Wednesday, September 22, 2021

City Council Timeline: Monday, September 20, 2021

City Council went back to virtual sessions on Monday, that making
for the City's response to recent Health COVID orders from Northern Health

The members of Prince Rupert City Council returned to the days of Zoom this week, the Council membership making the shift from in person sessions to the virtual Council session following the recent guidelines on gatherings issued by Northern Health.

For their only public session of September, the Councillors and Mayor tackled an Agenda heavily weighted with housing and property development themes. 

A range of reports from the City's Finance office rounded out the evening's work.

Some background on the work of Council for the night can be reviewed from the Regular Agenda package for the September 20th Session available here.  

The Agenda for the Committee of the Whole Session can be explored here.  

Council also hosted a Closed meeting, marking the fourteenth such session which has been closed to the public in 2021.  

The details related to the reasons for the in camera session 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 council minutes added as they are posted to the city website. 

In attendance Monday, September 20, 2021

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present (By Zoom)
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, September 20, 2021


Committee of the Whole Session  

( 0:00 --2:15  ) Committee of the Whole Session for Monday, September 20, 2021 -- Mayor Lee Brain called the session to order, adopting past minutes and the Agenda for the session underway.

The only item of business was to receive comments from the public. 

Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller's audio feed while rather low for the Opening portion of the night, did convey a note of concern from a member of the public,  Mr. Larry Golden, who wrote to Council related to a range of housing issues.

Mayor Brain observed that Council would be addressing a number of housing themes during the Regular Council session.
 Council then adjourned to the Regular Session for the night.


Regular Council Session

( 2:15-- 3:30  ) 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,

( 2:16 - 25:00 ) Report from The Director of Operations on Local Area Service proposals    -- Mr. Richard Pucci provided Council members with the background to the proposal that would introduce a new local service tax process where property owners in city neighbourhoods could petition the residents to have specific work done, with all property owners in the area then to pay their share through a tax specific to their project location. 

As Mr. Pucci explained it, at least half of the property owners would have to approve the work that is being considered. The residents share would be added to their property tax rolls either by a single payment or by instalments. 

A number of Councillors expressed concerns on the proposal as designed, raising a few themes which Mr. Pucci could not expand on towards the proposal on the night. 

The City's Contract planner also joined in the discussion, offering the view that concept of a Local Service Policy is one that provides both residents and the city with options towards improvements in specific neighbourhoods.

For his part, the Mayor observed that the Local Service Policy proposal is an option that is in place in many communities around the province. Mr. Brain noting how much of the city's infrastructure had collapsed in the years previous, with the Mayor highlighting the many projects that the city has to spend money on and how this is an option to get smaller projects the opportunity to get funded quickly and acted on.

While many expressed support for the concept,  the membership tabled the discussion for the moment and then suggested that the Operations Director take the proposal back for further study and bring it back for review at a future Council session.

(  25:00 -- 26:30  ) Report from Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben with the July Financial Variance report  -- Ms. Corinne Bomben provided the overview of the July financial variances. Among her highlights was a reminder of the decrease in revenues particularly with the airport ferry, with provincial funding through Safe Restart available to help address costs related to the pandemic. The CFO observed that Capital projects continue forward, with the dam project anticipated to be completed by the end of the calendar year, while there are additional items of note related to the Landfill project. Costs on the landfill work are expected to remain close to budget when actually realized.

( 26:30--29:00   ) Report from Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben on the Lax Kw'alaams Holding Revitalization Tax Exemption Agreement  -- Ms. Bomben outlined the purpose of the Tax Exemption policies to spur on development in the downtown area and how the Lax Kw'alaams redevelopment of their downtown building fits into that Tax policy. The length of time for the Tax Agreement exemption with Lax Kw'alaams Holdings  would be five years. The Mayor noted that this is the first applicant to take advantage of the city's new policy.

Councillors Cunningham and Niesh shared their enthusiasm for the opportunities that the City's policy could generate in the downtown area.

The Mayor concluded the discussion by noting that he anticipates that they will see more of these developments coming forward in the months to come

Council then approved the Tax Exemption agreement under consideration

( 29:00 -- 34:00  ) Report from iPlan related to proposed Housing Actions -- Councillor Niesh excluded himself from the discussion, though no reason was provided for his departure. As for the discussion Rob Buchan from iPlan took Council through the range of Housing actions that would be implemented by the City covering a range of elements related to housing development in the community. 

Of the proposed actions, Mr. Buchan made note of the prospect of the city waiving the fees for all residential rezoning, development permit and building permits for a period of one year ending in October of 2022.

Council members expressed their support of many of the housing actions, though suggesting that some of the elements of one item, that of utility taxation issues, be reviewed with further study towards fairness for other city residents.

Councillor Mirau spoke to the overall list of housing actions and commended staff for their work noting that while housing is a provincial issue there is a role for city government to play on the topic.

Council then deferred  item five for further discussion and then moved forward with the remainder of the Housing actions. The Mayor noting how it's a very comprehensive list and action orientated. 

The Housing Actions report is available from the Council agenda for the night.

(  34:00 -- 36:30  Report from iPlan related to a Minor Sign Permit-- Council heard from the contract planner in relation to request from a local business owner towards a variance request for a sign for the property. Mr. Buchan also suggested that council consider the request as a larger item for inclusion in their policies. Council then carried the motion on the table.

(  36:30 -- 37:30 ) Report from iPlan related to Development Permit Process for a property on Overlook Street -- Mr. Niesh once again excused himself from the discussion. Mr. Buchan then outlined the scope of the development permit request for enhancements to a property.

Council moved forward with the process.

37:30 -- 38:00  ) Report from the Corporate Administrator related to a request for support from Jazz Production Association of BC -- City Council members approved the request for a letter of support for the local organization related to their plans for their annual event.


( 38:00-39:00  ) Report from Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben on the Permissive Property Tax Exemption Amendment Bylaw  -- Ms. Bomben outlined the nature of the bylaw, noting that no comment or concerns had been delivered by the public, with Council then providing fourth reading for the Bylaw which must be adopted by the end of October.

( 39:00 -- 59:00  ) Report from iPlan related to the Business Regulation and Licensing (Renoviction) Bylaw-- The City's contract planner Rob Buchan noted how the bylaw is one of the Housing actions recently adopted by the Council membership, explaining how the city's bylaw would work towards the ongoing issue of renovictions in the community. He also noted of recent changes to Provincial legislation, with the planner advising that the city's new bylaw would not replace that legislation but complement it.

As for discussion Councillor Niesh had questions related to some of the bylaw elements, particularly towards the scope of what buildings would be covered by the bylaw and what elements of the proposal pertain to them, with Mr. Buchan advising he would clarify some of the language towards the new bylaw.

Mr. Buchan did make note of some of the areas where the building owners  have some options towards addressing the provisions of the bylaw and how Council could tailor the bylaw to those areas of concern by the Council members.

Councillor Adey also had some questions related to the wording of the bylaw and how it may make for some confusion for building owners. He also noted as to how tight the housing and rental market is in the community, expressing a concern as to how building owners would provide for alternative housing in the interim of the renovations if none is available.

Mr. Buchan noted how the Provincial guidelines would probably take effect at that point, the Mayor observing that basically the city's bylaws would be seen as a secondary catchment policy for items that don't apply to the provincial level.

The Mayor also noted that the city's policy is more that of a protections type of thing

Councillor Cunningham made note of exemptions for single detached dwellings, noting that a lot of houses in town should not be rented. 

In reply, Mr. Buchan noted that the city had used a bylaw from New Westminster as its model and that the city's policy is designed to try to avoid the prospect of any legal challenges.

Councillor Mirau suggested that Council seek a report back from the planner to explore further whether they should exclude those single detached dwellings from their policy.

For his contribution to the discussion Councillor Randhawa asked if Prince Rupert was following other communities or creating new legislation on its own.

While the Council members raised a volume of questions to the policy elements, Councillor Adey offered his support of the legislation, adding that following first and second reading on the night, the opportunity to clear up some of the questions was available before final reading arrives. 

With that Mayor Brain called for the vote on first and second reading and then noted of the feedback provided by Council and what was needed from the planner for the next session.

(  59:00 -- 1:00:00   ) Report from iPlan related to the City of Prince Rupert Zoning Bylaw 3462 - 3478 -- Mr. Buchan outlined the nature of the Zoning request which would in effect legalize the current status of the fourplex on the property, which will require lot consolidation.

Council moved the process forward with a Public hearing to be scheduled for the request.

( 1:00:00 --  1:10:00   ) Report from iPlan related to the City of Prince Rupert Zoning Bylaw 3462 - 3475 -- The topic of the Lax Kw'alaams Proposed Housing development for 11th Avenue East was the topic of the report, with Mr Buchan releasing some answers towards many of the questions raised at the Public Hearing in August. 

His report and a second report from the Operations Director providing some guidance for those with an interest in the proposed development.

Many of the answers included in the documents have provided a response to some of the traffic questions that were raised at that hearing

The Two reports are available through the City's agenda package for the Monday session.

Mayor Brain spoke to the issue of information delivery for the reports, suggesting that the City ensure that those residents looking for the information find it easily, offering up a range of options towards achieving that information relay, including placement on the city's website.

Mr Buchan noted that in the notification process for adjacent property owners a link will be provided towards the information; as well he noted that the proponent plans to host a virtual open house prior to the next Public Hearing that will also feature the answers to the questions.

Councillor Cunningham asked questions related to the nature of the make up of the apartment complex and noted of some of the items from the public from the Public hearing that might have been missed in the reports.

Councillor Mirau also asked for clarification on some of the infrastructure work that the city would be doing and charging to the proponent.

As for the Public Hearing the Mayor noted that in keeping with the new approach towards Council gatherings in response to the orders from Northern Health, the next Hearing would be that of a virtual gathering online.

He added that for those that don't have access to a computer, the City has arranged with the Prince Rupert Library to have a station available at the Library on Sixth Avenue West for participation in the Public hearing which will take place on October 4th.

Council will then make their decision on the fate of the project following that second Public Hearing.

1:10:30 -- 1:04:00  ) Questions, Comments, Reports or Inquiries from Council 

Councillor Adey offered the suggestion that City Council invite members of the city's emergency services to the Council chamber to provide a public overview of their work and some of the situations that they are facing in the community.

Noting how there had been few opportunities to hear from the emergency services provided for in a long period of time, Mr. Adey observed that his primary focus for the moment is on that of the Police services in the community, and that he would like to see a presentation from the detachment for Council.

The councillor suggesting that if required the Council could meet with the members of the detachment in camera,  or in a more public opportunity at a Council session.

Mayor Brain noted of the current period of transition for the leadership of the detachment but noted that an opportunity to hear from someone from the RCMP is something that the city would explore.

Councillor Adey observed that he did not mean to exclude the other emergency service providers and suggested that a session with them could be arranged as well.

And with that the September 20th 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 September 20, 2021
(not available yet)

The next scheduled Regular Council session as part of their reduced summer schedule will take place on Monday, October 4th.

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