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COUNCIL MATTERS: Rossland City Council meeting April 6, 2021

Screenshot taken during presentation by Andras Lukacs, second from top on the right. Not all attendees can be seen here, but all were present.

Rossland City Council Meeting, April 6, 2021 – by Zoom

Iron Colt Townhouses? Letter on opioid crisis; decisions on the Mid-town Transition Project; and some artsy chairs; moving the Community Garden – and more                   

Present:  Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Stewart Spooner, Chris Bowman, Andy Morel, Terry Miller, Janice Nightingale, and Dirk Lewis.  Staff who spoke:  CAO Bryan Teasdale, Manger of Recreation and Events Kristi Calder, Manager of Public Works and Infrastructure Scott Lamont, CFO Elma Hamming, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne, and Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Año Nuevo.

Public Input Period:

Sam Ross spoke about the daft Agreement with the Tennis Society, and explained the modifications suggested by the Tennis Society, some of which have not been accepted by the City.  Moore spoke to reassure him about the City’s intentions.

Laura Pettit asked that the Tennis Society item be moved up on the agenda, and Moore agreed – but items are reported here in the order originally set in the published agenda.

Delegations:

1.        RDKB CAO Mark Andison provided Council with an update, illustrated by a PowerPoint presentation. A map of the District shows the five different areas, and the municipalities it includes; graphs show revenues, programs, and expenses.  Taxation levels for 2020 and 2021 show that Rossland will pay the RDKB $114,359 more in 2021 than it did in 2020; but the amount of tax to be charged by the RDKB per $100,000 of property value will decrease to $215.84 from last year’s rate of $218.89.  He explained that curbside collection of “organics” – kitchen waste only, not yard waste – is expected to begin in the fall of 2022.  Morel is chairing that initiative.  Miller asked about the cost of trucking the waste to a central composting site in Salmo rather than using local sites; Andison pointed out that GHG emissions reduction from organics diversion are significant, even with the trucking distances.  He noted that the RDKB is one of the few RDs to “embrace EVs” and include charging stations in all new facilities.  Freya Philips, a Rossland resident, is working for the RDBK on this and other energy-saving initiatives. 

2.       Tourism Rossland’s ED, Andras Lukacs, presented a new five-year plan and requested a letter of support for renewal of the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) which is a tax paid by people who rent short-term accommodation, and which funds local tourism marketing, programs and projects.  He reported that “a very successful ski season” just ended, and he expressed thanks to local residents for supporting local businesses.  COVID-19 had a severe impact on the amount of the MRDT collected in 2020-2021; the previous season had brought in the highest amount yet. He highlighted some of the marketing efforts that will resume when pandemic recovery is more complete, and emphasized his confidence that “once we can welcome guests from Canada and abroad, our recovery will outpace other destinations.”  He suggested that development in Rossland should be assessed “through a tourism lens.”   Miller asked about RV traffic; Lukacs acknowledged that Rossland isn’t rich in RV accommodation yet, and commented that golfers like RVs.  He commented further that Tourism Rossland wants Rossland to keep what makes it special.  Moore asked whether Tourism Rossland could have a role in helping the City identify unauthorized short-term rentals.  Bowman asked if platforms other than AirBnB collect MRDT – such as Expedia, and others.

A motion by Moore to send a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, with copies to the Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix, and the Public Heath Officer of B.C. Dr Bonnie Henry CARRIED unanimously; the letter urges the government of Canada to declare the opioid crisis a Public Health Emergency and to “immediately seek input from the people most affected by this crisis and meet with provinces and territories to develop a comprehensive, pan-Canadian overdose action plan, which includes comprehensive supports and full consideration of reforms that other countries have used to significantly reduce drug-related fatalities and stigma, such as legal regulation of illicit drugs to ensure safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to toxic street drugs, and decriminalization for personal use.”

Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw # 2750 – Short Term Rental Zoning Removal:  If adopted, the bylaw would remove the short-term rental zoning from four properties: 2414 Leroi Avenue,  1488 Columbia Avenue, 1492 Columbia Avenue and  2236 Columbia Avenue, for not having business licences or failing to comply with required conditions.  The City has sent notifications to all the property owners.  A motion to give the bylaw first and second readings, and to schedule a Public Hearing for May 3, 2021, CARRIED unanimously.

Fees and Charges for Recreation, Parks and Cultural Services Bylaw # 2751:  Council gave first reading to this bylaw at the March 8, 2021, meeting.  A motion for second reading CARRIED unanimously, as did a further motion to give it third reading.

City of Rossland Financial Plan 2021‐2025 Bylaw # 2753:  a motion to give the bylaw first reading CARRIED unanimously.  Nightingale commented that she is “over the moon” about the form and clarity of the plan, and that “we’re lucky to have” Hamming as our CFO. Readers interested in the details should go to the explanatory introduction by CFO Elma Hamming, in the Council materials for this meeting, available at this link.

Moore commented that the City could potentially use some of its COVID Restart funding to assess the relative cost of Rossland’s participation in the Regional Fire Service, and what Rossland could provide for itself.  Spooner didn’t want to spend money on “a losing battle,” but Moore responded that the results of an assessment might make Rossland more content with paying 38% of its RDKB assessment for fire services. CAO Bryan Teasdale commented that Staff don’t have time to do this exercise, so Miller moved that Staff look into the issue of how best to assess the relative costs and benefits.  The motion CARRIED.

A further motion to direct Staff to  create a Recreation Master Plan CARRIED unanimously.

Moore noted that the City has not yet decided how to disburse the COVID funds that have been set aside to help community groups.  Nightingale moved that the City keep the funds for the time being, as needs may change in the future, and her motion CARRIED.

Development Permit Application:  Iron Colt Multi-family

The proposal is for a sixteen-unit townhouse development, intended to provide “an upscale alternative to single family dwellings.”  Council discussed a motion to approve the application, with the recommended conditions; Miller pointed out that he’d like to see additional guest parking as a friendly amendment; with that addition, the motion CARRIED unanimously.  Councillors noted that their concerns about additional traffic load on streets such as Macleod cannot be addressed at this stage.  Moore said she is surprised that the Design Review Panel didn‘t have more concerns about the appearance of the proposed building, including the colour (charcoal)  and the unbroken mass of it.  

Rossland Tennis Society Facility Use Agreement:  Council discussed a motion to approve the daft agreement. City Staff explained that the City wants its facility agreements to be as standardized as possible.  Sam Ross responded to a question about the job of regular inspection and maintenance that the Society is still willing to do all that it has been doing; he noted that over the years, the Society has taken on more of the work that the City once did.  The original  motion FAILED;  a motion to refer the issue back to staff CARRIED

A further motion, to adjust the term of the Community Grant in Aid for the Tennis Society from three years to one year, at the request of the Society – because they may need to increase the amount requested -- also CARRIED.

2021 Safe Restart Funding- Local Government Development Approvals Program Application:  A motion to endorse the  application and to provide grant management for the program, which will increase efficiency and provide more education resources for the Planning Department, CARRIED unanimously.

Age-friendly Programs:  Council voted unanimously to approve draft agreements with Heather Anderson for providing both regional and Rossland age-friendly services.

Rossland Senior Housing Society Demand Loan Extension:  a motion to extend the demand loan of $270,000 for a further 30 days – for a total of 90 days – to allow the extra time that BC Housing needs for its assessments, CARRIED unanimously.

RCAC Art Installment Request - Adirondack Chairs:  A motion to  approve the installation of four painted Adirondack chairs (two at the Rossland Library and two in Harry Lafevre Square) from June to September 2021 CARRIED unanimously;  RCAC’s intention is to raise funds at the end of the summer by auctioning the chairs. (Staff noted that there will be additional chairs and tables appearing in the downtown area soon.)

Council Members reported on the various meetings they had attended since the last meeting and the matters covered by the organizations concerned. 

Moore moved that Council send the letter of support requested by Tourism Rossland for the MRDT; the motion CARRIED unanimously. 

She also reported that the Rossland Rotary “100 Rosslanders Who Care” fundraising event ended up donating the $10,000 raised to the project of moving the Community  Garden to slightly higher, drier ground.

Release of declassified in-camera matters:

Council appointed Tanya Stockman to the Economic Development Task Force.

Council approved entering into an interim lease of the land for the Mid-town mixed-use development project with the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society, subject to agreement on a submitted tender price and final project approval by  BC Housing.

Council also voted to endorse the creation of a strata corporation for the Mid-town mixed-use project on completion of the construction, with three strata lots and 60-year lease agreements with both the provincial rental housing corporation and the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing society, at no cost.

The meeting recessed to an in-camera session,  and your reporter heaved a sigh of relief, admired the extremely relaxed pose of the household cat, and wondered why she had recently deposited a dead vole in a small bucket sitting on top of a larger bucket in the basement, and another one on top of a three-foot-tall covered wicker hamper.