Council (slightly) amends the OCP, disagrees with staff about the Esling Park Lodge debt; Councillor Wallace resigns.

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
April 16th, 2014

Present: Mayor Greg Granstrom and Council members Tim Thatcher, Kathy Moore, Kathy Wallace, Cary Fisher, and Jill Spearn.

Staff:  Acting CAO Tracey Butler, Assistant Cynthia Anonuevo, Planner Stacey Lightbourne, and Acting CFO Lois Hunter.

The first item of business on April 14, 2014, was a public hearing on the amendment of the Official Community Plan, by removing a planned collector road from the Transportation Plan.  Granstrom explained the purpose of bylaw 2564 and invited input on the change from the public gallery, which remained silent.

Regular Council Meeting

Council then  moved on to public input on other matters.  Laura Petit commented that the Esling Park Lodge debt issue was confusing, as council seemed to have asked staff for full information on interest rates, yet the staff recommendation was still to extend the $270,000  loan to the Rossland Seniors Housing Society interest free, or to forgive the loan entirely.  She expressed surprise that the City’s financial plan was set to receive all three readings that evening.

Leigh Harrison spoke to Council about an e-mail message he had circulated to them earlier in the week about the Esling Park Lodge debt.  Mr. Harrison is a lawyer who was one of the people involved in resolving the Rossland Senior Housing Society’s debt crisis in 2004.

He noted that the City originally contributed to the project by donating the use of the land on a long-term lease–a significant savings for the project; and that the project was never intended to be  subsidized housing for low-income seniors–rather, the “target market” was more affluent retirees who wanted more luxurious housing.

He pointed out that the original investors in the project had a great deal of input into the planning and quality of finishing in the apartments, and that some of the apartments are as large as 1200 square feet.  He referred briefly to another element in the lodge’s very significant cost overruns — the building’s foundations were problematic, as the ground was wet and had been filled with a variety of materials including old logs and stumps in the distant past. He stated that, while the City cannot dictate how Rossland Senior Housing Society is managed, neither should the Society be able, by its own actions or inaction, to dictate what the City does, and the Society has known for ten years that it was supposed to start payments of interest and principal to the City in 2014.

Granstrom thanked Mr. Harrison for his remarks. Council then adopted the minutes of the previous Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, “and the recommendations therein” — that means that the grants mentioned in the previous “Council Matters” will go to the recipients.

Council heard an informative presentation from Aimee Ambrosone, of Columbia Basin  Trust (CBT) and the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC).  She described the CBBC’s mission as providing connectivity to a world-class broadband network across the Columbia Basin, to provide infrastructure for community development.   She estimated that fibre installation will take about four weeks.  Questions and answers followed.

The Esling Park Lodge debt

Council went on to consider the staff recommendation that the City “approve the renewal of the $270,000  interest-free loan to the Rossland Senior Housing Society until January 1, 2039 … “

Moore proposed a motion for discussion:  “… that the original agreement should be upheld, and the loan renegotiated, and that the City asked the Society to start repaying principal with interest at the Ministry of Finance rate of 4.18%, starting June 1, and including items 2, 3, and 4 from the staff recommendation.”

All members of Council expressed agreement with the intent of the motion, but Granstrom said he was speaking against it because he would rather see some negotiation with the Society before setting a firm interest rate and start time. 

Butler commented that, legally, the most that rent can be raised in one year is the cost of living increase plus 2%.  That would limit the Society’s ability to cover the cost of debt repayment.

Moore noted that the Society’s debt has cost Rossland’s taxpayers over $94,000 (at 3%) in lost interest over the last ten years alone, and before that the City had paid out $64,800 in interest on the money the City had borrowed to help fund the project.  Fisher said he thought it would be a benefit to the Society to set a fixed rate of interest, rather than a variable rate, and he expects interest rates to go up in future; Spearn agreed.  Thatcher said he thought the City should just start asking for interest payments alone, to start with.   Wallace said that she thought setting a start date of June 1 might not give the Society enough time to arrange matters.   Moore  amended the motion so that the start date for payments became the item to be negotiated.

The motion carried, with Granstrom and Thatcher opposed.

Making way for a new hotel

Council discussed and approved an application from RMR Acquisition Corp. “for the removal and/or replacement of existing ski operations buildings, the creation of a new skier pick up and drop off area, parking lot reconfiguration” … “to make way for the construction of a hotel adjacent to the Slalom Creek development.”

Bigger secondary suites

Council also passed a bylaw to bring the permitted size of secondary suites into line with provincial building code regulations; the effect is to increase the allowed size of a secondary suite from 763 square feet to 968 square feet.  (Your reporter is elderly & still thinks in terms of square feet rather than square metres.)

Financial Plan

Thatcher moved that Council give the plan first, second and third readings; Spearn seconded it “to get it on the table.”  Thatcher voted in favour;  all others were opposed.  Moore moved that the plan receive first and second readings;  the motion carried.  Third reading is set for April 22.

Smoke gets in your eyes, and your lungs, and your laundry on the line …

During the member reports, Spearn said she has had calls about people burning materials in their yards, and said people don’t seem to know there is a bylaw. The bylaw regulates open fires in Rossland, and any burning of yard waste  is prohibited.  So is burning demolition waste, construction waste, garbage, plastics, and a number of other prohibited materials.    


Wallace then read out her letter of resignation, effective May 2.   She noted that the timing of her resignation means that there is no need for a replacement before the municipal election this fall.

After the meeting, your reporter walked home, admiring the cloud-veiled moon.

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