A contentious re-zoning, new rules about fireworks, praise from the auditor
Public Hearing and Regular Council Meeting, April 9, 2018
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Lloyd McLellan, Andy Morel, John Greene, Andrew Zwicker, and Aaron Cosbey. Absent: Marten Kruysse
The Public Hearing was to elicit input from residents about the proposed changes in zoning for two properties.
The owners of 2622 McLeod Avenue and the owners of 2593 Georgia Street are both seeking a change from R1 residential to R1-GS; Residential Guest Suite (short-term rental). CAO Bryan Teasdale said that the City had received letters opposed to the zoning change for the McLeod Avenue property in the Iron Colt subdivision.
A resident of Iron Colt spoke against the McLeod Avenue application because he and others fear that it will compromise the quiet and privacy of the neighbourhood, which (he said) is occupied by professional people, some of whom need quiet because they work shifts and/or long hours. He said that he doesn’t know whether the applicant will be able to manage the property to keep any disruption from the neighbours. He noted that even if the applicant is a good manager, the next owner may not be, and he believes the zoning is a permanent feature. He commented that the applicant “wants short-term financial gain” and “doesn’t care about throwing the rest of the people under the bus.” He mentioned that there is no parking on the street, and the applicant has a difficult driveway. He commented that the applicant “seems like a really nice guy” but he has had problems with the applicant’s dogs over the past year, because he doesn’t keep them on his property. And the applicant is not experienced with managing short-term rentals.
Another Iron Colt resident spoke against the re-zoning, saying that the neighbours are overwhelmingly opposed to re-zoning for short-term rentals; they are not opposed to long-term rental, and they note that short-term rental capacity in town is increasing but long-term rentals are decreasing. He stated that his children play outside a great deal, and he would not feel as free to let them play outside as much with short-term renters so close. He said he doesn’t want the re-zoning as a precedent, that a new Council could change the policy on the number and density of short-term rentals in town.
A letter submitted to Council in opposition to the application for re-zoning referred to the Iron Colt residents’ “significant investment” in their properties, and their fear that the value of their investment will be eroded if the applicant’s property is re-zoned to allow short-term rentals in the carriage house.
The applicants spoke in favour of their application. They said their intention was always to build a home and a carriage house and to use the carriage house for short-term rental. They want supplemental income to make life easier while their child is young and the mother is not employed full-time. They currently have a good long-term tenant, but pointed out that if they are limited to long-term rental, an unsatisfactory long-term tenant would be much harder to “get rid of” because landlords’ rights are limited. They stated that they understand the reasons for the neighbours’ opposition and respect them, and aim to handle the short-term rentals responsibly.
No one spoke to the Georgia Street application, and the Public Hearing adjourned.
The Regular Council Meeting began immediately after the Public Hearing. First up was Public Input Period, but no one had anything more to say.
There were two delegations: a presentation by the City’s accountants, Berg Lehmann, on Rossland’s 2017 financial statements, followed by a representative of the Rossland Arena Task force, seeking support for a grant application.
Andrea Kramer of Berg Lehmann Chartered Accountants provided their unqualified opinion that the City’s Financial Statements present a fair and accurate picture of what has occurred. Unlike several prior years, there were very few recommendations for improvements.
Moore joked, “So do we get bonus points for hiring Elma?” Kramer responded, “You get Elma!”
Kramer commented that the audit team was very impressed with how well the materials were prepared and made available despite the disruption of the roof cave-in at the City Hall building and the forced change of location. “We were upstairs here doing the audit, just when boxes were being decontaminated and brought in and, you know, there were no gaps in the systems, and we were really impressed.” She spoke favourably about the “tone at the top” and, based on her observations, how well staff members work together.
Moore commented that Rossland should get points for hiring Bryan Teasdale too.
The next delegation, Ona Stanton spoke for the Arena Task Force, asking for the City’s support for a grant application to BCAA for $100,000 to improve the arena. The competition is only in BC, and they need the City’s permission for the application, which must be submitted by this coming Saturday. A motion approving the application CARRIED unanimously.
Moore had moved the re-zoning item for Iron Colt forward on the agenda.
A motion to give third reading to Zoning Amendment Bylaw #2658, to re-zone 2622 McLeod Avenue, and a further motion to adopt the bylaw, led to extensive discussion. Cosbey stated that the City went through a long process, including a great deal of public input, before creating its policy, and thought that the limitations in the policy would address the potential impacts of short-term rentals. He pointed out all the procedural requirements for short-term rental landlords. He felt that denying this application would “scupper the whole thing,” because this application meets all the requirements; he doesn’t agree that this would change the character of the neighbourhood, and doesn’t think that Council should “selectively apply the law.” He added, “I don’t see any compelling arguments for this specific zoning application to be denied, that wouldn’t be applicable to any other zoning application in the town.” He noted that he is well acquainted with Iron Colt, as he used to live there, and loves the neighbourhood.
One of the people who spoke in opposition to the re-zoning asked, in that case, what is the purpose of the Public Hearing? “It’s not your community. It’s our community. We should have the say,” he declared. Cosbey explained that the other Councillors might not agree with him (Cosbey), that he was just explaining his own opinion and that Council is not obliged to grant the application; and that the Public Hearing is intended to allow everyone to air their views so that Council can consider them and weigh them before making its decision. If grounds for denying an application are brought to Council, Council can deny an application. “It’s your opportunity to make the argument, to us, why we should deny the application.”
McLellan pointed out that the most important factor in short-term rentals is that they need to be monitored full-time by the landlord, and that would be the case for this property.
Zwicker acknowledged that this was a challenging case because of the neighbours’ opposition. He said that the policy the City created was intended to prevent abuses. He also felt conflicted because he recognizes that the feelings of the neighbours are important, but he also doesn’t think that Iron Colt neighbourhood is more entitled to exclude short-term rentals than any other neighbourhood; he explained that the opposition of the neighbours might be less important than the reasons for the opposition.
Morel explained that he thinks the application meets the requirements, and there are by-laws to protect residents from noise, dog problems, and so on, and the City now has some bylaw enforcement capacity.
Moore said she thinks the reasons for the opposition are not compelling enough to deny the application, given the built-in protections in the City’s bylaws and policy.
The motion to give third reading CARRIED unanimously, as did the next motion to adopt the bylaw to re-zone the property.
Council then moved on to approving the financial statements as presented. Financial Manager Elma Hamming spoke to the statements, and answered questions on them.
A motion to approve the 2017 financial statements CARRIED unanimously.
Back to by-laws:
a) A motion to give first reading to a Bylaw to Regulate Fireworks (#2651) CARRIED unanimously. Here’s what has changed: setting off firecrackers within the City limits is prohibited. “Consumer fireworks” as defined in the bylaw may be used on private property, but not after 10:00 pm. When there is a provincial “Category 2” fire prohibition, no one may set off any fireworks at all. Display fireworks and pyrotechnics are regulated. Fines are specified for violations of the bylaw.
b) A motion to give third reading to Zoning Amendment Bylaw #2659, to re-zone 2593 Georgia Street, CARRIED unanimously, and so did a further motion to adopt the bylaw.
c) A motion to give first reading to the 2018 – 2022 Financial Plan bylaw CARRIED unanimously. Moore commented that staff had done an excellent job of incorporating the various inputs that had been suggested.
McLellan moved that staff bring Council more information about councillor remuneration in other municipalities; the motion CARRIED unanimously.
Council then reviewed staff updates and reports: the updated Task List, the Public Works report, the Water Consumption Report (Cosbey noted that when the increasing water use is considered in light of the increasing number of connections – new residences – the increase is not that significant, and Teasdale commented that the same thing applies to the sewage flows), and the invoices paid by the City for March.
McLellan reported on RDKB meetings.
(At that point, very loud music began reverberating from somewhere downstairs, making it difficult to hear council members. Recreation Manager Kristi Calder went downstairs and the volume diminished slightly.)
Greene said it’s important to provide affected businesses one week of notice in advance of any street closures, and the organizer of the event should be responsible for doing that. Calder said that she has a new form, which will be used by any organization wanting to have a street closure, and the organizer will be responsible for providing notices to the businesses.
Moore had gone to the “Us and Them” movie, and commented that it was a very powerful film on poverty and homelessness.
Council discussed community initiatives funding decisions coming up: suggestions for the process included setting / clarifying criteria in advance, to avoid disappointing applicants unnecessarily; deciding whether to give funds in small dribbles (“spreading the joy”) as opposed to ensuring that grants are large enough to do something worthwhile; whether or not to favour applicants with projects in Rossland; and so on. McLellan is in favour of making grants large enough to be worthwhile; he is also doubtful that it’s a good thing to give grants year after year for operations and maintenance, but Moore noted that some organizations have difficulty surviving without help with O&M; Council might need to go on a case by case basis. Cosbey reiterated that Council needs to communicate criteria to applicants, in advance.
Council recessed to an in camera session to discuss “the proposed provision of a municipal service.” Your reporter packed up and wandered off to the grocery store, and then perambulated home in the twilight, rejoicing in the absence of ice on the walkways and streets and wishing for faster shrinkage of snow-cover. No, make that disappearance. And contemplating people’s fears of “stranger danger” and the politics of exclusion, which can be kindled in such small ways.