Wednesday, November 25, 2020

City Council Timeline: Monday, November 23, 2020

A return to the COVID procedures of April meant that Monday's
City Council session was conducted by phone with only 
the Mayor and Senior staff in attendance at City Hall

Monday's Prince Rupert City Council session for the most part focused on land issues, whether it be redevelopment of the Downtown core or a proposed housing complex for the City's east side.

Those two themes dominated much of the discussion from the final council session of November, part of what in essence was a Virtual Council session, with all of the city's council members with the exception of Mayor Brain participating by phone as part of enhanced COVID related precautions.

Council also reviewed a number of financial reports from Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben who delivered the details on Capital Works and purchases for 2021, Ms. Bomben also requested authorization towards borrowing for equipment purchases.

She also provided some clarity for Council on how they can use the recent COVID related funding from the province dedicated towards a Safe Restart of operations.

Council also approved new fees for the water, sanitary and Storm Sewer and Solid Waste functions as well as a new schedule of fees for Cemetery charges.

As well, Council members approved a new contract for the ground transportation services between the city and the Digby Island Airport.

Some background on the work of Council on the evening and the various Regular Agenda elements for the November 23rd Council session can be explored here.   

Council also hosted a Closed Session earlier in the evening, the fifteenth such closed door session of the year, 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, though with a revised format of the Corporate Administrator reading out the submissions from the public on the night.

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, November 23, 2020

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

Video Archive for Monday, November 23, 2020

Committee of the Whole Session

( 0:00--2:30 )  Mayor Lee Brain outlined the introduction to the Committee of the Whole session, which this week had reverted back to previous measures which excluded the public from the Chamber, with any inquiries or submissions provided by correspondence or phone call.

On Monday, Rosa Miller, the Corporate Administrator advised that only one phone calle had been received, that from Mr. Terry Sawka who had raised concerns over the presence of cannabis grow operations in the downtown core.

Ms. Miller noted that in the conversation that Mr. Sawka had outlined that under Federal Health guidelines that notice of these grow ops must be provided to the local authorities, the fire hall and the RCMP and asking if such notice has been provided.

"These grow ops being permitted in the downtown core are having a particularly negative impact on local business. Grow ops may have their place in the community but not within the downtown" -- Prince Rupert resident Terry Sawka with a submission for Council's Committe of the Whole Monday Night

Mayor Brain asked if the City had any comments for that concern.

Ms. Miller advised that they had been in contact with the RCMP and are working on the issue

The Mayor followed up by observing that they have a process in motion for the issue.

That was the only submission from the public on the evening.

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


Regular Council Session

( 2:30 -- 3:30 )   Regular City Council Session for Monday, November 23, 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.

3:30 -- 8:30 ) Report from the Chief Financial Officer related to the 2021 Capital Works and Purchases -- Ms. Corinne Bomben provided for the overview noting that many of the projects for 2021 are funded through a variety of internal financial processes that the city makes use of.

Some of the projects have been rolled over or are a continuation from 2020 owing to the COVID pandemic situation.

Among the notables for the year ahead:

The City will be continuing with the Second phase of the Water Project, the replacement of the Woodworth Lake Dam, with the remaining costs are expected to be financed through a dividend from the Legacy Fund and and approved debt.

The City was awarded a grant towards water treatment, for the year ahed the City will be conducting value engineering and detailed design of the new facility and the replacement of the submarine line.

The final phase of the liquid waste management plan will continue in 2021, the results of the mapping exercise have determined which areas will require repair and attention from the city.

The Landfill expansion cell will be completed in 2021 and go into operation, the project will be financed through debt and repayed through existing solid waste fees.

The road and sidewalk repair and replacement program for 2021 will be set at the same level as that of 2020, which was a doubling of investment from previous years.  Ms. Bomben noted that the roads suffered during the recession and that city staff will continue to recommend increases to the program as new sources of funds are received.

Council then voted to approve the Capital Works and purchases for 2021.

Councillor Mirau commended staff for providing such a significant list of tasks to take place in the next year, following up with a question as to whether the city will be continue with budgeting as normal for 2021, with some capital budgets to be added through the year.

The CFO noted how COVID has been problematic as to determine where the city is at with its revenues, observing that the items discussed on the night had been approved previously.

8:30:00 -- 10:30 ) -- Report from Chief Financial Officer  seeking authorization to borrow for Heavy Equipment  -- Ms. Bomben provided a review of the purchases that have been ordered and received, the purpose of the report to seek approval for borrowing towards those purchases.

Council approved the authorization towards the borrowing of 850,000 dollars from the Municipal Finance Authority.

The Mayor noted that the garbage truck that had been purchased has recycling capabilities asking when the recycling program would begin in the city.

In reply, Ms. Bomben observed that they hope to have a program in place in 2021, but that some things still need to be arranged with Regional District.

10:30 -- 12:30 ) -- Report from the Manager of Economic Development and Transportation related to the Airport Bus Transportation service   -- Ms. Miller stepped in for Mr. Venditelli, noting that the current transportation operator will be leaving the community in December, with the City subsequently putting a Request for Bids for the service, receiving just one bid for the service.

The contract was awarded to PW Transit Canada.

Councillor Randhawa had one question to the theme, asking if the existing staff would be carried over to the new service provider. 

Ms. Miller observed that it was her understanding that PW Transit would be working with the current provider towards a transition, noting that she could not speak as to what their hiring plans might be.


( 12:30 -- 18:30Bylaws related to Increases to Fees for Civic Utilities  --  Mr. Brain asked for the un-tabling of the motion from two weeks ago prior to the discussion, a process that was in place following the last session after Councillor Cunningham had inquired about the potential use of the provincial Safe Restart monies for the utility fees. 

Ms. Bomben noted that the recently received Safe Restart Funding from the province does not fall into the scope of the Utilities Increases as they are not proposed as a result of COVID. 

She did observe that if a full shutdown is required in the future they could use the grant towards any loss that is experienced.

That money is expected to be used towards funding for the Airport and Recreation Centre.

Towards the Suite of Fees Council approved the provided schedule from the Finance Office towards the Water, Sewer and Storm and Solid waste programs.

Councillor Adey asked about the purpose of the required increases of the fees and how the city accounts for the cost of repairs as part of the self funding mechanism that the city uses on utilities.

Ms. Bomben reviewed how the funding allocations work at the moment and observed how there are contractual obligations with the union members that need to be considered as part of the increase.

Councillor Cunningham thanked Ms. Bomben for her work in exploring the options for the Safe Restart funding.

18:30 -- 20:00 )   Report from the Chief Financial Officer related to increases to Cemetery Fees and Charges Bylaw -- Ms. Bomben provided an update on the nature of the increases ahead for 2021 which will include a 2% increase, along with minor adjustments to the Care Fund for maintenance of memorials. She also outlined the other changes in mind towards the columbaria plans.

Council adopted the new Schedule of Fees for 2021.

The Mayor noted that it seems that the City is running out of space for columbaria, with Ms. Bomben observing that  the city has ordered some new ones as they are fully subscribed with the existing stock.

20:00 -- 38:00 )   Report from the Corporate Administrator on the City's proposed Downtown Core Revitalization Tax Exemption program bylaw  --  Ms. Miller outlined the process ahead towards adoption of the Bylaw which will allow for tax exemptions in the downtown core area, an initiative moved forward by Council towards revitalization of the downtown and to create new investment in both commercial and housing options for the downtown core. The program would allow for tax exemption on municipal taxes for a period of up to ten years 

The application period would be a three year intake with full exemptions for the first five years for both new construction and redevelopment, new construction would have ten year exemptions, redevelopment five.

Ms. Miller noted how the initiative was recommended by Larry Beasley as part of the Redesign project and is one way which City Council can revitalize the downtown core as part of that plan.

In comments each of the Council members spoke favourably of the program, with Mayor Brain leading the way speaking to its genesis as part of the redesign process and will create development now and not ten years from now. He also outlined how the initiative could not only create commercial space but residential space for up to 1,000 residents.

The Mayor called attention to some of the current activity underway in the downtown and how the measure would increase that activity.

Councillor Niesh noted his excitement and how the town has struggled for years and how the downtown continues to struggle, adding that this measure should put the community over the top towards investment. He also expressed optimism that should the program pass in the next meeting he looks forward to new development.

Councillor Adey noted how the program needed to be viewed through a few filters observing how Council needs to review whether it makes sense financially for the city, for the public and  for any developers.

As well whether it will help to achieve the goal of downtown redevelopment and how that can be achieved through other sources and if the city can find a way to open the taps to get it started that's a positive thing.

He also noted how it's aimed towards the downtown area and not residential areas, observing how he believes that makes sense as everyone could benefit in the city's ability to provide services from it.

He also outlined how he believes its the best shot at addressing the problems that have been identified in the past an is a good way at revitalizing the downtown.

Councillor Mirau observed as to how the program and redevelopment is an item that he has been passionate about even before joining council, adding that the city's worst days are behind us and how the downtown revitalization will be in the public's interest and how the program under consideration will be a proven and effective tool towards the objectives.

He also reflected back to the city council's work with Larry Beasley and his team  coming to town to build a huge consensus among a variety of stakeholders on a huge priority.

Mr. Mirau also noted how it was cash neutral and won't impact on the city budget  and essentially is foregoing taxes that wouldn't be there if the new building or renovations didn't take place.

He also offered up suggestions towards moving forward on the initiative, related to the laddering of the incremental increases, the concept of the midtown area from the 2030 vision which he recommended have a focus on condo and other residential development. Noting how the city's current downtown footprint is three times too large. 

The Councillor also suggested some clarification on the nature of the freezing of fees and how the proponents would qualify.

In follow up, the Mayor and Ms. Miller reviewed some of the elements that the Councillor had raised.

Mr. Mirau also flagged some issues that could pop up from the current make up is that some examples have been found of past renovations where it almost becomes a full scale rebuild, a point that the Mayor said was a good one and something that the planning team would explore.

Councillor Cunningham also had praise for Council's initiative and how it could finally help to fill in some of the holes that are found in the downtown area and how it could also provide for the incentive to finally see some action on cleaning up the existing commercial building stock in the area. 

He also called attention to a potential problem when it comes to increased housing stock for the downtown area, that of parking which he observed is already a problem in the core. He also suggested an incentive towards creation of parking places.

That was a topic that the Mayor said the team was looking at and would address in the New Year.

Councillor Niesh recounted some of the challenges of renovations to old buildings as opposed to new construction, adding that it's normally a case of more money to fix an old building than to build a new one.

Councillor Randhawa also was happy with the city's initiative and how it adds to the downtown area, calling attention to the recent RCMP detachment announcement and plans for more housing in the community.

Council then moved first and second reading, with the topic to return for the next meeting.

38:00 -- 53:30 )    Report from the Director of Operations related to rezoning for lots along 11th Avenue East  -- Ms. Miller provided the overview of the report from Richard Pucci, which outlined the process ahead towards potential rezoning the land in question in the area of 11th Avenue East and Edward Avenue towards development of an apartment building proposal. 

The Zoning change request filed on November 20th would see the land in question change from its current status of R2 to RM2  which is multi-family residential development.

She noted that it is rezoning application, not a development permit and that all concerns are typically dealt with through the development process, with a number of considerations still to be reviewed. 

Ms Miller added that staff understands of the delicate nature of this file and will reiterate any concerns to council for consideration, adding that they city is not looking to waive public consultation but will need to amend the process due to COVID 19 with an extension to the timeline in place towards the production of packages for pick up and drop off.

Towards that amendment, she outlined how the city will instruct the applicant to distribute an information package and modify the requirement for community information session and not to waive the requirement for a public hearing and that Council further considers the height variance as part of the zoning amendment.

Mayor Brain opened the discussion on the topic, noting how the required information session would likely be a virtual process owing to COVID, Ms. Miller further elaborated that the process ahead would include the information package or session, a second reading of the zoning request followed by a Public hearing after the second reading and then the third reading.

Mr. Brain then observed that more information is available on the city website related to how rezoning themes move forward, and that the session of Monday for the first point of contact on the project, adding that he was aware that the community was already aware of the project.

He then outlined how the packages would be delivered to homes within a radius of 100 metres, with the information packages available to the residents at City Hall. He also noted that there would be an Information Session which will likely be virtual at this time, with the opportunity for community residents to speak to the proponent on the proposal.

After Second reading, should Council move forward there would be a Public Hearing, which is when they collect letters and feedback whether in favour or opposed to the proposal. The Mayor observed that the city has already received letters related to the proposed development noting that right now is not really the time for that input into the process.

Any deliberation on the process would come following the Public Hearing. Mr. Brain noted that he anticipated that the current proposal would continue on into 2021.

Councillor Niesh outlined that one element they could consider is to expand the 100 metre radius to 200 metres, to ensure that they capture more of the people in the neighbourhood that would be affected by it.

The Mayor seconded the motion of expansion of the distribution area for the information packages, with Councillor Cunningham asking that the city ensure that all of Edwards Avenue received the information package noting that there has been quite a bit of interest from people on that street in the project. 

Ms. Miller also noted that if anyone in the area did not receive a package they could contact city hall and they would be provided one, the Mayor also observed that it would be available on line.

Councillor Mirau inquired as to the city's status on the land, asking if they would be retaining ownership of the land to be developed, with the land in question leased to the proponent. Mr. Brain confirmed that the city would remain the owners of the land, comparing the situation to the recent land arrangement for the Crows Nest  Lodge.

At the vote, the motion moved forward with no opposition from the council membership.

53:30 -- 58:34 Reports from Council

Mayor Brain opened up the final ten minutes of the session with a short Official Community Plan update, noting that the first reading of the new OCP was delayed at this time owing to COVID. 

He outlined how the city had  once had plans for a Public hearing at the Auditorium in the Civic Centre, but at this time that is not possible, so they will move the finalization for the OCP process forward in the New Year.

He then once again reviewed the City's plans for the Downtown Revitalization plans as discussed earlier in the evening.

Councillor Cunningham provided an update on some Northern Health news, noting how there was now a mammogram technician now in place at the Prince Rupert Hospital, noting how the community had been without such services for a year and a half.  

He also advised of plans still in development from Northern Health towards the provision of a bus service for residents of Prince Rupert for Ophthalmology appointments, with Northern Health looking to create a block of appointments for Prince Rupert residents for one day with a return to the city the same day.

Councillor Adey called attention to an issue of refuse issues in the city, noting of dumpsters outside some businesses that did not have their lids closed properly creating a mess.  

He asked if there were regulations to have dumpsters secured in the downtown area and asked who would clean up the mess.

Ms. Miller observed that there are regulations in place and asked for more information so she could contact with the business in question.

Councillor Niesh followed up on the theme speaking to another issue he had taken note of that of discarded of shopping carts accumulating in the downtown area, he asked if the city continues to have a policy towards collecting the carts and then charging the owners for their return, suggesting that it is a policy that they may wish to return to.

He suggested consideration of a bylaw to instruct businesses to put a charge in place for their customers to use, observing that may reduce the issue somehow. He highlighted how they were talking on the night about improving the downtown area for the future there are still a number of issues to address currently and how it could work against their goals of attracting new ventures to town.

Ms. Miller noted that Bylaw department was aware of the issue and taking action on it.

The Mayor followed up by noting that should Council adopt the new Downtown Revitalization program will come an opportunity to provide two letter to every business in town to highlight the new incentives in place, as well as to remind businesses that further enforcement of bylaws related to building maintenance and other issues will increase as the city looks to motivate existing owners.

Mr. Brain observed that it isn't 2005 anymore and that if the city hopes to get developers here it's time for everybody to pitch and move forward to 2021, which he stated would be a huge year for the community.

You can access our archive on the City Council Session herewhere 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 November 23, 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 December 7th, which marks the last Scheduled Public session for 2020.  

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

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