Beer, Cannabis, our skatepark, fire services issues, tax preferences, and more.
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Lloyd McLellan, Andy Morel, John Greene, Marten Kruysse, and – electronically – Aaron Cosbey. Absent: Andrew Zwicker.
Public Hearing to consider a bylaw to rezone 2160 Queen Street, the former site of the Odd Fellows & Rebekahs Hall, from R3-Residential Multiple Family to R1I – Infill Residential. A resident expressed concerns about access by the narrow lane, and whether the height of the building would “loom.” She said that each dwelling should have individual water meters. She also expressed concern about the amount of traffic increase in the alley, and about the location of the gas line – she pointed out that there is a rock outcrop there, the gas line may be shallow, and she feared that vibration from traffic and construction could cause a gas explosion; “one house has already blown up from a gas explosion.” City Planner Stacey Lightbourne responded to each concern expressed. She explained that all houses can be built to 10 metres high, and that parking must be off the street and off the lane; that each dwelling must have its own water meter.
Another resident queried the sizes of the lots and the number of units, and the potential plans. Moore and Lightbourne explained that the current zoning would accommodate a building up to 12 metres tall; the rezoning will result in a lower permitted building, and fewer permitted dwelling units.
Another resident, a neighbour and one of the potential builders, spoke about how many of the adjacent residents he had consulted and how many positive responses there were, but apologized for missing some other nearby residents.
Cosbey was on Skype, and indicated that he was unable to hear anyone clearly and would hang up. Moore encouraged him to call in on the conference line.
Regular Meeting (immediately following the Public Hearing)
1. (Don Vinish, scheduled to appear for the Rossland Lions Community Campground, did not appear, but Moore noted that he intends to come for the next meeting.)
2. Jane Theriault, resident of LeRoi Avenue, spoke further to Council about her dissatisfaction with the way the LeRoi Avenue infrastructure work has affected her residence at the corner of Earl Street and LeRoi Avenue. She thanked Moore, McLellan and Greene for coming by to look at the problem; she pointed out that the corner was difficult even before the project, and it is now steeper, and visibility has been compromised by a high wall of snow between the entrances to Earl Street and the lane known as LeRoi A. She and her close neighbours on Earl Street ask that the 23% grade of Earl Street be lowered, and that the entrance be wider. Theriault pointed out that Earl Street is the only access to her house; that sometimes she can get out of her driveway, but cannot get back in because she “would go skidding right past it.”
She asked that portion of Earl be moved up on the plowing priority list. The other request was that the former parking area on the north side of LeRoi – on the boulevard – be plowed again, as she said it used to be. She said that the other nearest places to park are below the Prestige, or on the LeRoi A lane.
Moore asked Manager of Public Works Darrin Albo to respond, and he acknowledged that the entrance to Earl Street is slightly steeper, but he denied that the boulevard was ever plowed; he said it was just the “traveled lane” that was plowed in the past. Another resident responded that he understands that there are steeper streets in town, but pointed out that the steepness of that part of Earl Street increased during the project; it’s not as it was when they purchased their property.
Mark Miller of LeRoi Avenue confirmed that the level of LeRoi Avenue is now higher in front of his house. About the parking, he noted that “we used to get three passes with the blower, now we just get two.” He also said that the (disputed) former parking strip on the north side of Leroi acts, or used to act, as overflow parking from town during events.
Moore acknowledged the difficulties and explained that while it is an unfortunate outcome for residents of that short section of Earl Street, the project provided benefits for the greater population of Rosslanders.
Cosbey re-joined the meeting, by conference call.
3. Skate Park news: Robin Strachan reported that Rossland has about 8000 square feet of skatepark terrain built so far, and will add some additional “beginner” space to it this coming season. He said the proximity of the skate park to the youth centre and the school is a big plus. He referred to what has been built as a “transition-based” park, with lots of steep parts – “like Rossland.” He showed a design for the surrounding landscaping, for which they have $9,600 set aside, and spoke about measures planned to reduce noise to the neighbourhood, and showed where the flatter areas of the skatepark will be. He said they hope to build that section with mostly volunteer labour, and estimated that $20,000 will be needed for material, though RSA hopes for some donations. He acknowledged that they went over their budget by about $20,000, and asked if the City could forgive that debt.
Morel asked when the park would be open; Strachan explained that parts of it could be opened soon after the snow is gone, but when the street section is being built, it will be a construction site again and will have to be closed during that time; Morel noted that if that happens before the landscaping and noise buffering, it might be a problem for some for the neighbours. Kruysse commented that RSA is asking for forgiveness of $20,000 and asked about the operation and maintenance; Strachan responded that the plan was always to complete the park and hand it over to the City for operation and maintenance, but that RSA will still be there as an advocate for the park; he said that he expects the user groups to pitch in for ongoing clean-up and some repairs. Albo and Lightbourne noted that they have been in communication with Caley Mulholland, who is designing the landscaping, about the species to be used, water conservation and other needs. Kruysse noted that the Tennis Club does their own clean-up. McLellan said he has spoken with Grand Forks, and they told him the maintenance effort on their skatepark is minimal. Cosbey thanked Strachan and the group for all the work they’ve done, and commented again on the issue of O&M being minimal. June 2 will be a date to note for opening the park and getting signage up in advance.
Recommendations from Staff for Council Decision:
Council discussed a recommendation that they direct staff to issue a survey for input from residents and businesses, for developing municipal regulations on the sale of cannabis products. Kruysse noted that there was no mention in the draft survey about enforcement costs. Lightbourne responded that the province will be responsible for enforcing all the provincial regulations, and the City would be responsible for enforcing its own bylaws, such as zoning, business licenses, and the clean-air bylaw. Greene commented that his big concern is people driving while impaired by cannabis. Morel commented that there seems to be a lot of confusion over what falls under federal, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions.
Council made some comments and suggestions on the draft survey, which will be put out for public input when it’s complete. A motion to issue the survey as amended CARRIED.
More beer! Well, more seating, anyway.
A motion that Council approve an application by the Rossland Beer Company for an increase in capacity for its liquor license CARRIED.
Reviewing four policies: Staff recommended that Council re-confirm each of them.
A motion to reconfirm the Purchasing, Consulting and Publicly Tendered Contracts Policy; Cosbey queried the exemption for General Consulting, and said it was vague and could be open to abuse; he moved that staff suggest wording to clarify the intent; the motion CARRIED. Moore suggested that the term “immediate” be removed from “immediate family” under the “conflict of interest” section. (Some laughter broke out when Albo noted that he might be hard-pressed to find anyone he could hire if all relatives were excluded.) Cosbey objected that the term “family” should be defined then. Moore’s suggestion failed and the policy was re-confirmed; it will remain in force as is until amended at some later date with wording to clarify the exemption for General Consulting.
Council discussed the Employees – Management Minimum Benefits Policy; a suggestion to delete the obsolete section referring to cell phone reimbursement of charges was moved and CARRIED, and a motion to confirm the policy with the amendment also CARRIED.
A motion to reconfirm the Council Minimum Benefit policy CARRIED.
Council reviewed the Personal Expense and Travel Policy; Kruysse suggested that there should be a section added specifying that international travel must be reported to Council; the amendment CARRIED, and a motion to confirm the policy with the amendment also CARRIED.
Moore queried whether Council would be reviewing all its policies every year; Chief Administrative Officer Bryan Teasdale confirmed that would be the case, partly to ensure they are kept up to date, but also to ensure that Council members and staff are familiar with them.
A motion to recommend that the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #14, be issued a Liquor Primary license CARRIED. Kruysse wanted assurance that when the Legion “goes to full commercial operation, which this does, they’ll be on a level playing field with other commercial establishments.” McLellan raised the issue of whether this would affect their permissive tax exemption which covers the lower floor; Kruysse stated that the Legion’s activities there are also “commercial.” (Editor’s note: the Royal Canadian Legion is classed as a “service club” which raises funds for a mix of activities, some of which qualify as “charitable” under government regulation and some of which do not so quality. Other service clubs include Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists, Eagles and Lions, among others.)
Council discussed a motion to endorse the Heritage Management Plan Outline and grant application and commit $10,000 in funding and $3000 of in-kind contributions to the project. Kruysse was enthusiastic in his support. Morel asked if the Museum will be involved, and Lightbourne said, yes, when the project gets going. Moore noted that she had originally thought the City would not have to contribute funds to it, and that the City doesn’t have this amount in the budget. Teasdale confirmed that if this motion goes forward, the City will have to add $10,000 to the budget. Cosbey also noted that the grant criteria didn’t suggest that the City should have to contribute; Lightbourne explained that the City’s contribution was described to her as a strong criterion for the success of an application.
McLellan suggested that the City should, for distributing community initiative funding, identify which projects really benefit the community and support only a few with more significant funding, instead of giving a small and relatively useless amount to a larger number of projects.
McLellan moved tht the $10,000 be changed to $5,000 and the motion CARRIED. The main motion CARRIED as amended.
A further motion to ask the Heritage Commission to add funds from their previous year’s surplus to enlarge the City’s contribution CARRIED.
A motion that Council accepts the C-3 Mainline Inspections Inc. tender in the amount of $299,696.53 for the 2018 project to inspect all sewers by CCTV to check on pipe conditions and detect inflow and infiltration sources CARRIED. The City has received grant funding for the project, and will end up paying only 17% of the cost.
A motion to adopt Bylaw #2650, to rezone 2160 Queen Street to R1I, CARRIED.
A motion to give first, second and third readings to Local Government Election Procedure Bylaw #2656 CARRIED.
Moore asked if there was a possibility that people could vote on-line. Teasdale responded, “Sure, but we just gave first, second and third readings to our Election Procedure Bylaw.” He also pointed out that the cost and labour involved in setting it up would be disproportionate to the number of people who need to vote on-line. Cosbey added that on-line voting requires a huge burden of security measures.
A motion to give first, second and third readings to an updated Election Officials Bylaw #2657 CARRIED.
Citizen Budget Results: Council examined the survey results, which appear to show that a majority of respondents are willing to pay a little more overall on taxes. Moore noted that the survey was done by only 121 people (Editor’s note: That’s 117 more than the usual 4 people showing up at previous annual public input sessions on taxation.) McLellan noted that over half the respondents enjoy income of more than $75,000 annually. Council members expressed surprise that more residents wanted less money spent on bylaw enforcement.
Moore wanted to be sure that residents are aware of the Woodstove Exchange program. McLellan said this may be the last year to take advantage of it, because it’s been under-subscribed and is likely to be discontinued. (See separate news item for details.)
Morel had attended a LCCDTS meeting on February 15, and reported wonderful things from MIDAS, which is now “aligning with Selkirk College,” he reported. Don Freschi is the new KAST Executive Director. A new mining conference is proposed for November this year in Trail. Local businesses who are part of the federal supercluster award to BC include I4C, Astra Earth, and Teck; in the not-for-profit and post-secondary education category, MIDAS and Selkirk College. There were supercluster awards in five regions across Canada: Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the prairies, and BC.
The Rossland Public Library Board going ahead with putting their renewal project out to tender.
McLellan reported on the Regional District; Rossland was 20.04% at the end of the year for the sewerage flow monitoring. KCTS went to East End services and asked for another $5000, which would cover the RD-required audit and cost of living increase, but it was rejected. However, the Area B rep said she would see that they get $5000.
Kruysse referred to the Fire Service charges; “where’s the democratic process with the Fire Service?” McLellan noted that Rossland seems to be the only dissenting voice regarding the cost of the Fire Service. Moore commented, “So the democratic process is working, because the majority are perfectly happy with a multi-million dollar fire service.”
Kruysse commented that the comparative numbers (for the cost of fire services) are gradually and steadily becoming “farther and farther out of whack. I think the burden is shifting unfairly because of the assessment basis for the requisitions.” He suggested that we invite the Regional District’s CAO to come up and have a conversation. He’s concerned about the local economic impact of the costs to both businesses and residents. McLellan said that Mark Andison will be coming up, once the budgets are finalized. He noted that 60% of our call-outs are first responder call-outs, and commented, “In my opinion, that’s a down-load onto the fire service.” He said there will be a meeting with MLA Katrine Conroy in March, and the issue of inadequate funding for paramedics and ambulance service will be on the agenda.
Greene commented that his work toward the on-line Rossland business survey, including a directory, is coming slowly, “impeded by weather. Powder days.” He has been working on preparation for the opening ceremonies for the Canadian Alpine Championships. He said the Rossland Light Opera will be putting on a skit.
Cosbey attended a webinar on the “Smart Cities Challenge.”
Moore said that she had spoken with Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture, Lisa Beare, and that the Resort Municipality Initiative funding will continue.
She asked if Councillors wanted to discuss RSA’s request for forgiveness of the $20,000 bridge funding debt. Cosbey said he has mixed feelings: he’s very grateful to them for all the work they’ve done, but he’s not comfortable with forgiving a sum that they had agreed to repay; he’d like to give them something, but not the full $20,000. McLellan agreed, as did Kruysse and Morel, who was concerned about setting a precedent. Moore noted that the $20,000 could go a long way toward many other residents’ recreational preferences.
Kruysse moved to defer the decision until we have a better idea of what our recreation strategy is, going forward. Cosbey said he didn’t want to give them false hope by indicating that a decision would be made later. The motion FAILED unanimously.
Cosbey said, “We don’t need a motion.” Moore disagreed, because Council had heard a direct request. McLellan moved that Council deny the RSA request and the motion CARRIED unanimously.
Council then recessed to an in camera session, and your reporter walked home in the snow, taking special note of the steep plunge from LeRoi Avenue down Earl Street, and the tall fin of snow sticking up between Earl and the LeRoi A lane, and contemplating the nature of civilization, especially as summarized in Ronald Wright’s excellent little book, “A Short History of Progress.”