the Tot Parks until advised by the province, he added that they are continuing on with lawn mowing in some collectively used areas.

35:00 -- 44:11 Reports from Council

Councillor Adey led off the discussion recounting recent concerns over wolves in the community, asking if the City has any jurisdiction and control over when it comes to wildlife and wildlife incursions.

City Manager Robert Long observed that while the City has control over domestic pets, it for the most part has no control over wildlife, which is a provincial issue. He added that as a practical measure the city does make a quick call to the Conservation Service in Terrace which responds to the issue of concern.

As a follow up, Mr. Adey, noting of the significant interest from the community on the topic, asked as to where the City is at when it comes to persuading the province to locate  a Conservation Officer based in Prince Rupert.

Mr. Long noted that the city has made numerous correspondences over the years to request, but to this point and his knowledge any calls are still dispatched through the Terrace office.

Councillor Niesh weighed in on the topic, suggesting that the City send another correspondence to the province to request that a conservation officer be based in the community, noting of the many complaints the city receives about wolves and incidents with local residents.

He observed that as a Rupert taxpayer, residents pay for the RCMP and how he doesn't think it's right that the members have to respond to calls to chase wolves all around town.

He suggested that the city make numerous requests if required to the provincial government to get action on the request.

The Mayor outlined that staff would prepare a letter for Council to review at their next meeting, while in the mean time they could reach out to the local MLA's office to reinforce the city's desire to have an officer based in Prince Rupert.

On the theme of wolves, Councillor Cunningham also outlined some of the responsibilities that residents have, noting how they can make sure that they're garbage cans are taken care of, and that you have no attractants on your property that may be contributing to the problem.

Councillor Adey had one other item of note, observing how the city should do what it can to ensure that people adhere to the recommended practices and in support of the provincial health officer.

Towards that theme, the Mayor offered up the prospect of the city making use of its communications options to forward those messages.

Councillor Cunningham observed as to how the city could offer support to local business as it comes out of the COVID pandemic period, noting as to how they have given to the community through the years and how it was time now for the community to give back to them.

Mr. Cunningham asked for the city and residents to support local business.

Mr. Brain relayed some of the recent moves that the City has engaged in to help increase awareness of local business, from the Small Business Task Force, to their work with Community Futures on the Business help line.

He also observed as to how the City at all times is looking for local procurement opportunities and in this period have gone out of their way to reach out to local businesses.

You can access our archive on the City Council Session here,  where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to local media coverage, can also 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 May 25, 2020 (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 next meet on June 8th.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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