Signs of the times; a Recreation Site for the Rossland Range (maybe); arsenic & bio-char; and the hazards of Japanese knotweed! -- but no Ebola. So far.
A reminder: these accounts of Council meetings are intended to be as factual and unbiased as possible for a merely human reporter. They include most, but not all, of the proceedings at the meeting — (skipping stuff like approval of minutes, which adds nothing to anyone’s understanding of Council members’ attitudes and priorities) but including most of the actual business, summaries of discussions, and decisions.
Please don’t forget to attend the Rotary Club’s All Candidates Forum at the Miner’s Hall, starting at 7:00 pm on November 3. and, I beg you, please vote!
Rossland City Council meeting on October 14, 2014
Present: Mayor Greg Granstrom, and Council members Jill Spearn, Kathy Moore, Tim Thatcher, and Cary Fisher; and Corporate Officer Tracey Butler, Executive Assistant Cynthia Añonuevo, and Planner Stacey Lightbourne. The gallery was packed and spilling out the doors, too.
Public Input Period
Bill Merry, president of the Stingrays swim club, sought the support of Council for the children in the club. He emphasized the importance of the program, especially for children who don’t participate in other sports, and explained the club’s financial needs. The club includes swimmers from Fruitvale, Trail, and Rossland.
Petri Raito of the Rossland Beer Company spoke about signage restrictions, and asked that some of them be reconsidered, particularly the one requiring all signage to be on the business’s own building. He stated that he found the guidelines a bit confusing, and hoped that the Design Review Committee’s guidelines would consider the needs of local businesses, and be flexible enough to help those that are not very visible from the street.
Sue Wrigley spoke in support of Raito’s request, saying that she wants the signage guidelines to be flexible enough to support local businesses.
Shawn Miller spoke about the Stingrays swim club. They’re had 16 new swimmers enrol in the club from Rossland; and because the Trail Recreation Program fees are prohibitive, a number of those kids won’t be swimming because parents can’t pay.
Les Carter spoke on behalf of the Friends of the Rossland Range Society (“FORRS”) about the conditional Recreation Site status for a section of the Rossland Range, and the Management Plan created by FORRS for it. The Recreation Site has gained conditional government approval — the condition being, approval of the draft Management Plan by the Ministry of Forests. The Recreation Site, which will probably be called the “Rossland Range Recreation Site”, extends from the Red Mountain commercial tenure to the Big Red Cats commercial tenure, and provides the best available compromise for both protection of free public access, and also the continued existence of day-use huts in the area. Carter noted that FORRS is holding a public meeting on the Management Plan, at 7:00 on October 22, at the St. Andrew’s United Church Hall.
Spearn asked about the fate of the “old, traditional historical cabins up there” as she knows there is a lot of concern about them in the community. Carter answered that the Management Plan includes the continuing use of the cabins that are currently listed in the Plan until the community can replace them with new cabins that meet the government’s requirements for health and safety. Cabins that are not being used and looked after will be removed. There will be fewer cabins than there are now, but the “champions” of the various listed cabins have consented to the plan.
Darrel Fry, of Passive Remediation Systems Limited, showed a power-point presentation and attempted to explain the “intensive agro-forestry” project he proposes for remediating two old tailings ponds at Red Mountain. He noted that arsenic from the ponds is leaching into Little Sheep Creek. The plan involves hiring local Selkirk students to plant about 5000 poplar trees (which take up contaminants from soil), and creating an interpretive centre for the remediation and carbon-negative project. The plan seems to be to convert some of the current vegetation to bio-char and to use bio-char to detoxify the soil and also for carbon sequestration, would provide carbon credits for Rossland. The trees to be planted could also eventually be used to create bio-char, but would not be ready for that for about fifteen years; and Fry pointed out “you can’t make bio-char from trees that you’ve already claimed credits for.”
Fry requested a letter of support from Council for the project, for his application for CBT funding, and since Council’s support was unanimous, the motion could, and did, pass at this meeting. The project was recommended to Council by the Sustainability Commission.
The Kootenay-Columbia Trails Society (“KCTS”) has asked the City’s permission to use the City-owned property on the east side of Deer Park Hill, known as Lot 24, for recreational trails, and asked that trails be added as a permitted use in all zones. The motion carried unanimously.
The RSS playground committee submitted a request for permission from the City to go ahead with an “outdoor classroom/seating area/model forest” plan for the east side of Jubilee Park. The motion to grant permission carried unanimously after a brief discussion of the financial implications for maintenance.
Two property owners on Jubilee Street have asked the City to remove large infestations of Japanese knotweed on the adjacent City property which are threatening buildings on their property.
(Information: For anyone who doesn’t understand why this invasive weed is feared, it can “drill through asphalt, break house foundations, and spring back from virtually any non-chemical attempt to eradicate it.”
An article in New Scientist magazine about Japanese knotweed [July 5, 2014] says, “In winter, the leaves and stems die back, but the tough underground rhizome survives and extends further and deeper with each cycle … The plant’s rhizome can survive even burial by volcanic lava — sending up rock-piercing shoots once the surface has cooled. It’s not surprising, then, that it can seriously damage roads, walls and foundations.” )
Fisher noted that many invasive plants are taking over Rossland, and suggested that the City needs to amend its policy on herbicides to deal with them aggressively. The motion to approve the homeowners’ request and, further, to set a budget amount for addressing knotweed infestations annually, based on priority areas identified in an upcoming study by the Invasive Plant Committee, carried unanimously.
Events sign: Council discussed the design proposed for an events sign to be located at St. Paul and Columbia, on the north-east bump-out, to replace the banner, which is difficult to put up and take down. Thatcher and Spearn spoke in favour of it. A motion to approve the new sign carried unanimously, with a request from Moore to staff to ensure that the letters used on the sign should not look “cheesy”.
Rossland Council for Arts and Culture (“RCAC”) kiosk: the location requested would “straddle the large boulder with the Harry LaFevre plaque” in Harry LaFevre Square. Spearn wanted to ensure that the position of the kiosk, straddling the rock with the plaque, wouldn’t seem disrespectful to the late Harry LaFevre. Butler commented that the location of the rock may be moved to the other side, so that the plaque faces the street, and if so the kiosk wouldn’t straddle it. The motion included City in-kind assistance for the footings and installation, for up to $500 worth of work. The motion carried unanimously.
The Rock Cut Pub’s utility bill was inaccurate because the City’s meter had failed, and no one noticed for several months; the parties had discussed how to bill equitably for the difference between the meter readings and actual usage. Ultimately, Moore made a motion to accept the solution proposed by Warren Hamm; Thatcher spoke in favour and the motion carried.
Consent Calendar: This consists of a list of information items and requests for action with recommendations, and a motion to accept the information items and act on the requests as recommended. Council members can “pull” any item from automatic consent, for further discussion and decision. Some of the items “pulled” and discussed at this meeting were as follows:
Crime report for 2014 in Rossland (to date) from the RCMP: Thatcher questioned the accuracy of the report. Council agreed to invite Sergeant Oelke to a Council meeting for further information.
Stingrays: Moore noted that the Stingrays didn’t apply for funding last year, and the lack of demand caused Council to reduce the budgeted amount for this year from $20,000 to $7,000; she asked whether the City could find some funds for them this year in other areas where budget amounts weren’t fully spent, to help with the Stingrays’ costs. Granstrom noted that some funds could be found in the budget, but suggested that the Stingrays could first seek a grant in aid from the City of Trail, and if that didn’t work, then come back to Rossland Council. Bill Merry asked (from the gallery) if there would be no funding at all for now; Butler answered that they could get $2,696.
Heritage Commission: The Heritage Commission had expressed concern over the “non-heritage” appearance of new doors and windows being installed in the former Pro Hardware building, and signage issues. Fisher noted that the Design Review Committee and the Heritage Commission seem to have a lot of overlap in their concerns, and suggested that they should be encouraged to amalgamate, perhaps with a subcommittee structure.
Design Review Committee (“DRC”): Moore stated that she is not comfortable with the DRC recommendation to ask the Laundry Dog Laundromat and the Rossland Beer Company to remove signage on the north side of 1990 Columbia Avenue; she thinks that the City should be more supportive of our businesses. She pointed out, “we have a lot of empty store-fronts in town.” Thatcher agreed, and added that the City should review and be willing to amend bylaws if necessary. In the same vein, Fisher suggested that the DRC should allow more flexibility in signage locations. Granstrom countered that Rossland’s downtown is an attractive place because the City has spent millions to make it so, including the action of moving all the telephone poles into the back alley from Columbia Avenue, and that there are reasons for the DRC guidelines. He emphasized the importance of working on a plan, and not doing things “willy-nilly”. Moore argued that we don’t need to be too rigid in our application of the guidelines, and that we aren’t a “themed” town like “Bavarian” Kimberly. Granstrom commented, “Kimberley’s busting their butt to get rid of that.” Fisher suggested that the City allow the present signs to remain for the time being, but be clear that they are not permanent; he is not in favour of going against the DRC, and thinks the City should review the guidelines.
A DRC recommendation was to deny an application for a Rossland Beer Company sign on the side of the Velvet Building (on the south-west corner of the Columbia and St. Paul intersection, by the blinking traffic light). The motion to that effect, with a recommendation that the business owner work with the DRC and staff to find a solution, carried with Moore and Spearn opposed.
Moore moved that the City allow temporary signage for the Rossland Beer Company on the west side of the building until such time as signage is co-ordinated for the overall building facade. Thatcher supported the motion as a temporary compromise. Granstrom stated that if Council goes against its own guidelines and the volunteer efforts to assist the City with them, it should be prepared for consequences. Lightbourne mentioned that the DRC had held up Jayne Doxtater’s business as a good example, with just one sign on the business (at the side of the building) and a sandwich board out on the Columbia Avenue sidewalk. Fisher registered his dislike of the numerous sandwich boards as signage, saying they look tacky and clutter up the sidewalks, and said he didn’t think a sign on the west side of the building would look as bad as a sandwich board out in the street; he noted that business development in Sourdough Alley is recent. Spearn thinks Council needs to review the guidelines with a view to that new development, and says there is nothing disrespectful to anyone in that. She also suggested that a Council member should attend DRC meetings; Granstrom agreed. The motion (at the beginning of this paragraph) carried.
Moore moved that the City allow the north-side signage for Laundry Dog and the Rossland Beer Company to remain temporarily, and encourage the businesses and the DRC to develop co-ordinated directional signage. Carried.
After a few other items, three motions to adopt bylaws all carried rapidly and unanimously: Bylaw #2577 (permissive tax exemptions), Bylaw #2576 (reserve fund establishment), and Bylaw #2575 (transfer reserve fund).
Moore tried to convince Council to challenge other local communities to a contest to see which could raise their voter turn-out the most in the upcoming elections, but didn’t garner any enthusiasm for it. She then touched on her attendance at the UBCM gathering.
Spearn also spoke of the UBCM as a learning experience, and referred to the negative impacts on coastal communities of the increase in ferry fares.
Thatcher reported that the Museum Society has hired a new manager, Joelle Hodgkins, who will be moving down from Yellowknife.
At 9:15 pm, Granstrom adjourned the meeting to an in camera session under Section 90 (1) (e) of the Community Charter: ” the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if the council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality”.
And your reporter strolled home in the dark, pondering the efforts of local councils to improve their communities while other levels of government seem to ignore threats of food scarcity and rising food prices because of drought in California, increasingly violent weather events and other predicted effects of climate change, increasing political polarization in many nations, and other factors that will affect us all in the near and more distant future. But it was a lovely evening to be out for a walk.