Wednesday, January 27, 2021

City Council Timeline: Monday, January 25, 2021

Prince Rupert City Council once again met by Remote
methods with Mayor Brain and some staff members at City Hall
and Council members calling in from other locations

Prince Rupert City Council members returned to their duties for the second Public Council session for 2021, though with COVID measures still in place, other than Mayor Brain who was in the Mayors Chair at City Hall along with some senior staff members, the remaining  council membership participated by phone from remote locations outside of the Third Avenue chamber. 

For the most part it was an evening spent reviewing reports from the contract planners hired by the City towards development of the new Official Community Plan, included as part of the string of reports was a review of some recommendations on the often heard concerns over parking in the city. 

A late addition for the Agenda which was not included in the public review documents of earlier in the day, saw Council consider an application for grant funding for a remediation project along Hays Creek east of McBride.

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

Council also hosted a Closed Session earlier in the evening, the second closed door session of the year, the details as to why they required the doors to be closed for the 5 PM meeting 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 Monday, January 25, 2021

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, January 25, 2021


Regular Council Session

( 0:00 -- 1:30  )   Regular City Council Session for Monday, January 25, 2021  -- Mayor Brain called the Regular Council Session to order, with Council adopting minutes of previous meetings and the agenda and revisions for the night. Among the changes the withdrawal of a variance request on the night and the addition of a proposal for application for grant funding. 

1:30 -- 4:00  ) Report from the Corporate Administrator related to a proposal to apply for grant funding for restoration of the Hays Creek collector stream area  -- Ms. Rosa Miller provided the background towards the grant  towards restoration of the Hays Creek area east of the Civic Centre. As Ms. Miller explained it the grant funding  of just over 1.5 million would come from ISIP COVID related program funding, which will cover 100 percent for approved projects. 

In her review, she added that there would be no initial cost contribution would be required by the City. 

Councillor Adey who expressed his support for the project,  had one question related to the work ahead, seeking some information as to the scope of the initiative.  Ms. Miller observed she would have to seek out that information and get back to the Councillor.

Council voted to move forward with the grant proposal plans.


4:00 -- 5:30  ) -- Report from the Corporate Administrator -- Re: Downtown Core Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw -- Council provided Fourth and Final Reading towards the implementation of the Tax Exemption Bylaw. The path forward charted after some revisions from the last council session and a bit more discussion at the Monday evening session. 

In comments following the introduction, Councillor Mirau offered up his praise to staff for their work on the initiative. For his part Councillor Niesh observed how it was a big moment for Council and how he looked forward to lots of developers and local owners taking advantage of the opportunity for the next three years to revitalize the city's downtown area. 

Mayor Brain followed up on those notes with an advisory that once passed, two letters would be delivered to business owners around the city, the first to outline the scope of the program the second to reinforce plans by the City to begin to enforce measures related to unsightly properties in town.

 7:00 -- 31:00 ) -- Report from the iPlan Limited -- Re: Parking standards and analysis and proposed amendments to the Draft OCP and Draft Zoning bylaw --Council reviewed a report from Chris Buchan from Iplan that explored some recommendations towards parking themes, and other elements flagged for changes at a previous meeting.

Participating in the overview of the report, was iPlans' Rob Buchan, who took Council members through some of the changes to the text that were made.  Thos changes included revision of the language related to proposed bypass routes, airport access, landfill and the McBride Entry Gateway. 

The revisions also addressed secondary suites towards helping with the housing situation in the community. 

Towards the parking themes, Mr. Buchan explored some of the findings from the report and how the review was designed to make sure that Prince Rupert's standards were not out of line with other communities in Northern BC.

New to the downtown parking theme will be standards in place for bicycle and electric vehicle parking, all of which will be compatible with the new OCP.

Among the council members who spoke to the topic was Councillor Nick Adey, who had questions on zoning related to RM2  height requirements and changes to a new height of 13 metres, asking for clarification on the reason behind the change.

Mr. Buchan noted that the intent was to enable for density to be realized without any variances, considering thirteen metres as a reasonable height. 

Following up on that, Councillor Adey observed how most of the current RM2 zones are apartment buildings that exist already, asking if the current owners could make their buildings higher without having to go to a public process.

Mr. Buchan noted that would depend on the specific situation, though it could be dealt with much like a building permit. 

Mr. Adey also observed that it is a fairly significant change in the height and depending on where the building is located could create some opinion in whatever area of town the building is in, adding that he's not sure the city should want to remove the ability for the public to have input, and how if some of the changes did not come before council would provoke quite a public reaction.

Towards those themes, the contract planner outlined how there would be an attempt to summarize any significant changes, making specific note of any change to height which would also allow for public to have ability in general to speak to the zoning bylaw.

Mr. Buchan also highlighted that with the guidelines the public will have the ability to  review those elements and comment at this point at a Public Hearing prior to the adoption of the new OCP bylaws, he also noted of the height framework currently in place for the downtown area and any application in that area will need to comply with the new Official Community Plan.

Council then noted that they will proceed to Public Hearing at some point in the future following the guidelines and recommendations set out by Provincial Health Orders.

For a final question, Adey spoke to the public consultation plans, noting how he has always advocated for a real and robust opportunity for residents to speak up and if they want that consultation could produce changes to the bylaw before approval.

He asked how if there were any kind of push back from the public on the proposed changes what would be the process between third and fourth reading to respond to those concerns from the city's residents.

Mr. Buchan outlined how if that push back is heard Council has the ability to make changes at third reading and  explored what the parameters would be to determine if a second public hearing would be required following that feedback from the public.

Councillor Cunningham also spoke to the topic of the height changes asking if there would be any impact on density, the planner noted there would be no change in the way of density from the recommendations.

Councillor Mirau commended city staff and iPlan for their work on the file and how it addresses an issue raised by the small business community, adding he's looking forward to the public hearing to get feedback.

Councillor Adey echoed those thoughts and observed of the forward looking concepts and how he hopes the public will appreciate the scope of the plan at the public hearing stage.

Towards that public hearing, he asked if the city has determined what that process will look like moving forward.

Mr. Buchan hailed the work previous on consultation to this point, but noted there could still be some engagement required for some elements prior to any public hearing being scheduled.

Mayor Brain spoke to the topic as well, adding that the city will have to see how things play out in February under the COVID regulations, noting that council had previously hoped to hold a public session at the Civic Centre.

He reviewed some of the past work in getting the city's message out and concurred that there probably is a need for more information and explanation required for the public related  to the zoning bylaw.

He offered up the view that he prefers an in person opportunity as opposed to a Zoom like engagement and how Council would want to wait to see how things evolve towards hosting a public hearing.

With the conversation complete, Council moved forward with the recommendation for amendments and moved the process to proceed to Public Hearing following guidelines and recommendations set out by Provincial Health Orders.

( 31:00 -- 43:00 )  Report from the Corporate Administrator -- Re: Proposed Development Approval Information Bylaw -- Council heard from Mr. Buchan on the proposed changes, with the contract planner  explaining that it will provide the ability for Council to ask developers for supporting reports on their development plans. The municipal  document would comply with provincial legislation, though he did observe that just because you have the bylaw does not mean that you would use it unless there was a good reason to request additional information.

Towards questions, Councillor Mirau asked for a comment related to what the threshold may be to seek out expanded information.

In reply, Mr. Buchan observed that typically what would happen is that a request for more information would be triggered if a significant  issue like additional traffic, capacity, natural environment and such or if public concern may have been raised.

Mr. Mirau also asked for clarity on what recourse the city would have if it didn't believe the report provided met its requirements or concerns.

On that note, Mr. Buchan observed how the city would need good reason to dismiss a report provided by the developer before taking any further actions through a third party, adding that the best course is to find a mutually agreeable path towards resolving those issues.

Councillor Mirau wrapped up his thoughts with praise for the work of iPlan on the document.

Council then voted to give First, Second and Third readings to the bylaw.

(  43:00 -- 48:00  )  Report from the Corporate Administrator -- Re: Updated Development Procedures Bylaw --  Mr. Buchan continued on with his presentations on the evening noting that the Development bylaw revisions were designed to replace the existing document to make development processing more expeditious, more efficient and to improve timelines. He also outlined how some of the intent is to enable referrals to go earlier and public consultation to occur more quickly.

He made note of one additional area of the document which provides for enhanced visual aids towards the bylaw processionals for more information, as well as the delegation of development guidelines to provide for faster service and to move projects forward for approval in a more timely fashion.

Mayor Brain spoke to the changes and how the applications can right off the bat go to public consultation, with the Mayor recounting some previous applications where the public had not had access to the required information, leading to the public hearing about them before the Council has even introduced them.

Mr. Adey praised the use of the flow charts and how they help to explain the intent of the documentations. 

On questions of property variance themes he asked for clarification as to how Council would approach  the process, particularly towards notification for the public.

Mr. Buchan observed how the variance issues would be a council process handled through a committee of the Whole or to Council, while other elements would be more efficiently handled at the staff level. 

Council then adopted the motion.

To close the discussion, Mayor Brain provided his thanks to Mr. Buchan and his son for their work on the heavy lifting of the OCP themes and in helping the community to move forward.

 48:00 -- 52:00 Reports from Council 

Councillor Randhawa inquired on if there had been any progress made on resolving the suspension of air service to Prince Rupert, or to attract another air provider to the community.

In reply, the Mayor noted outlined the steps being taken by the Airport Manager and made note of a survey project that the Chamber of Commerce has created towards seeking some feedback from the public on the use of the airport.

He noted that once the City has something to share they will update the community. 

Councillor Adey recounted some of the good news and bad news that has come to the community, noting of the air service suspension and the uptick in COVID, though adding that the province has made a sizeable contribution towards Port development.

On that observation, he spoke to ongoing concerns over housing in Prince Rupert and noted that all levels of government need to be aware that an expansion of the port requires action on housing in the community.

Mr. Brain made use of that comment to share his thoughts on the progress that Council has made on the night with the review of reports and bylaw work, adding how Housing and child care are two key priorities for council and how he anticipates good traction for those issues this year, with a belief that the city will realized some work done on the housing concerns.

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 January 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.

The next City Council session will take place on Monday, February 8th.

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

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