Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Council Timeline: Monday, March 22, 2021


Prince Rupert City Council's Monday session became an extended review of land use, with planning themes dominating much of the night's work, much of it focused on an area of the city, along Park Avenue that wasn't even on the Agenda.

With Mayor Lee Brain away for the night following the birth of his daughter, Councillor Wade Niesh took on the duties of Acting Mayor to steer the night through its near three night journey.

The night featured three presentations of note, the first from representatives from Ecotrust Canada who provided an overview towards their plans for an urban farm at a Second Avenue West location in the heart of the downtown core.

The City's CFO Corinne Bomben also spoke at the Monday session, providing for the second of the city's Budget Presentations this year, relaying her notes on community engagement to the process to date.

Operations Manager Richard Pucci also presented as part of the Monday session, outlining some background towards the quest for a grant towards a proposed organic wastewater project as part of the city's water program.

Council members also tackled a number of land use files provided by contract planners from iPlan, with the review of the city's proposed zoning bylaw changes and Official community plan making for a lengthy discussion over a potential change in zoning along the Park Avenue area, a conversation that resulted in some strong guidance from the City Manager as it moved along.

Some background on the work of Council for the night can be reviewed from the Regular Agenda package for the March 22nd session here.  

The Agenda for the Committee of the Whole session is available here.

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the council minutes added as they are posted to the city website. 

In attendance Monday, March 22, 2021

Mayor Lee Brain -- Absent (on Vacation/Birth of child)
Councillor Nick Adey -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Barry Cunningham -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa -- Present by Zoom

Video Archive for Monday, March 22, 2021


Committee of the Whole

( 0:00 -2:00 ) Acting Mayor Wade Niesh called the Committee of the Whole Session to order and outlined the process of contacting the city for members of the public to participate and to adopt the Agenda for the evening.

(  2:00 -- 29:00 ) Delegation from Ecotrust Canada presentation on plans for Urban Farm program for downtown Prince Rupert -- Alexie Stephens and Charles Gerein took the council members through their plans for development of an Urban Demonstration Farm, with funding provided by Northern Development Initiative Trust. They began their presentation by updating Council on some of their other tasks and initiatives in the region, with their work as part of the Northern Innovation Lab leading them towards their plans for Food Security and the creation of the Demonstration Farm. 

Towards the development of the project, Mr. Gerein observed as to the setup that the site would have, with a greenhouse, planters and other elements included on the two notes located at 225/227 Second Avenue West. 

The project will also be a partnership of sorts with the Metlakatla First Nation providing the use of their land in the downtown area for the project as well as some of their knowledge to the program, which will include a network of workshops for local residents to participate in. 

Mr. Gerein also outlined their plans towards composting and how they will share that process with the community in hopes that they will take up the process and share with the community. 

As they move forward the first year harvest from the urban farm will be distributed through a number of partner organizations that serve residents in need in Prince Rupert. Once the infrastructure has been established they also hope to develop a wider food distribution list to share the harvest with points inland and then bringing food from neighbouring communities to Prince Rupert.

Many of the councillors expressed their support for the project, with Councillor Cunningham launching the discussion speaking to their themes of composting and where they plan to set that element up, something which they advised was still to be determined. 

The Councillor also asked about the timeline for the project and who would be involved.  On the first question they noted  that it would be hopefully a five year project or more, with funding in place for the early stages and plans to continue to seek out funding to allow it to continue in the future.

Mr. Gerien noted he would be the lead in the effort, assisted by Ken Shaw and hopefully bringing students and more community members into the fold, as the program progresses.

Councillor Cunningham also called attention to the other community gardens around town and if there were plans to bring them in as part of the project; towards that the Ecotrust official observed that they have hopes of networking with those other interests such as the McKay garden group and the Prince Rupert Garden Club.

Councillor Skelton Morven hailed the project as well and shared some thoughts on how the effort may work towards alleviating food security issues in the community, while Councillor Randhawa hoped for much success for it.

Councillor Adey also expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative,  asking towards whether the growth of food would be seasonal and what kinds of foods they foresee as more suitable to our climate.

While observing that it will be seasonal in approach,  they noted that part of their mission is to show what can be done in your own space and how they hope to show that you can extend the growing season through the use of greenhouses and their growing tunnel planning. 

They also outlined how they hope to be quite diverse in the variety of produce that is harvested through the garden.

Councillor Mirau noted the excitement that he has for the work ahead and how food security is a major issue for the community, citing the findings of the Gitmaxmak'ay Nisga'a Society on the situation and how the partnership with Metlakatla through the use of their land in the downtown core will provide benefits to the community.

On that note, Mr. Niesh brought the presentation to a close

( 29:00 -- 29:30 ) Questions from the public for the Committee of the Whole -- Rosa Miller the Corporate Administrator observed that the city had not received any communication by way of email from the public related to the Committee of the Whole opportunity on the evening

With that they adjourned the Committee of the Whole and returned to the Regular Council Session.


Regular Council Session

( 29:30 -- 30:30 ) Regular City Council Session for Monday, March 22, 2021 -- Acting Mayor Wade Niesh, called the session to order, adopting past minutes and the Agenda for the session underway.

( 30:30 -- 40:00  ) Budget Presentation -- The City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben provided another look at the City's Financial Plan and Budget preparation. She noted that so far the comments process required for the Budget period has delivered no contributions from the public. 

Following the review of her snapshot of the budget planning, she reminded residents to submit their questions, or concerns by email or by phone to the City's Financial office. 

The next session to outline any feedback received will come up as part of the Regular Council session of April 12th, with any questions or comments received to be read out by the CFO at that time.

Councillor Niesh took note that there was no comment from the public for this first round of consultation and opened the discussion to the Council members, withe Councillor Mirau asking if any members of the public were participating in the budget simulation.

Ms. Bomben noted that there had been 48 views so far, but no one has submitted their version of a balanced budget yet. 

Following up on that observation, Councillor Adey reminded the public as to the importance of their input and while noting how COVID has provided for a number of challenges for the public, he asked that they take part in the ongoing budget consultation to provide the council membership with some guidance on what the public wants from the financial planning and to help deliver some more integrity to the Budget process.

42:00 -- 44:00 ) Report from Planning -- A verbal report providing a review of an application for a Temporary Use Permit for property out by Miller Bay -- Chris Buchan from IPlan Planning Ltd. provided the background to the proposal to store construction related debris until the city's landfill expansion is completed, with Mr. Buchan noting that notifications have been sent out to those within the area of the site.  He advised council of only one inquiry received by the city towards the proposal and whether any permits would be required by the provincial government, with Mr. Buchan indicating that the proponent had stated that none would be required. The iPlan representative also noted that Council may wish to clarify that any additional permits will be up to the applicant at their own expense, as well he observed that the land would be under new zoning once the new bylaws are adopted. 

Councillor Skelton-Morven inquired as to the nature of the debris that will be stored on the site as well as to their storage plan and how the material would be stored.

Council then received the report.

44:00 -- 45:30 )  Report from Planning -- A request for a development variance permit for a property on Eighth Avenue East for a Sundeck and entrance, with no feedback from the public on the issue, it was recommended to move forward to public notification.

( 45:30 -- 1:17:00 )  Report from Planning -- A variance request for a property on Parker Drive -- Following the explanation of the variance request to increase the building height, Mr. Buchan noted of some comment from the public in opposition to the proposal. Council members spent a significant amount of time discussing the proposed development and the variance request that had been asked for. 

In effect they split on terms of process, with Councillor Adey and Mirau making note of how Council should follow the procedures currently in place to seek out comment from the public and allow the resident to address those concerns.

For their part Councillors Cunningham and Skelton-Morven noted of the scope of the proposal and how previous residents had followed the guidelines, both made note of the opposition which had already been expressed by the residents of the area and that allowing for public notice on the situation in the opinion of Councillor Cunningham at least would seem futile.

Councillor Mirau spoke to the recommendation of the planners to go to public notification and asked how that process would move forward and if the council could forward all of the submissions that they have received to date.  Rob Buchan noted that would be allowed and how by going to public notification would provide for fairness to the proponent, but he did note how the opposition could impact on any decision.

Councillor Adey spoke to the need to follow process and how Council should follow through with how the process is designed and take it towards public notification and full comment so as not to seem unfair.

Councillor Skelton-Morven called on a previous discussion  at Council on a different variance request, noting for hm that it was a sense of deja vu, something that Councillor Niesh challenged as he found the two situations very different. 

Towards the current variance request, Mr. Niesh called attention towards some of the internal dimensions of the proposed house as an area for potential adjustment for the proponents, noting how they could achieve their goals with some changes to their build.

After a number of further opinions to the theme presented on fairness and the need to allow for the full process required for consideration, Council after half an hour of discussion towards the topic voted to send the current application for the variance to the public notification stage.

As for further guidance Councillor Niesh suggested that the city's contract planners advise the proponents as to the opposition that they face as they move ahead, to that topic Councillor Adey spoke of the need for Council to retain an open mind on the issue until the process is complete and how the council should support an impartial process.

On that note, Councillor Niesh observed  that anyone's mind was free to be changed until the day where they vote on it.

 ( 1:17:00 -- 1:22:30  )  Report from Planning -- A variance request for a property on 6th Avenue East  -- While Councillor Cunningham noted that the Council should just send it forward to public notification, Councillor Niesh called attention to some of the elements of the proposed variance and how owing to the design of the house and the area of the lot it is placed on it takes the proposed shed to the front of the property. Among his concerns was the nature of the design and its size and it will require a foundation to meet building code.

As part of their contribution to the discussion, the contract planners observed that it will require a building permit and a need to comply with the building code. Councillor Cunningham noted that considering the information provided by the planners the project may not be to code and the proponents will have to make changes as required.

To move the process ahead, Council voted to send the proposal to public notification.

1:22:30 -- 1:23:30 )  Report from Planning -- Temporary Use Permit for 225/227 Second Avenue West  -- Council having received a presentation earlier in the evening from Ecotrust Canada, passed the motion for a Temporary Use Permit for Temporary Urban Farm with associated structures towards the project. In their consideration the request passed with no comment from the Council membership, proceeding now to public notification for any community feedback.

1:23:30--2:25:00 ) Report from Planning --  Zoning Bylaw Amendment and consultation result -- City Council members received a presentation for iPlan Limited that outlined some of the feedback that was received as part of the recent consultation period. 

Chris Buchan from iPlan reviewed some of the summary of findings from the consultation and flagged a few areas of interest for the Councillors to take note of the 409 reviews of the zoning bylaw project page, with 87 of the 198 participants in the online survey providing comments on the document.

Mr Buchan also had two recommendation for amendments for two new zones, the first amendment one to allow for a renovation to the Raffles Hotel as a part of a to be created Special Care Residential Zone, which he noted was in the pre application phase.

The second recommendation was to allow for distilleries within the list of retail liquor sales exemptions and to allow for exemptions to whichever establishments that council wishes to allow for such sales; with the planner noting of a previous prohibition from 2016 on sales of spirits in the grocery stores in the city.

To approach the discussion, Councillor Adey suggested that they split the motion into three provisions on an individual basis as they are different in scope,  Councillor Mirau also spoke to the topic supporting the suggestion from Mr. Adey.

To the first element that of the Raffles Housing, Councillor Adey inquired as to the status of that development, Rob Buchan from iPlan noted that the amendment would help towards its progress, but at the moment a development permit has not as of yet been applied for.

That led to a follow up question from Councillor Mirau as to the nature of the zoning for the new transition house on Park Avenue and if it should follow under this new category, the planners observed that they were not certain of the zoning of the adjacent property and noted that if there is an issue it could be amended to make sure it is legal and addressed by proper zoning.

Councillor Cunningham inquired if Council should move forward until they hear back from the planners, he was advised that they should move forward as the Raffles project would fall under the new zoning designation, Councillor Randhawa sought some clarification on the topic of the zoning requirements.

Council then approved the Special Residential Zoning as explained.

The Second motion that of Distilleries for the most part focused on the desire of Council  to continue to not allow for the sales of spirits in local grocery stores; with Council continuing to speak to their original desire to support  local operators in the community and to allow for any Distilleries to follow that process.

Council the voted to allow for the Distilleries in the bylaw amendments. With both bylaws to move to public notification. 

On the review of the  feedback to the surveys on Zoning Bylaws and to proceed to Public Hearing for the amendments, Councillor Cunningham expressed his disappointment in the lack of participation in the online engagement process, noting that he does not know how much more the city can do to communicate to the community and seek participation.

Councillor Adey countered that theme by noting  that if you were to put 195 people in a room to discuss the topic you might call it a pretty good meeting. 

Following that discussion,  Councillor Niesh brought up the topic of Trailers and sought some clarification as to how they are viewed as part of the new regulations and that they were not considered as the same as the modular units that were used in the recent housing built along Park Avenue.

Councillor Adey returned to the presentation on Urban Agriculture and how that may be an area of interest to develop a more detailed bylaw towards to make clear what will be allowed and what won't be allowed in the city.

He also explored some of the findings on parking standards and asked if an active transpiration plan would fit into the changes that the city is exploring. Councillor Cunningham also called attention to the issues of parking in the downtown area.

Councillor Mirau noted of past engagement of the Vision 2030 plan, the Official CommunityPlan and that of the Zoning Bylaws and how he was heartened to see the level of broad based support for the Council initiatives presented that they have seen from the survey process and how that matches up with the response to Vision 2030.

He also called attention to the split on the topic of the Ridley Highway Industrial expansion plans, which took him by surprise as it received the most responses and indicates where the City may have some work to be done in getting their plans out to the public, with Mr. Adey noting that once plans are more formal towards that area for development there may be more discussion found.

Councillor Niesh offered some comments on the desire to move development into the downtown area and how how Park Avenue would see a shift in focus to residential, noting how there was one proposal in a process of still moving forward towards a commercial development in that area. 

With Council considering changing the zoning to that area, Mr. Niesh expressed how with the project of a travellers accommodation still a possibility he struggles with the idea of changing  the zoning and perhaps seeing a project that may not move forward and noted how such a development may address some of the urgent housing issues in the community.

Rob Buchan from iPlan reviewed some of the previous conversation on the topic and the desire of the council to make the shift of a commercial development focus to the downtown area and providing for more residential options along Park,  as well as the elements involved towards the proposed development for Park Avenue. 

The contract planner also made note of the process that council will have to use towards exploring the Park Avenue development proposal for a micro hotel further.

Mr. Niesh continued on with the conversation on the theme of housing options that are needed in the community and the nature of the changes to the Park area is one that he has an issue with, framed in the nature of the housing being considered.

Councillor Mirau asked for some clarification from the contract planners on the topic, who noted that if Council adopted the proposed bylaw changes then the micro hotel proposal would not be allowed to build there; though Mr. Buchan did note that if the proponents were to apply for a  building permit before the new bylaw was in place  they would be able to secure their ability to build and develop that land, though it could be brought back to Council for a decision whether or not to allow it to proceed.

Councillor Cunningham joined in on the discussion with some thoughts on the current state of housing availability in the community, and the need for more affordable accomodation.  

However as the conversation on the topic moved on towards the one hour mark, the Chair was admonished a couple of times by City Manager Robert Long, who noted that the direction of the conversation was one that was more suited to an in camera meeting, with Mr. Long highlighting how the ongoing discussion in public chamber could have legal ramifications on the corporation and have an impact on the proponent.

Mr. Niesh however was adamant to get his comments related to the development prospects along the Park Avenue area aired noting that they are a conversation for a later date, the discussion then coming to an end with the unanimous vote in favour of the Official Community Plan and Bylaw motion.

2:25:00  -- 2:35:00 )  Report from the Director of Operations  -- Richard Pucci, the City's Operations Manager outlined the background towards the request for Council to approve the city exploring grant funding opportunities towards an organically based wetland system to be used as part of the treatment process of the city's waste as part of the city's water infrastructure planning.

He also observed how in addition to the FCM grant, the city was looking at other options for funding for the 3 million dollar price point for the program.

Councillor Adey inquired about the city's 2.5 million dollar share of the cost of the proposed pilot project, asking what the city's position would be and if it's a cost efficient use of city money

Mr Pucci noted that the city has a surplus in the sewer fund at the moment and how other levels of government are interested in helping fund the program, he observed how this organic based wetland solution offered a significant saving from the more traditional style for wastewater treatment and is a favourable option for the community, as well as being innovative, green and sustainable.

Mr. Adey endorsed the concept and was followed by other Council members who also expressed enthusiasm for the proposed solution to the city's ongoing themes on waste.

Councillor Cunningham noting how the proposal was cutting edge, asked if any other community had adopted the solution the city was looking at. 

In reply Mr. Pucci noted that a number of northern and remote Canadian communities and is considered an accepted process, and the city is hoping to adapt it to coastal climates and conditions.

Councillor Skelton Morven also hailed the project, as well as the research of Mr. Pucci and noted some of the genesis for it came from a trip he and Dr. Robert Long took to an FCM convention when discussions began and how it will utilize the natural muskeg in Prince Rupert.

Councillor Mirau also noted how this grant application will be one which could save the community a potential of tens of millions of dollars and turns one of the city's largest liabilities into an asset. Comparing the wastewater proposal to how the city addressed issues at Watson Island, the Councillor observed of the ambitious scope of the proposal and how the community could be a model for others and while there may be some risk, that it is a project which will solve one of the city's most expensive projects which have been mandated by the Federal Government.

Council then voted to approve the motion to seek out the grant opportunity.

( 2:35:00 --  2:45:30 ) Questions, Comments, Reports or Inquiries from Council 

Councillor Adey led off the final portion of the night, paying tribute to the organization of the community wide vaccination program, making note of the strength of the volunteers to helped out and the officials and government help that came with it. He also hoped that in the weeks to come the clinic will show results that indicate a decline in the recent High numbers of COVID cases, though reminding residents of the need to continue with the COVID measures in place.

He also took a moment to congratulate the Mayor and his spouse on the birth of their child last week.

Councillor Randhawa also spoke to the community wide vaccination program praising the work of all involved and asked that the second dose of the vaccine soon be delivered to the front line workers in the community.

Councillor Cunningham likewise shared his congratulations to all involved, he noted of the atmosphere at the Civic Centre, he also relayed that it could be over 8,000 residents that were vaccinated during the course of the event. 

He also thanked the city and the staff for their assistance noting of the donation of the civic centre, with the city not accepting payment for the facility as their contribution to the vaccination event. 

He also observed as to how the Prince Rupert model may be used for other communities in the future.

On a different note, the Councillor asked the Corporate Administrator about the procedure that the City has in place for appearances at the Committee of the Whole, noting that he had heard from a group which had wanted to speak on a controversial project and had been turned down for an appearance on the night.

Ms. Miller relayed her findings related to the bylaw and noted that she has spoken with the Mayor and Dr. Long and that the group will be allowed to speak to Council at a future session, noting that the City needs to ensure that there is sufficient time for them to present their information.

Towards that, Councillor Cunningham asked that they be placed on the agenda for the next Regular Council meeting opportunity to appear as a delegation, rather than to have them wait for the next Committee of the Whole opportunity. 

In reply, Ms. Miller advised that she would make note of that and get back to the Councillor. 

Councillor Skelton Morven returned to the theme of the Vaccination program just ended and reminded the community of the concerns that COVID still presents to the community and how Prince Rupert is the epicentre for Northern BC. He also expressed his concerns that the media is not picking up on the need for more vigilance something he called super super important.

Councillor Mirau also addressed the recent COVID vaccination program, observing on the positive aspect of the clinic and how the results are well above what the threshold of herd immunity, though he did acknowledge how the community had been prioritized owing to the loss of loved ones and the impact that COVID has had on the health care professionals in the community and to the limitations of the health care system in the region.

He also outlined his work in the media this week to tell Prince Rupert's story a little better and reinforced the difference in the level of care available in the North compared to other parts of the province. To wrap up he paid tribute to the work of the volunteers and those who organized the clinic.

Mr. Niesh wrapped up the night with his own congratulations to the mayor on the birth of his child.

With no other comments or inquiries, the Council session came to a close

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 March 22, 2021
(not available yet)

The next City Council session will take place on Monday, April 12, 2021

1 comment:

  1. I thought that Wade Neish handled the issue very well when admonished by Bob Long for not continuing the zoning discussion in a closed meeting. As Wade said, of course zoning decisions affect peoples' rights - there's no way of getting around that - and should be discussed in the public meeting. There wasn't a particular application on the table, and as he said if there was they would deal with it at the time.