Library and Museum grants upped; TRP gets some; Taxes; Deanne Steven leaving Tourism Rossland
Rossland City Council, November 12, 2016: Public Hearing and Regular Council Meeting.
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Lloyd McLellan, Andrew Zwicker, John Greene, Andy Morel, and Aaron Cosbey. Absent: Marten Kruysse
PUBLIC HEARING: A slight clash of views over housing
The Public Hearing was scheduled to consider three Bylaws:
a) InterÃ¢â‚¬ÂCommunity Business Licence Bylaw, No. 2624 (2016)
No one commented on that.
b) Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 2626, 2016(7) – To Rezone Property Located at 2253 Washington Street from R3 – Residential Multiple Family to Commercial Resort Accommodation/Commercial.
Patricia Marshall Thompson spoke in opposition, because of concern about the loss of longer-term rentals in Rossland. “We really need to think about our rental population. Approx 30% of the people in Canada live in rental housing. When you reduce rental properties in a community, it is low and moderate-income earners who suffer; when the availability of rentals drops, the prices go up, and people have to move because they can’t afford to live here. There are 59 Airbnb listings in Rossland. I think the City needs to look at a bigger housing strategy, not just look at short-term housing. This bylaw takes housing units out of the long-term rental market. And I think that would be a shame.”
Peter Stewart, the owner of the property, spoke in support of his application. “We have not let that property as a long-term rental for at least four years.” He indicated that his renters stay for the winter and leave in April; and the rest of the time he uses the units to house visiting friends and relatives. “We have no intention of letting it all year ’round. … I think Rossland is one of the most affordable places on the planet.” He stated that three families who rented there from him have moved here to live. He doesn’t think the property fits into the standard B&B mold, or as a guest house; it has three apartments. He also pointed out that many of the properties nearby are zoned Commercial.
No one spoke to the City of Rossland 2016Ã¢â‚¬Â2020 Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 2628.
Immediately after the public hearing, Mayor Moore called the Regular Council meeting to order.
A Plea for TRP
Sean Miller, president of the Trail Stingrays swim club, spoke about the TRP (additional charges imposed by the City of Trail on Rossland residents who use the Trail Aquatic Centre and some other recreational facilities); he says that currently, swimming and baseball are the only sports not covered by some special consideration in Trail. He thinks that Council’s survey on the topic asked the wrong questions, and that it should separate out kids’ sports, which would have come to about $13,000 altogether. He suggested that the survey should have asked whether people support putting money into the two sports not covered for TRP.
He pointed out that if Rossland gives nothing, the Stingrays can’t get any consideration from Trail. If the Stingrays get no help with the TRP, they may not survive — they need time to try to find other financial support. They’re trying show Trail businesses how much they contribute to Trail’s economy by bringing people into town, and are in talks with other regional communities about the effects that losing the Stingrays would have on all of them, including Trail. They have initiated talks with Kidsport and Jumpstart, who want to remove barriers to kids’ participation in activities. He stated that City of Trail employees have informed him that the TRP “is not a program fee, it’s a tax.”
Moore pointed out that providing recreation is not one of the City’s core functions. Discussion went around the Council table, and Miller concluded, “We’re trying to survive long enough to fight it (the TRP).”
A Resident Seeks “Evidence-Based Decision-Making”
Janice Nightingale spoke about the2017 – 2020 budget plan; she asked Council to make their decisions based on evidence rather than opinions. “Taxes are high — that’s an opinion,” she pointed out. “Data shows that Rossland has grown while it has had these high taxes.” She continued, “One of the other metrics is that our user fees and charges have gone down by $100 per household since 2005; we have 1829 households in Rossland; if those fees and charges were restored to the 2005 level, we could have additional income of $182,900.” Her opinion is that much of our growth and success is because we are a well-serviced community. We have a number of facilities that are very diverse, and that attract people and keep them here. She shared that she first came here to ski, and stayed “because it’s an amazing community.”
Cosbey commented that if taxes were to be “jacked up too far” many of those who would have to leave the community would be the people who have lived here all their lives but are on limited incomes. “We would risk hollowing the place out,” he said. Nightingale noted that the good thing about user fees and charges is that they are consumption fees rather than taxes.
REGISTERED PETITIONS AND DELEGATIONS
Terry Miller, T. Miller and Associates
Terry Miller, Consultant for the City of Rossland 2017Ã¢â‚¬Â2021 Budget and Financial
Plan public input sessions, provided a presentation to Council on the input received from a random sample of 73 resident taxpayers. Miller acknowledged that the group was not strictly representative of Rossland’s population, as it appeared to be more heavily weighted toward wealthier and older residents. Council will do a more detailed investigation of the data gathered at a public meeting in Council chambers on Monday, December 19, starting at 6:00 pm.
As summarized and presented by Miller, the data gathered suggested a number of interesting findings:
* Most of the people surveyed are willing to take on modest increases in property taxes.
* Both the Miners Hall and our trails were seen as important to the community by a majority of those surveyed — no one saw them as unimportant;
* The Rossland Library is highly valued by most of those surveyed;
* Opinions about the Museum are fairly evenly divided along the spectrum from those who think it’s important and serves many people, to those who don’t think it’s very important, and serves very few.
* Not everyone surveyed wanted to cut expenses; some called for greater investment.
* recommendations included more analysis, finding more efficiencies, and charging higher user fees for recreation to keep operations viable.
Miller noted that the survey highlights the diversity of public perceptions; different people see the same things very differently.
a) InterÃ¢â‚¬ÂCommunity Business Licence Bylaw No. 2624 (2016)
A motion that the InterÃ¢â‚¬ÂCommunity Business Licence Bylaw No. 2624 (2016) be adopted CARRIED without further discussion.
b) Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 2626, 2016 (2253 Washington Street)
Council considered a motion that the bylaw be read a third time.
Cosbey moved that Council postpone a decision until they hear from the Task Force on housing. He understood that the property owner did not feel that his property was covered by the Task Force report, but still thought the report would contain relevant information that Council should have before making this decision. Zwicker and Morel concurred. McLellan asked if they could expect something for the next regular Council meeting on January 9th; Zwicker wasn’t sure. The motion to defer the decision CARRIED with McLellan opposed.
2017 Annual Revenue Anticipation Bylaw No. 2627
A motion that the 2017 Annual Revenue Anticipation Bylaw be adopted CARRIED unanimously.
City of Rossland Financial Plan 2016 – 2020 Bylaw No. 2628
A motion to adopt City of Rossland 2016 – 2020 Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw CARRIED unanimously
Moore added in the RSS Grade 1 children’s request at the previous Council meeting for a place to build their “gift cupboard.”
Morel suggested that it not go into Harry Lefevre Square, as it could become cluttered in the summer. Zwicker agreed; there’s space in Esling Park. A motion to locate the gift cupboard at Esling Park CARRIED unanimously.
2017 Community Funding Grant Application Decisions:
McLellan moved that Council reconsider its allocation of community grants, and that the full cost of constructing public washrooms at the Emcon lot be covered by the City’s capital budget. He added that the public washrooms are a high priority. Cosbey commented that the City should pay the full cost of constructing municipal infrastructure. The motion CARRIED unanimously.
Cosbey moved that the $15,917 that had been allocated to YAN toward public washrooms be added back into the community grants, and some of the grants be topped up to that extent. McLellan commented that he didn’t feel any pressure to spend the full amount on community grants, and suggested it should instead be put into reserves.
Cosbey argued that community services are too valuable to underfund. Morel thought that the money could be kept aside to use for any groups who come forward in future. McLellan noted that the City is now fully funding the public washrooms at the YAN building from its capital budget, and needs to save money. The motion CARRIED with McLellan and Morel opposed.
Moore introduced the topic of how to reallocate the funds.
Zwicker moved to dedicate $12,500 to TRP for kids, seniors and disabled, as per the policy previously in effect. McLellan said he’d rather it be $10,000 and Zwicker accepted that as a friendly amendment. The motion CARRIED unanimously.
Sean Miller asked that it not be done “first-come, first-served” again — that the funds need to be allocated from the beginning; he wants the process to be fair.
A motion to direct staff to bring the TRP policy back to Council for review CARRIED.
Cosbey made a motion to give $1,700 more to the Museum and $4,200 more to the Library and it CARRIED unanimously.
Budget and Financial Plan Preview 2017Ã¢â‚¬Â2021, Manager of Finance: a 4.75% tax increase for 2017
Chief Financial Officer Elma Hamming and former interim CFO Steve Ash presented to Council with a set of informational PowerPoint slides. Ash commented that one key point is that Council and Staff want to enable residents to participate in discussions on the budget before it gets filed in May of 2017, and that the City is much better prepared for that this year than they were last year.
Ash said the City is working to balance the need for cost containment with the need for continuing investment in infrastructure. The work done so far will require a 4.75% tax increase for 2017 to be able to return a balanced budget.
Ash also said it’s essential to continue basic infrastructure upgrades, but the pace will be driven by the availability of grants. The next big project will be the upgrade of Spokane Street infrastructure, with a potential cost of around $4.3 million.
Ash noted that Staff is constantly looking at ways to increase efficiency, and they achieved a reduction of operating costs for 2017 by $250,000 — no mean feat.
Hamming presented a slide showing the anticipated tax increases, up to and including 2020; and a slide showing anticipated increases in user fees for water and sewer in 2017 of 4.5% each; and charts showing how the City’s revenue and costs are divided.
Ash commented that he thinks the financial plan is very encouraging— that the City has accomplished a great deal and that the tax increases are very reasonable, considering both inflation and the infrastructure projects the City has completed already.
The pending Asset Management Plan will involve a review of all City assets; the plan will have three principal components:
· Policy, funding strategies
The City has two scenarios in hand: one assumes no grant funding, the other assumes grant funds will be received for infrastructure projects such as Spokane Street — which cannot be delayed, because of a high risk assessment. Albo commented that the pipes under Spokane Street between First Avenue and Columbia are in the most dire need of replacement.
Recommendations from staff for decision:
A motion that Council agrees to participate in the development of a performance management and reporting framework for sustainable service delivery pilot project, hosted by Grand Forks and sponsored by UBCM for the 2016/2017 fiscal year, CARRIED unanimously.
Council then did the part of its job that entails going through the Staff Updates and Reports, the Updated Task List, the October 2016 Public Works Report, and the list of Invoices Paid for Municipal Services September to November, 2016.
Changes at Tourism Rossland and Executive Director Job Posting:
Deanne Steven, who has been Executive Director of Tourism Rossland since 2007, announced her resignation in a letter; she will be moving on to an instructor’s position with Selkirk College in Business. Cosbey moved that Council draft a letter of thanks to Deanne Steven for her long years of work with Tourism Rossland, and the amazing changes her work has made. All agreed.
Council members reported on their recent activities and meetings. Greene noted that he is now in possession of a crucial part for the next Council bob-sled.
The meeting adjourned, and staff and council members departed the building in record time. Your reporter, bundled up for the minus-14 degree C. weather, waddled home on creaking snow flashing frost-diamonds in wondrously bright moonlight that made street lighting totally irrelevant, feeling privileged to live in this beautiful place. And to have a really warm coat and boots.