Wetlands, library renos, and will the Gold Fever Follies survive?
This is a report on the Rossland City Council meeting held on May 26, 2014. For those who haven’t read this column in the past, your reporter’s intention is to give you a realistic idea of what happens in council meetings, and where the various council members stand on different issues — not to report only on particularly contentious issues. And these reports are intended to be as neutral as possible — the writer doesn’t want to impose her opinions on readers. The idea is to inform readers so they can vote more effectively in the upcoming municipal election.
All Council members were present (Councillor Jody Blomme by telephone); staff members Cynthia Anonuevo and Corporate Officer Tracey Butler were present.
Public Input Period
During Public Input Period, Lisa Henderson of the Gold Fever Follies spoke about Council’s recent proposal to begin charging a nominal fee ($350 for the 2015 season, $500 for the 2016 season) for the Follies to use the Miners’ Union Hall. She said these charges would be a considerable hardship for the Follies, and described their efforts at fundraising, the increases in their expenses, and how much work they do on the Hall.
Carol Hobbs DeRosa spoke on behalf of the United Church, opposing a variance permit application by Jon Chester of 2152 Queen Street; the issue was that parking in the lane blocks access to the church and could be a safety issue.
Jon Chester then spoke, explaining how the parking issue would be resolved, and noting that no one had ever spoken to him about it in the past to make him aware of the concern; had they done so, he said he would have ensured that vehicles could pass through on the lane.
Rachael Roussin and Eva Cameron asked for Council’s support “in principle” for a feasibility study for a potential “wetland restoration” project at the north end of Jubilee Park, where wet ground has always been a problem. They explained some of the benefits of a properly restored shallow wetland — it would become a beautiful place with dry paths, safer habitat for killdeers and other birds, with better control of mosquitoes, better drainage for the surrounding area, and decreased maintenance costs for the City. A well-designed and restored wetland would also cost much less than draining the area effectively. Mayor Granstrom expressed reservations about the project, and said he would want to have approval from all the neighbouring properties before supporting in principle a feasibility study. Eva Cameron explained that providing information to the neighbouring residents and canvassing them would be part of the feasibility study. Councillor Cary Fisher said he thought the wetland project is “a great idea”, and offered any assistance he could provide from his experience of building ponds and frog habitat at the golf course. Councillor Jill Spearn was enthusiastic about the educational possibilities of having a properly restored wetland near the school. Councillor Kathy Moore noted that the materials provided by the delegation answered the initial objections.
The next delegation explained the aims of the library renovation project, and its budget, and fundraising efforts to date to support the project. The Rossland library (started in 1939) is a very well-utilized community amenity — about 75% of Rosslanders have library cards, and the library had 37,000 visits in 2013.
That Variance Application
Council was satisfied that the parking issue raised by the United Church representative as well as an existing bylaw contravention would be resolved (an over-height fence) and that the proposed variance would not cause any other problems; the motion to approve the variance passed unanimously.
The Free Shuttle Bus
Tourism Rossland has reported that the Free Shuttle Bus was a huge success, and proposed the purchase of a bus to continue providing the free shuttle service; one of the requirements of receiving the Resort Municipality Initiative (“RMI”) funding is that 70% of the funding be used for establishing “infrastructure” — not paying for operating expenses. RMI Project & Program Guideline state, “Submissions that do not meet the RMI Funding Guide must be accompanied by a business case within the Resort Development Strategy outlining a strong rationale for funding allocation.”
Granstrom is concerned about losing the RMI funding altogether if the shuttle bus operation does not comply with the RMI funding requirements. Council’s motion did not authorize the purchase of a bus, and the successful motion authorized funding for the operation of the shuttle for one year (for the next season) rather than two years. Moore wanted the motion to cover two years, for planning purposes, and suggested that since the aim of the RMI funding is to stimulate tourism and the shuttle operation provides such a benefit for tourism, resort municipalities might benefit from discussing a change to the guidelines with the provincial government.
Esling Park Lodge
Council voted unanimously to accept the offer proposed by the Rossland Seniors Housing Society, to pay interest for the next five years at 2.2% per annum on their outstanding debt to the City of $270,000, and then to begin making payments on the principal as well. During the discussion, Spearn noted a reference in the Society’s letter to “supporting our seniors” and pointed out that Rossland has many other seniors who are not living in that building and who also face challenges. Fisher noted that this type of project should not be undertaken by the city government in a community of our size, and that we are still dealing with the complications twenty years later. Granstrom clarified that according his discussions with the Real Estate Board, the rents in Esling Park Lodge are at market rate.
Council voted unanimously to grant the requests sent by Ursula Stevens for the use of the arena, tables, and the temporary closure of part of Spokane Street for the Fall Fair in early September.
Gold Fever Follies
Council members all voiced support for the Gold Fever Follies. Moore noted that the draft service agreement with the Follies is for the next three years — to allow the Follies the use of the Miners Hall without any charge for 2014, but to charge the Follies $350 for the 2015 season and $500 for the 2016 season. The motion to that effect passed, with Moore, Fisher, Thatcher, and Granstrom in support; while Blomme and Spearn did not want to charge the Follies any money for the use of the Hall.
Multi-family Dwelling Design Guidelines
Council gave second reading to the guidelines by-law, and set a date of June 9 for a Public Hearing — residents will have another opportunity to provide input on the guidelines.
Auditor General for Local Government
Moore provided advance notice of two motions for a future meeting; both designed to advance the City’s adoption of recommendations from the AGLG.
The Mayor then adjourned the meeting to an in camera session to discuss litigation.
Your reporter scurried home in a fresh spring shower fragrant with lilacs and apple blossoms, cottonwood, and fresh-cut grass.