Are Regional District Requisitions Fair? A Dispute About City Property; and, Please Don't Burn Your Yard Waste
Rossland City Council: Regular Meeting, April 11, 2016
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, Councillors Lloyd McLellan, Andy Morel, John Greene, Aaron Cosbey, and Andrew Zwicker. Absent: Marten Kruysse
Public Hearing: Anthony Bell, owner of Red Barn Lodge, spoke to support Bylaw #2607 to change the zoning for 2615A Railway Street to a guest house, as it is being done through the proper channels and he supports additional accommodation being made available legally.
Public Input Period:
A resident of 3rd Avenue spoke to the general topic of short-term rentals; he had operated an “airbnb” in his rental home, contrary to Rossland’s bylaws, and was “called out” on it. He said that “somehow, we need to allow this.” HIs guests did not want to be at the hill, they wanted to be in town, and there aren’t a lot of premises available in town that have full kitchen facilities. He’s happy to do it legally, and pay fees. Moore agreed that the City needs to look at it, but that short-term rentals do need to be regulated and the City needs some income. The speaker asked if it could be done reasonably promptly; Moore replied that it is on the City’s plan. Cosbey suggested that the resident put his ideas in writing to the City about how it could be implemented. Planner Stacey Lightbourne said the City intends to put something in place within a year.
Another resident spoke about her application for a Development Variance Permit to replace her carport, which collapsed under the winter’s snowload. She was responding to a letter written to the City by a neighbour; she emphatically disputed a number of the statements in the letter and denied doing any short-term rentals. She pointed out that the “garden” area and landscaping he referred to is actually City property: a wide boulevard, within the road allowance area, used by the City for snow storage. She related that the neighbour had blown, with a leaf blower, dust and dirt from the road onto her property, and has parked vehicles very close to her driveway, nearly blocking it. She asked that the neighbour be made aware of property line locations.
Laura Petit spoke, questioning numbers of youth soccer players. McLellan confirmed the numbers.
Dyne Parker spoke on behalf of the 15 Rossland residents playing in the Trail commercial hockey league. For the past while, Trail has been waiving the TRP, which would otherwise cost an additional $242 per player. Trail has said they will not support the Rossland players to stay in the league for another year. It’s the only competitive hockey league (as distinguished from “the beer league.”) Players have to be good enough to be drafted into the league, and Rosslanders form about 20% of the league. Regarding the financial subsidy offered by the City for residents to use the Trail Aquatic Centre, he stated that he never uses the aquatic centre, and wishes that he and others could access the same support for their own chosen sports use of Trail facilities. He offered five different suggestions: first, a recreation agreement with Trail; second, reimbursement of TRP for the hockey league and for other sports; third, to reimburse 50% of the TRP costs for all sports; fourth, allow a per-household amount of subsidy; fifth, retaliation by charging Trail players extra when they use Rossland facilities. Moore said the last one is one they haven’t really considered, because Rossland doesn’t wish to do what we object to Trail doing. She explained that even the $50,000 set aside to help with the TRP has now been reduced to $46,000, and that Rossland still hopes to reach some settlement. She wondered if the additional cost of the TRP could be divided among all the League players, it would come to about $40 each. Parker responded that they had tried that suggestion with the league, but several Trail players had been “very outspoken” against the idea.
Cosbey commented that the most important point of the presentation is that the current system is not fair, and that Council needs to address that issue. McLellan noted that Beaver Valley needs to renegotiate with Trail at the end of the year, and wondered if the Rossland players could pull out of the league and form their own team, and offer to make it an inter-City league, with games played in Rossland; the speaker responded that he didn’t think there was enough ice time available in Rossland. Zwicker mentioned that the speaker had said he moved back here because he could afford to do all the sports he likes in this area, and said it was the same for him, and hoped something more fair could be worked out.
Delegation #2: John MacLean, CAO of the RDBK, presented on the Regional District’s services. He said he’d rather hear upfront about any concern or questions, rather than “having them fester.” The Regional District is about 33,000 hectares; he described the boundaries, and the five districts and the community partners. He pointed out that RDs are not allowed to budget for deficits; and they are a “service delivery” organization; each service is budgeted separately — the budget for one service cannot be used for any other service; funds for each service stay strictly within that service.
He explained that ” the default position” for requisitioning funds for services in each community or district is based on property valuation, rather than parcel taxes or population. He passed around a budget, showing that Rossland’s requisition for 2016 from the District will not increase over the amount paid in 2015. He went on to discuss various other services, such as victim services, the landfill and the new efforts to recover organic waste, sewer and transit.
When MacLean said, “The province considers transit a provincial imperative” Moore responded, “They ought to put more money toward it then.”
McLellan said that the issue is cost apportionment.
Moore stated that requisitions based on property valuation is “unaffordable” for Rossland, because Rossland property assessments have gone up without the incomes of the property owners, or the revenues of the City, having kept pace with the inflation in local property assessments. Rossland property valuations have risen more than the property valuations in other local communities, which means that Rossland pays a disproportionate share for services where the RD requisition is based on assessed property values, rather than, for example, number of dwellings.
MacLean said that the RD “doesn’t care” what the requisition formulas are, and it gets worked out by the board. Moore pointed out that MacLean is the expert who could provide advice and guidance, and she hopes that he and his staff can come up with more equitable ways of basing the requisitions.
Maclean said he would argue that basing fire service on property valuation is fair because of how much money the homeowner stands to lose. Moore pointed out that it costs the fire department the same amount to put out a fire in a particular 2,000-square-foot home whether that same home is assessed at $200,000 or $500,000.
McLellan pointed out that this district is unique in having a regional fire service; and that after we became involved in it, “the rules changed” and that the costs became tied to assessments “without much thought” about how fair it is, or is not.
Cosbey agreed with Moore that we aren’t really talking about “value to the homeowner” of the service, but about cost of putting out the fire; and he suggested that each service should be examined to determine the most fair basis for apportionment for each. He pointed out that the RD should also be concerned about the possibility of dissolution of regional services that are eligible for review.
MacLean pointed out that the increases in Rossland’s requisition are “totally because of higher assessments by BC Assessment.”
Cosbey expressed approval of the organic waste recovery, partly because it will extend the life of the landfill site (so a new location would not have to be found), but mostly because of the possibility of preventing the escape of some of the methane emitted from the landfill.
The Rossland Beer Company asked council to approve a “Liquor Licence application for structural change with capacity increase,” to increase the capacity of its premises from 14 customers to 30. The motion for approval CARRIED unanimously.
Golden Bear Children’s Centre requested permission to renovate the building they are renting from the City. A motion CARRIED unanimously to grant permission for the renovations to proceed at no cost to the City, and with notice that the City intends to negotiate the terms of a new 5-year rental contract with Golden Bear before the renovations begin, to cover rental from the end of the current contract until 2022. Moore pointed out the building is currently rented out “under market, which gives an unfair advantage” to Golden Bear over other daycare centres.
A motion to approve an application for a Development Variance Permit for 2611 Pinewood for a carport replacement CARRIED unanimously, after discussion about the status and role of City-owned boulevards. The neighbour who had raised concerns about the application has created landscaping features on the City-owned boulevard across the street from the applicant’s home, and was concerned about the ability of vehicles to make the “sharp turn” required to access the proposed carport without using any of the wide boulevard on his side of the street and interfering with landscaping he has installed on City property. Council members noted that the City boulevards are commonly used for parking, and for snow storage. Planner Stacey Lightbourne recalled that, some years ago, the City encouraged people to “improve” the boulevards in front of their homes, but soon realized that it caused too many problems and that it is better for boulevards to be left available for vehicle parking, snow storage and the inevitable build-up of gravel over the winter, and any necessary excavations by the City for drains and water lines.
Miners Hall tenders: Council read and unanimously approved the recommendations in a letter from the project architect, to award tenders to the low bidders on the three initial stages of the project: scaffolding, replacing the roof, and restoration and refinishing. Two of the three contracts went to local contractors: Trail Roofing and DJM. The contract for scaffolding went to a Nanaimo-based company.
Council voted unanimously to give third and final reading to Zoning Amendment Bylaw #2607, to allow Guest House zoning for 2615A Railway Street. Another motion to adopt the bylaw also CARRIED.
Council again voted unanimously to give third reading to Bylaw #2608, to reduce the maximum parcel size and the reduce the interior side setback for a multiple family dwelling in the R5 Residential Resort Mixed Density Zone. The bylaw will make the maximum parcel size 2400 square meters, and the interior side setback will become 3 meters.
Please Be Kind to Dogs
Council expressed appreciation for the Task List. When Moore noted the dog tie-up locations are done, Morel voiced concern about the use of the one below Ferraro’s during the summer, on the south-facing, sun-blasted unsheltered concrete retaining wall.
City expenses: Moore noted that there were “a lot of payments to residents.” Consulting Chief Financial Officer Steve Ash responded that they were for the TRP.
Rossland Council for Arts & Culture (RCAC) sought approval for the proposed location of a new sculpture, and City assistance to put it in place. The new sculpture, called “V-Formation” is by Nelson artist Nathan Smith. RCAC will also extend the lease of “Sphere of Influence” by Winlaw artist Carl Schlichting. Discussing the proposed location for the new sculpture, Council expressed discomfort with placing it in a relatively narrow space between buildings and separated from the sidewalk by a fence. Staff have been requested to work with RCAC to find a more suitable and visible place to display the “V Formation” work.
One item was a warning from the Southeast Fire Centre about the dangers of open burning at this time of year. Council members deplored the amount of smoke in Rossland recently from outdoor fires, and up at Caldera, slash piles. Council asked the press to remind residents that: A. Permits are required for outdoor burning; B. Burning yard waste is prohibited; C. Burning construction waste is prohibited; D. Provincial legislation prohibits burning many substances including painted wood, treated wood, plastics, rubber, asphalt and more; E. Spring Clean-up starts at 7:00 am on May 2. City crews will pick up properly gathered yard waste placed on boulevards. (No need to burn it!)
After the meeting, your reporter repaired to the Red Room for a friendly chat with the competition, and noted City staff at one table, and later, Councillors at another, while we reporters sat in our own corner, wondering whether it might be more fun to have members of the three groups mixing together instead of staying in three separate little silos of conversation.