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Business tax changes? Questions on short-term rentals and street lights; who should teach kids how to cook? -- and more.

Regular Meeting of Rossland City Council, Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Present:   Acting Mayor Lloyd McLellan, and Councillors Andrew Zwicker, Marten Kruysse, John Greene, and Andy Morel

(Absent:  Mayor Kathy Moore, Aaron Cosbey)

There was no one present to speak up for Public Input Period.

Delegation:

Mike Kent, Youth Action Network (YAN) Co-ordinator, gave Council an update:  this is YAN's fourth year in Rossland, and one of the most-wished-for outcomes has been a space for youth to gather, socialize, and participate in programs.  The space on Columbia Avenue has been well-utilized, and now YAN is preparing the building dedicated to their use at the Emcon lot; they expect the southern portion of it to be ready for use in mid-October. 

YAN is funded by Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), fundraising and other grants.  The program was originally a pilot project, and CBT has now increased its funding to $55,000 a year.  Kent submitted the comprehensive  YAN annual report to CBT, and shared it with Council. 

Kent also noted that concrete pouring has begun for the skate park, adjacent to the new YAN space.

Morel asked how many different youth are involved in YAN -- Mike said, in the spring, they had 170 separate young people giving input into the programming.  The youth space  on Columbia had over 2000 visits from kids, and  65% or so of them are 12 to 14 years of age.  McLellan wondered if they could have a system the would better track how many different kids are involved in YAN activities.

Council Business:

Revitalization Tax Exemption Application:  804 Old Cascade Highway

Motion ― That Council approve the Revitalization Tax Exemption application from Seven Summits Contracting Ltd and 905943 ALBERTA Ltd at 804 Rossland Cascade for a period of five years (2018‐2022).  

Financial Manager Elma Hamming wondered whether it might be better to lower the business tax rates instead of giving tax deals for owners who do renovations or new construction.    She pointed out that Rossland relies more on residential taxes, so lowering business property taxes would not be a big financial impact for the City, but would be important for the businesses.  She will look more closely at the figures and report to the next Council meeting.  She pointed out that Rossland's business tax rate is 50% higher than Trail's, and that if there were not such a gap, businesses might be more inclined to locate here.

Morel felt that Rossland does not need to compete with Trail in business tax rates.  Kruysse thought that Council is obliged to approve the current application because the business may have been relying on it; it's a program that is in place, and should be honoured until such time as it is changed.  Zwicker favoured approving it.   Chief Administrative Officer Bryan  Teasdale acknowledged that the application meets all requirements.

The motion to approve the application CARRIED 3 - 2, with Morel and McLellan opposed.

Museum Roof Replacement: 

Motion: That Council award the Tender for the Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre Roof Replacement, Phase I, project to Trail Roofing Limited in the amount of  $149,000 exclusive of all applicable taxes, and

A further motion required that the City's financial plan be amended to include a transfer of $50,000 from the Community Works Gas Tax Reserve Fund  to cover additional costs of the roof replacement project.

Teasdale explained that the new interior renovations are under the roof that has been leaking for some time.  He noted that the lowest tender was nearly $50,000 higher than the amount budgeted for the project, hence the second motion.

Both motions CARRIED unanimously.

Bylaws:

1.            Council moved to adopt the zoning bylaw (#2632)  that reduces the number of required "equivalent units" for Lot "A" at the Red Mountain base area  from 75 to 38.  The motion CARRIED unanimously.

2.            A motion to give the draft bylaw (#2633) on short-term rental accommodation first and second reading CARRIED unanimously  and set a public hearing for October 10. 

Morel queried the wording of a portion of the draft bylaw which limits the number of "adults" permitted to occupy a short-term rental unit; is there any limit on the number of children allowed, he wondered, or does the wording imply that only adult guests are allowed? Here's the wording that gave rise to the questions:

"Not more than two (2) adult guests shall be accommodated per Guest Room,

not more than four (4) adult guests shall be accommodated per Guest Suite,

and not more than eight (8) adult guests shall be accommodated per Guest

Home."

 

3.            Re-drafting the Business Licence Bylaw:  A motion to direct staff to proceed with amendments  to simplify the bylaw and lower the cost of Rossland's annual business license fees CARRIED, after a discussion of the actual utility of requiring businesses to have licenses.  

Staff Updates and Reports:

Task List:  McLellan asked about the street light dispute resolution process; who will decide on special requests?  Teasdale responded that the complaint forms are on-line and people can fill them out, are then given a response, and when  the third phase of work (Lower Rossland) ends, Council can decide about them.  Morel asked about the timing; when would phase three be complete and the complaint / special request forms can be dealt with; Teasdale explained that it will depend in part on how many special request forms the City receives.  He explained that staff can deal with requests  that fall within the existing policy; but requests that would go beyond the policy will be collected and brought to Council for decision after the principal work of Phase three is complete.

Stressed About Street Lights?

To see the City's street light policy, and a map of street lights, click the link.  A link to the request form, along with directions for using it, is included there.

Permissive tax exemption update:  The City has received no new applications, so there are no changes in the list of permissive tax-exemptions. 

Budget and Financial Plan Preview for 2018 ― 2022:  Kruysse objected to the City imposing tax increases in excess of the rate of inflation, as a matter of principle.   Morel  referred to Rossland's past decades of attempting to keep taxes as low as possible by  failing to maintain infrastructure, and said he thinks we are still "playing catch-up."

Kruysse objected to a motion to retain the proposed 4% tax increase for 2018, referring to any additional revenues from new construction as a "windfall" and thought it "irresponsible" not to lower the planned tax increase to 3.2%.   The motion failed 3 - 2, with  Greene, Kruysse and  Zwicker opposed.  Zwicker wanted to defer any decision until all Council members are present.  A motion to go with a 3.2% increase for 2018 also FAILED with only Kruysse voting in favour.

Information Items:

Visions for Small Schools:  Two New Programs ― Request for letters of support from the City for grant applications to support two new programs at Seven Summits Centre for Learning:  Outdoor Youth Leadership, and "Food Connections."

Motions to provide letter of support for both programs CARRIED, with McLellan voting against the food program. "That ought to be taught at home," he opined.  (For another view, try this article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/failure-teach-cooking-at-school-contributing-food-waste )

Climate Adaptation Partner Grants Program: The City received the following request for $5000 to support efforts to adapt to climate change:

https://fcm.ca/home/programs/municipalities-for-climate-innovation-program/climate-adaptation-partner-grants.htm

A motion to support the application with the requested $5000 CARRIED with only Kruysse opposed.

Kruysse was underwhelmed with the information in the package ― felt that it was meaningless,  that climate change is such a crucial challenge that it deserves a much clearer statement about what is to be accomplished with the funding provided by municipalities.  Teasdale explained the sort of action that could be expected from it,  building on previous work.  Kruysse wanted RDI to "come up with something of substance" ― he wanted a description of concrete action and benefits. 

Council passed another motion specifying that the $5000 will come out of the Climate Action budget.

Member Reports:

Kruysse reported on Tourism Rossland and the free ski shuttle; he said that funding seems to be in place for it as long as the RMI funding continues.

Zwicker  will be attending the West Kootenay Renewable Energy Conference in Castlegar and will be presenting there  on the 8th.

McLellan attended the opening  ceremony for the rainbow sidewalk on Tuesday morning, and praised the message of acceptance and safety that it represents.

Council then recessed to an in camera  session,  and your reporter walked slowly home in the parched and smoky dusk, trying not to breathe very deeply and hoping for the rainy season to begin soon ― without flooding, landslides or washouts.  Just lovely drenching rain, and then pillowy deep snow.