Prince Rupert City Council members put their first month of public work for 2023 behind them with the close of Monday's Public Council session, the night one that offered up a full plate of many themes for consideration.
From a twenty minute Public Hearing on potential parking changes for specific areas of the downtown core, to an extensive conversation of near fifty minutes on Renovations and Housing that dominated the Committee of the Whole portion of Monday's work, there was a lot of conversation, though not a lot of final determinations on anything.
Such was the amount of time put in previous, when Council members made it to the Regular Council session, they proceeded with a burst of energy to bring the night to an end with just a final thirty minutes of review and discussion.
The Regular session, was one which introduced some new elements towards brevity of the proceedings, while also providing for a new opportunity for public comment, though one not taken advantage of for its debut night.
Some background on the work of Council for the night can be reviewed from the Regular Council Session Agenda here.
While the Committee of the Whole Agenda is available for review here.
Council also hosted a Closed Meeting making for the second of the in camera sessions for 2023.
Further information from our overview and placement in the video archives can be found below; with the permanent record of the Council minutes added as they are posted to the city website.
In attendance: Monday, January 23, 2023
Mayor Herb Pond -- Present
Councillor Nick Adey -- Present
Councillor Barry Cunningham -- Present
Councillor Teri Forster -- Present (Participated remotely)
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa -- Present
Video Archive for Monday, January 23, 2023
For a review of the Public Hearing of 6 PM on Proposed parking changes in the downtown area, see our item here.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE OF CITY COUNCIL
( 1:00: --1:02 ) Adoption of Agenda and Past minutes -- The Mayor asked for the Agenda for the night to be adopted.
Recess to Committee to of the Whole -- Council members then shifted t to the Agenda for the Committee of the Whole
( 1:02 -- 51:00: ) Petitions and Delegations
Housing Advocates Paul Lagace and Arnold Nagy from the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre along with a Delegation of residents from the Harbourview Apartments all spoke to the issue of Renovictions in the community.
Mr. Lagace and Mr. Nagy using some of their time to outline the scope of the Renoviction situation in the community as we near the end of January, observing how over the course of the last two months they have received notice of forty evictions, most of which are related to renovations of units in Prince Rupert, something Mr. Lagace stated was an exceptional number.
He noted how he wasn't against landlords and developments, however, he did observe as to how some landlords are more reasonable than others.
Mr. Nagy provided the introductions for their delegation from the Apartments and noted that the discussion was taking place on the unceeded territories of the nine allied tribes of Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla.
Their guests shared some personal observations as to how the renoviction from their homes in the Harbourview complex would deliver additional hardships towards them as they seek out rental accommodation in the city with few units currently available for rent.
Mr. Nagy picked up on the theme of rising rents noting how Council would be seeing this situation coming back often with Seniors on Fixed incomes and those on Single incomes trying to find affordable housing in the town. With some facing the option of being homeless, something that he stated was an issue for the community that was unconscionable.
He added that if he didn't own his own house, he wouldn't be able to pay the market rent that is currently demanded on the community.
The second member of the delegation provided background to the current state of the Harbourview Apartments and how those in the building being asked to leave have nowhere to go, asking Council members if they are here to protect the community, or just to protect outside investors.
Mr. Lagace did provide some notes of the scope of the staged renovations that will eventually impact on seventy families in the various blocks of the Apartments that overlook the Seal Cove area of the city.
He also observed that the ownership and management of the complex was doing more than is required, but used the forum to share commentary on how those measures won't provide enough for the tenants to find adequate accommodation.
He then turned the discussion towards some of the flaws he sees in the City's own Renoviction guidelines from their bylaws, outlining the areas of note from those guidelines that he observed offers up the belief that renters have protections, that they don't have in his opinion.
Offering up a recommendation that Council repeal that area of concern when it comes to their Bylaws as it's not effective towards the issue.
He also suggested the City follow the lead of New Westminster, from which Prince Rupert muddled its bylaw, in order to revisit the protections that are offered, seeking a dialogue towards that element of renewal when it comes to the renovation areas of concern, delivering something that will complement the Residential Tenancy Act.
Towards those revisions Mr. Lagace noted a need for a Community Forum and open dialogue that may offer Council with some direction towards those changes, offering to assist the city in organizing such a structure if they wish.
Councillor Cunningham led off the discussion from the view ope the City's elected officials, asking for some legislative guidance from Mr. Lagace on housing issues, though the Councillor was advised that he would need some time to compile the notes that the Councillor was looking for.
Mr. Cunningham then observed that he saw no reason why Council could not revisit their bylaw and its guidelines, noting how they had mirrored New Westminster who had changed their own legislation which now leaves him to observe towards Prince Rupert's bylaws that no one is sure as to 'what the hell is going on".
The Councillor did note that the renovations were needed for the complex in question, but did wonder why the existing tenants could not be shifted into other units in the other buildings.
He also observed over the recent volume of housing approvals that Council has given, but noted that the City can't make anyone build anything, a situation which has contributed to the housing crunch in the community.
Mr. Cunningham also noted of the growing issues towards Senior housing availability and all spectrums of housing in the community.
Mayor Pond observed of an upcoming Housing forum to be hosted by UBCM in April and how housing is clearly a significant issue in the province.
Councillor Teri Forster asked for some clarification on the level of evictions that Mr. Lagace's office has received in the last two months and the nature of the buildings where renovictions have been put in place, as well as if it would be safe for residents to stay in those buildings as they are bering renovated.
Among his notes, Mr. Lagace noted of the challenges that have been found in Prince Rupert towards extensive timelines for construction in the community and how that also factors into the issue.
Ms. Forster, observed of her willingness to engage in further dialogue with the community towards the City's bylaw to ensure that it provides what residents of the city are looking for it to deliver.
Councillor Nick Adey's contribution to the conversation included his observations towards the development of the bylaw now in place and how to him the heart of the issue is how the city had hoped to offer protection of the interests of the tenants, while also allowing some room for improvements of the buildings to take place.
Further noting that the language of Section 45 undercuts what they had chosen to do and how it basically allows the owner to go around whatever the City said and go to the Residential Tenancy Brach for permission to proceed.
He also reflected as to why more wasn't done by Council at the time to reflect the tension that has been created among the two sections of the bylaw, noting how the outcome has been correct as described by Mr. Lagace with the developer allowed to bypass the local level.
He too called for continued dialogue on the issue, which he noted should include provincial elements, including the MLA to begin with and taking the issue to the province to resolve the circumstances that communities face.
He observed of the empathy that Council members have with those that have been impacted and how the way to address it is further dialogue in the community and with the province. Though also noting of his frustration that it doesn't solve the situation ahead in the short term. which he noted was a challenge to find a strategy to address it.
Councillor Niesh provided what he described as a builders perspective to the issue, noting of the days when the pulp mill shutdown and houses were available cheap and many of those who stayed in the community purchased those homes, with BC Housing then tearing down their own stock as the demand declined.
He observed as how the community has since regained its economic footing, the supply of housing has not kept up with the demand, noting of the need for repair and how the situation in Prince Rupert is a challenging one towards renovation and rebuilding those structures.
Like Mr. Cunningham, Councillor Niesh observed of all that the city council has done to encourage building in the community and recounted his own challenges in building towards his own plans for rental units owing to the unique and hard conditions that Prince Rupert makes for builders in the community.
He also noted that there is a need for BC Housing to move forward on the housing that they have proposed and provide for the basic housing that the community needs, observing of the lack of progress to date on those units that are supposed to be developed.
Towards those comments, Mr. Lagace noted while the most vulnerable are the priority, that a lot of the working class residents and even those in the middle class in the community, don't qualify for BC Housing.
So they would still be looking for housing or looking to leave the community.
Mayor Pond noted for the Council members and their guests on the night that the purpose of the engagement underway wasn't to solve the problem that evening, but to hear from the group on hand towards their issues of concern.
Councillor Cunningham spoke to the short and long term issues of housing in the community and called on BC Housing to change their policies to reflect the need in the community.
As for the short term issues he had no answers which he described as scary, calling for open dialogue and host a workshop in the next few weeks to try to find some solutions.
Mr. Nagy returned to the themes of BC Housing and observed how many of the units on McKay remain empty and fenced off.
Mr. Lagace suggested that one option could be for the city to create a Housing Committee for the community to use as a forum for dialogue towards bringing all sides to the table to explore the issues on housing in the community. Noting how that option has been used in other communities.
With that Mayor Pond adjourned the Committee of the Whole Session.
Adjournment to Regular Meeting
REGULAR SESSION OF CITY COUNCIL
( 51:00 -- 53:00 ) Public Comments regarding Agenda items -- New to the Council procedures, this period offered a chance for those in attendance to speak to any items to be addressed on the Agenda for the evening.
On Monday, after a short preamble of explanation by the Mayor on the topic, no members of the public came forward to speak to the Agenda.
( 53:00 -- 54:30 ) Consent Agenda -- Another element new to the Council Session, the Mayor explained how the Consent Agenda will work with the option for Council members to ask for items to be removed towards further discussion or offering additional review.
If nothing is removed, Council can then approve the Consent Agenda items as a block.
Towards the Consent Agenda on the night, the elements included:
Council minutes -- Council reviewed and adopted the minutes of the January 9th session.
Staff Report related to Parks And Outdoor Recreation -- Council received a report on Round one of the Engagement summary (see page 7 from the Agenda)
Correspondences -- Council received a letter from the Prince Rupert Port Authority, sharing their support towards infrastructure funding for the City from the Federal Government (see page 28 from the Agenda)
Correspondences -- Council received an email from the Board and Committee Support from the North Central Local Government Association (see page 30 from the Agenda)
Correspondences -- Bulletin from UBCM: Housing Summit -- Council received notes related to a proposed UBCM led housing summit in April (see page 31 from the Agenda)
Correspondences -- Email from TC PAC Pacific Rail Engagement-- Council received a report on the background towards potential funding for Rail Safety (see page 33 from the Agenda)
Release of Closed Meeting Items -- Council did not note of any items from Previous Closed Sessions
The Council members adopted the Consent Agenda without any removals, comments or observations.
( 54:30 -- 55:00 ) Report from City Manager -- Re: 2023 to 2026 Strategic Plan -- City Manager Rob Buchan offered to answer any questions towards the City's Three year Strategic plan. With none coming from the Council membership, the motion of approval was provided towards implementation of the Report. (see page 36 from the Agenda)
( 55:00 -- 1:10:00 ) Report from The Communications Manager -- Re: Summary of Odd Eidsvik Park Consultation and Council support for PRPA Community Investment Fund Application -- Council received a report from Communications Manager Veronika Stewart who outlined the nature of the community engagement and funding opportunities available for the park.
City Manager Rob Buchan noted that the Communications Manager would outline whether this was for pre approval, or would be required as part of the upcoming Budgetary process.
To which she noted was up to Council to offer direction on.
Towards Questions, Councillor Cunningham asked about the community engagement process that was in place for the Eidsvik Park proposal, asking what prompted that public meeting. He then observed that while he had no issue with adding to the park in question in the Westview area, that there are a number of locations on the East side of the city that have had park elements removed and should be addressed as well.
Mr. Cunningham then suggested that some public meetings should be held for those residents as well, he also raised the concept of consulting with SD52 to see what the young people in the community would like to see in community parks.
Ms. Stewart returned to the focus of the Eidsvik Park proposal, noting that it had come to the city perviously and how it was just following through on that previous period.
Councillor Adey observed how there has been a need for the issue to be dealt with for a long time, noting of his past calls for more attention towards play areas and how he had hopes for the recent parks and recreation survey and how it would identify the areas of the city that are well served and those that are not well served.
Towards the Westview area proposal he noted that he had a family member who would want him to remind council that there had been a play area in the area of Westview that had been removed when the school had closed and that there is a need for park space in that area and supportive of a group looking to improve that area.
He suggested more time was required to understand the commitment by the city of the 50,000 dollars towards in kind funding offered by the city from a previous budget and noted how the city should do that part right and not conduct exceptional budgeting, though noting he would be in support of holding to that previous support.
He also recommended a change to the language to reflect it is more of a community led initiative and that the city should support it instead of leading it.
The Councillor noting that Council should remain consistent, towards that theme, the Mayor observed that Councillor Adey was heading towards an amendment.
To that a reworded version of the recommendation was provided, which removed the term City led as an element and offered Council support of consideration of 50,000 dollars in kind contribution.
While supporting the revised amendment, Councillor Cunningham returned to his call for further efforts towards providing park space for other parts of the city on the east side.
The City's Operations Director noted that any in kind contributions do have to be budgeted and that the council members should be aware of it.
With that the motion was approved as amended. (see page 47 from the Agenda)
( 1:10:00 -- 1:13:00 ) Report from The Communications Manager -- Re: Support for Application for Funding for Administration and Human Resources Internship position -- Council received a second report from Ms. Stewart that one detailing a funding opportunity from NDIT towards the filling of an intern Position for Administration/Human Resources.
With the city to pay 16,000 dollars towards a 66,000 dollar salary, with Northern Development Trust Initiative picking up the remaining 50,000 dollars towards the salary for the position in one year funding.
Councillor Cunningham asked towards the cost to the city, with Ms. Stewart reinforcing the city's required contribution to the total compensation.
A follow up question on whether it would become a full time position in the next year brought a reply from the City Manager, with Mr. Buchan noting that the city staff have hopes of rolling it over into a full time position in 2024.
To that Mr. Cunningham noted of the need for other staffing positions in other departments to be filled, noting of the requirements in the Operations department in particular.
The City Manager spoke to some of the staffing challenges facing the City; noting of the difficult situation facing the Operations Department in filling positions at the City Yard.
Councillor Forester asked towards whether the Intern position would have elements of inclusion for all ethnic backgrounds, with Ms. Stewart noting that the program is administered through NDIT she believed that they have an equitable hiring process.
The motion was then passed by Council (see page 57 from the Agenda)
( 1:13:00 -- 1:13:30 ) Report from The Corporate Administrator -- Re: Support for Prince Rupert Performing Arts application to NDIT towards their Cultural Infrastructure program -- Council received details related to the funding opportunity that is available for the Lester Centre. They then voted to approve the motion with no comments offered. (see page 59 from the Agenda)
( 1:13:30 -- 1:14:00 ) City of Prince Rupert Road Dedication Bylaw -- No. 3512, 2023 -- Council provided second reading to the City of Prince Rupert Bylaw for the roadway near the Digby Tower. No council members had comments towards it. (see page 61 from the Agenda)
( 1:14:00 -- 1:15:30 ) City of Prince Rupert Road Dedication Bylaw -- No. 3513 , 2023 -- Council provided second reading to the City of Prince Rupert Bylaw for the roadway noted between Park Avenue and Second Avenue West sending it to the Ministry of Transportation for referral.
Councillor Niesh asked if there was any impact on the one business that backs onto the area in question, he was advised by the Operations Director Mr. Pucci, that as it goes out to public notification they would have opportunity to discuss any issues that they have with the lane closure. (see page 66 from the Agenda)
( 1:15:30 -- 1:18:00 ) City of Prince Rupert Official Community Plan Bylaw -- No. 3514 , 2023 -- Council provided first and second reading to the elements of the Official Community Plan Bylaw.
It will allow exemptions to the Development Permit Guidelines in the Heritage Core Character area, related to building colour and materials for businesses subject or internationally or nationally established guidelines.
Prior to their vote, they received some background towards the topic from the Planning Manager who outlined how some of the city's current guidelines may run counter to the established guidelines from national or international sectors.
Councillors had no questions related to the topic. (see page 70 from the Agenda)
( 1:18:00 -- 1:24:00 ) Council Round Table and Comment Period
Councillor Niesh opened the commentary and paid tribute to the city workforce and contractors in their work in efficiently removing the large volume of snow that fell last week.
Councillor Cunningham followed up on that thought, by noting of some areas of town that had not seen their property cleared of snow by property owners, observing of an ongoing trouble area at the corner of McBride and Third West.
He further noted that with more snow in the forecast that the city should do something about that.
Towards that topic, the City Manager advised that the City Bylaw enforcement had sent out letters to the owner and that the next time that it happens would result in fines.
Councillor Cunningham then turned to the prospect of more frequent instances of snow in the community and how the community may require some sort of plowing program so that businesses on Third Avenue will continue to have access to their stores from the streets.
He observed of the recent weather and how the snow piled to the sidewalk impacted on their business.
Mayor Pond provided a short update on some of his recent travels, noting of his attendance at the recent Natural Resources Forum in Prince George, observing of the event and the chance he had to speak with the Premier and Minister Cullen and to remind them of the communities concerns. as well as a range of other meetings that he had during that period.
He recalled the early days of the Natural Resources Forum and how Prince Rupert and Prince George had been formidable partners and hoped to establish that relationship with the Mayor of Prince George.
On the way home he recounted of his opportunity for some discussions in Terrace with one of the other co chairs of the Resource Benefits Association initiative and how they had lined up some Ministerial meetings towards the initiative for the weeks ahead.
He also saluted the Rampage for their awareness campaign and fund raising for Cancer this month, with the Mayor anticipating a strong final tally at their upcoming game this weekend.
Adjournment -- The Mayor brought the session to a close with a call to adjourn
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.
Council next meets in a Public Regular Session on Monday, February 6, 2023.