The last of the twice a month sessions of Council until fall took place this Monday evening. Council now moves to their summer schedule through to October
City Council members brought their work of June to a close on Monday night, hosting a near hour and forty minute session which included two presentations on the evening and featured an extensive review of housing themes for the community.
Despite a relaxation of the restrictions for the public when it comes to attending sessions again at the Council chamber, no residents of Prince Rupert took Council up on their offer of access on the night, the hot temperatures and late into the night sun of the heat wave perhaps offering them other options on the evening.
A presentation from the North Coast Ecology Centre, along with a number of agenda items focused on housing dominated much of the night, along with extensive discussions related to a proposed expansion on code of conduct themes and the plan to increase the fees at the city's recreation facilities.
The night ended with Questions and Comments from Councillors Adey and Cunningham
( 0:00 - 1:00) Committee of the Whole Session for Monday, June 28, 2021 -- Mayor Lee Brain called the session to order, adopting past minutes and the Agenda for the session underway,
( 1:00 -- 17:30) Presentation from Caitlin Birdsall of the North Coast Ecology Society-- Ms. Birdsall provided an overview for Council of the North Coast Ecology Society and their work in the community, expanding on the Society's plans towards development of an interpretive centre in the city, describing it as a part mini-aquarium, part nature house. The proposed location would be to based somewhere in the waterfront area and she observed that it would fit in well with in location that needs a new lease on life, noting of the opportunity to appeal to tourism as well as local centre for knowledge sharing.
The presentation included a review of some of the past events and workshops hosted by the Society to engage with the community on their plans.
This summer the Society wlll be using some space in the Northland Cruise Terminal for a pop up Ecology Centre, which will take place from July 21st to August 15th and will be open Five Days a week. Among the exhibits will be salt water tanks, a touch tank, static displays and other elements along with interpretive educators to provide information for those who drop in to explore the event.
They will also use the event as a way to gauge the interest in a more permanent facility and what local residents will be looking towards when it comes to that development.
In follow up comments Councillor Adey noted of the positive impressions he had from some of their past events and asked for a sense of what they would take from the upcoming pop up event to move forward on their plans for a larger centre.
In reply, Ms. Birdsall noted of the importance of working with local First Nations and educators in the region, access funding for their capital requirements then securing and finding a place on the waterfront, with one potential option being that of leasing space from the city at the Canfisco Warehouse at Rushbrook, though she noted that it is not the only location they are considering.
Councillor Cunningham offered his encouragement towards their efforts, while Councillor Randhawa spoke to the opportunities for tourism.
On that theme, some of the work that the Society has engaged with Tourism Prince Rupert on was relayed with a look at the scope of some of the guidance that they have offered.
Councillor Niesh offered his congratulations and encouragement towards their efforts.
Councillor Cunningham also inquired about any future plans to revive the Whale Festival, Ms. Birdsall provided a snapshot of some of the challenges of timing and the recent year of COVID, with a potential return in years to come.
At the moment they are coordinating volunteer opportunities for the Pop Up event with details available through their social media options.
Mayor Brain thanked them for their community involvement calling on his past experience with forming a community organization for some of his commentary, the Mayor also noted of the city's willingness to lend a hand in support towards the final endeavour of the permanent facility.
( 17:30 -- 18:00) Presentation from the Corporate Administrator on the 2020 Annual Public Report-- Ms. Rosa Miller observed that there had been no comments or questions related to the report and noted that there were no members of the public in attendance at the council session, she assumed that there were no members of the public wishing to speak to Council on the topic.
( 18:00 - 19:00) Regular City Council Session for Monday, June 28, 2021 -- Mayor Lee Brain called the session to order, adopting past minutes and the Agenda for the session underway, there would be two additions to the night's agenda.
( 19:00 -- 27:00 ) Delegation representing the proposed development of a Hotel/Traveller's Accommodation on Park Avenue -- Proponents for a Traveller's Accommodation provided Council with an update on their hopes to develop the property located along Park Avenue, with Daniel MacGregor participating by phone to accompany a slide show presentation for Council.
The update noted of the need for a rezoning and return to Commercial status for the land which is now listed under residential provisions of a new Official Community plan, the presentation focused on the local investors and the partners from outside of the city who have made for a significant amount of background work on the land in question and a review of some of the challenges that they have found with the property in question requiring some changes towards their planning.
The structure related to their application would feature three floors of modular construction, along with 60 units and parking for 66 vehicles, the clientele would be a range of customers from backpackers to temporary workers in town for the range of port projects underway.
Mr. MacGregor observed that he believes the development is the most appropriate use of the land in question, noting of similar C3 Zoning properties nearby and observing of some of the drawbacks towards developing family housing along the busy Park Avenue corridor.
He also provided a look at the expansive amount of support that they have received from both local organizations nearby and residents in the adjacent neighbourhood to the proposed development, observing that the proponents were quite humbled by the support that they received from those in the immediate area.
The council members offered up no questions to Mr. MacGregor, with Mayor Brain noting that the zoning request would be up for consideration later on in the evening by the Council membership.
( 27:00 -- 28:00 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator related to the City of Prince Rupert Annual Report for 2020 -- Ms. Miller once again noted that there had been no feedback from the public on the report she asked for approval of Council of the Report. Mayor Brain took the opportunity to provide a short overview of what the report provides for the public.
( 28:00 -- 31:00 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator on the variance request for a property on Third Avenue West -- With no members of the city's contract planners iPlan participating in the night's session, Ms. Miller spoke to the topic noting of the request for a change of the siding on the property known as Crane's Crossing which will host transitional housing in the city.
Councillor Niesh noted of his experience in construction and offered his endorsement of their plans to switch to the suggested siding.
Councillor Mirau asked for clarification as to why Council had to review a proposal that was consistent with the guidelines and with a previous variance having already been granted, Mr. Mirau noting how he was seeking a way to reduce the amount of time required for the process.
Ms. Miller could not answer the main theme of the Councillor's question offering to make inquiries towards it further, she did observe that it came back in the spirit of transparency with the switch to metal cladding needed to be introduced.
Mayor Brain observed that he is looking forward to seeing the development moving ahead.
( 31:00 -- 33:00 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator on a proposed housing development for Drake Place -- Once again, with no members of the city's contract planners iPlan participating in the night's session, Ms. Miller spoke to the topic, noting of the scope of the proposed development of townhomes for the Drake Crescent area.
The applicant has proposed to construct 11 new buildings which will provide for up 42 dwelling units in a lot along Prince Rupert Boulevard, the application complies with guidelines and comes with a set back variance request.
Councillor Mirau was curious as to the nature of the setback requirements, as well as to note of a commitment by the proponent to retain trees on the Prince Rupert Boulevard side.
Mayor Brain offered his enthusiasm for the proposed housing which will add to the housing stock in the community, noting that it was somewhat of a housing theme on the night.
( 33:00 -- 45:00 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator outlining the findings of the Recent Housing Workshop and Housing Action items -- Mayor Brain provided the overview of a report compiled by iPlan's Chris Buchan which included a list of Housing Actions that the City Councillors have accepted for further progress.
Councillor Cunningham noted of the positive nature of the report and urged council to take quick action towards the Renoviction elements of their Housing actions, observing of the current increase in such activity in the community, calling for a bylaw from the City to prohibit renovictions.
Mayor Brain noted that a Supreme Court decision is still awaited on a similar law from the Lower Mainland, noting how the city's contract planner would be moving on the concept of Prince Rupert version real quick.
He also spoke to some of the policy elements of the Housing actions that could be moved forward.
Councillor Mirau concurred with the renoviction themes and added his own interpretation of how the court has approached the bylaw issue and what actions are included in the New Westminster option and how the city could learn from their work on the issue.
Mayor Brain observed that their list of housing actions make for fifteen big moves for the community to add towards housing stock, adding that at the moment there are between 200 to 400 housing unit proposals scheduled to move forward in Prince Rupert.
He also spoke of the challenges of developing housing noting of the need for developable land with muskeg among the issues of concern, he noted how increasing for the development of flat land for housing would assist for the pace of development, which would be accelerated and would serve as an incentive for that forward momentum.
He spoke to some of the city owned land in the community and outlined how the city could reduce some of the red tape for those looking to build housing in the community and how the need for housing is key to the city's vision planning.
Councillor Cunningham also noted of the opportunity for secondary suites and some of the changes the city has in mind through their action list to spur on development, as well as the need for the city to lobby the senior levels of government to help move that option forward.
Councillor Niesh joined the discussion sharing his observations on the need to encourage the development of secondary suites and how it could help address some of the city's housing concerns.
Towards moving the Housing Action plans forward council will be awaiting further word from city staff as to the progress of the list of actions that the Council has endorsed.
( 45:00 --58:00 ) Resolution from last Council Session towards Code of Conduct revisions - Councillor Mirau spoke to his call from the last session to review the city's current approach to a Council Code of Conduct and explore some of the mechanisms in place in other communities. He observed how a Code of Conduct is an important stage and would provide for more than the bare minimum of expectations.
Mr. Mirau outlined how it could be proactive and involve such elements as lobbying, interactions with developers, contractors, tenders, proponents and consultants, as well as to protect confidentiality, avoiding conflict of interest and improper use of influence, the kind of things he noted that could get elected officials into trouble if not they're not paying attention.
He also made note of the possibilities for complaint processes, compliance and enforcement as well as how some municipalities have addressed issues of social media and how statements in social media could be troublesome.
He suggested that council could ask the City Manager to come back to the members with a number of different options that may be available to them. Obseving that he did have a lengthy conversation with him about his proposal.
The Councillor then recounted some of the history of Council Codes of Conduct as well as the work of the UBCM on the topic, he suggested that he would like to see it move forward now with the prospect of more development coming to the community and that council should look beyond they own term of council but look forward towards the next council members to come.
Council Nick Adey offered his support towards the initiative noting that the principle of it is important and how the pace of change is accelerating in the community.
Councillor Cunningham also supported the issue, but expressed his concerns over any potential load on the City Manager, who he observed is now doing dual jobs, adding that he believes that the timing is a bit off, asking for some more time towards the proposal not wishing to add on to the load of senior staff. He further observed that right now he doesn't think the city has a problem this time and didn't want to put any time constraints on the office of the City Manager to come up with a report right now.
Councillor Mirau countered that commentary noting that he had not placed any timeline on the provision of any report, adding that he had spoken to the City Manager in advance and did not want to be over burdening anyone and noted that in his opinion if the city isn't going to work on a Code of Conduct now, when would they work on one.
He observed that he doesn't think that Council is asking a lot for a report on best practices that have been done elsewhere, adding that the City Manager had not expressed any concerns to him on the topic.
Mayor Brain concurred with Councillor Mirau, noting of his experience over the last seven years and some of the conversations he has had in the past with other community leaders, noting of the Wild West situation in other municipalities.
To that theme he observed how he views Prince Rupert as fortunate not to have that dysfunction as all the members in Prince Rupert operate as a team and don't have the same kind of divisions as those found in other communities, adding he doesn't think that those communities are served well by those situations.
He called on some of the Council's recent achievements such as Redesign and how those elements will serve to set a standard and provide clarity and an expectation for the councils that will be elected in the future.
Council then voted to move forward on Councillor Mirau's motion.
( 58:00 -- 58:30 ) Letter of support recommendation for the North Coast Immigrant and Multicultural Society -- The society is seeking a letter of support towards their quest for funding, council approved the motion.
( 58:30 -- 1:09:30 ) Report for an amendment to the Official community plan for a property on Park Avenue -- Council members reviewed the nature of the amendment which includes a covenant to ensure that the land use is only specific to the Travellers Accommodation. Councillor Randhawa excused himself from the discussion noting that he lives in proximity to the proposed development.
Councillor Adey was the first to speak to the topic, noting of the presentation at the start of the evening from the proponents and some of the previous times that it has been brought before council. He noted how he had been struck by the number of letters of support that the project gained, but also called attention to some of the concerns related to the development. Among his top item of note, those concerns expressed by the Prince Rupert Fire Department, whit the Councillor asking where Council members would find details as to how those concerns have been addressed.
With no members of the city's contract planners in attendance at the session, Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller offered up a response, observing how this was only a first and second reading and that details could still be provided before the process moved forward, she also noting how she would contact the Deputy Fire Chief for further background.
Mayor Brain also added some notes on how the process could evolve and observed how this is the first project that has taken place as a rezoning issue under the new provisions of the Official Community Plan making note of the volume of community engagement that the proponents had engaged in prior to this first appearance.
The Mayor also outlined that there will be more opportunity for commentary as part of the Public hearing that will come in the future as part of the proposed development. Ms. Miller did note for the record that one letter of opposition had been received by the city towards the developments.
She also provided some further clarification on the covenant that would specify the nature of the development.
Councillor Mirau echoed the Mayors comments and noted how he was impressed with the applicant's work on the community engagement aspect of the file, suggesting that future developers could use it as a guide towards how to proceed.
He also spoke to the city's change in zoning, suggesting that the reversal from residential to commercial is not as against their commitment to shifting commercial development to the downtown core, adding how he feels the covenant serves to limit any other development other than the travellers accommodation proposal.
He also expressed his interest in the feedback that the public will provide at the Public Hearing.
Councillor Niesh also noted of the change in zoning that came from the new Official Community Plan and suggested it was all unfortunate timing for these proponents and with an amendment now something he considered the right move. He followed up with some thoughts on how the accommodation would help to address some of the temporary housing issues in the community.
Council then moved the process forward and will set a Public Hearing in the future for the development application.
( 1:09:30 -- 1:34:00 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator on amendments to the City's Recreation Fees bylaws -- Ms. Miller outlined the nature of the proposed revisions to the city's fees and charges for recreation services in the community, which includes general family admission rate increases of 5%, the addition of a damage deposit requirement and fees to be charged for filed maintenance
Much of the discussion revisiteded the topic from four years ago when the Rates and Fees were last increased, with many of the Council members returning to the same themes of that time, noting of the need to increase the fees in order to address ongoing maintenance issues at the city's aging facilities, while also making note of the assistance that is available for residents who may need assistance to participate in the recreation activities that are offered in the community.
Most of the memberships notes related to how previous councils had chosen not to address those facility concerns with increases at the time and how the latest recommended increases would serve to continue on with ongoing maintenance.
Of those who spoke to the topic, Councillors Niesh and Cunningham led off the discussion noting how they were in favour of the rate increases, only Councillor Randhawa spoke out against the proposed rate increases, noting that many in the community were still facing financial challenges owing to COVID or were living on fixed incomes.
Mayor Brain admitted that it was a tough decision but that without the rate increases the city would be looking at tax increases and asked Ms. Miller to provide some further background on the financial assistance program that is available, she observed that anyone looking to access it should contact the Civic Centre for details on how the program works, the Mayor noting that the initiative is a discreet one.
Mr Brain noted of the city subsidization of two million dollars for the facility and the fee increase is needed to help with the ongoing maintenance, he observed how he hates raising the cost of anything and how the City has done its part to keep fees low and that a balance needs to be struck towards the facility.
Of concern for Mr. Cunningham was that the fees may impact on drop in activities, noting that in the past the city once had a recreation director who ensured that any child that was at the civic centre did not fall through the cracks towards participation with the drop in programs.
Ms. Miller provided a snapshot of some of the programs that the city has in place at the Civic Centre that provide services for youth as well as to update on the plans for more after school programs come September.
Councillor Niesh spoke of the many improvements that the current council has put in place at the Civic Centre while keeping taxes down in the community, noting that costs continue to rise and someone has to pay for them, expressing his opinion that the city can't keep pushing the need for ongoing maintenance off to the future.
The discussion did not sway Mr. Randhawa who remained opposed to the fee increase expressing a concern that higher fees would mean less participation at the Civic Centre facilities.
Councillor Adey joined the discussion noting that the Civic Centre keeps records on the usage of the facility and that they would alert the Council as to any decline in use, he outlined that the middle ground would be to keep an eye on those numbers and address any concerns as they move through the five year period.
Mayor Brain also observed how some of the Council members were on the Recreation Committee and would have seen the data that indicates that facility usage has not declined other than in the recent COVID periods.
Councillor Mirau observed that the fee increases goes beyond inflation and is designed towards improvement of services and investments into the facilities.
Councillor Cunningham provided the final rebuttal towards Mr. Randhawa's concerns stating that along as there are programs available to assist children in accessing services he has no problem with any fee increases. He further noted how when the taxi company requires a fee increase to address their requirements, they raise the fees.
Council then voted to approve the motion, with Councillor Randhawa the only member to vote against the increases.
( 1:34:00 -- 1:38:00 ) Questions, Comments, Reports or Inquiries from Council
Councillor Adey took advantage of the opportunity to note of a recent media story that stated that there may have been mistakes around the ownership of waterfront property and how some of the land currently owned by CN Rail may actually be owned by the City. He asked for an update on what staff has determined so far on the situation.
In reply, Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller advised that once they were made aware of that potential mistake that staff began to look into the issue and they continue to investigate the details towards it.
Councillor Cunningham offered up praise to a local hotel owner who has taken on work to make her properties look more welcoming, posting to the work at the Moby Dick and other properties owned by Theresa Lee as a good example for the community.
And with that the June 28th session came to an end.
You can access our Council Session Archive page,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 June 28, 2021
(not available yet)
With the end of June, City Council enters into its summer session mode, with only one Council session scheduled through July, August and September.
The next City Council session will take place on Monday, July 26th.
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