In the works: restrictions on plastic bags and watering; maybe changes to tax exemptions?
Rossland City Council Meeting, May 6, 2019
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Chris Bowman, Scott Forsyth, Stewart Spooner, Dirk Lewis, and Janice Nightingale. Present by speaker-phone for a portion of the meeting: Andy Morel.
Public Input Period:
Miche Warwick spoke about the draft outdoor watering bylaw, and said she finds the chart confusing. Regarding Stage 4, she pointed out that “minimal crop maintenance” is not defined; and she took exception to the exemption of such businesses as window-washing and car-washing, but not food production; she asked, in an extreme low-water situation, which is more important – a shiny car, or having food?
John Howse spoke regarding “Smart” water meters and his non-consent to having one installed at his home. He objects to the meters on the basis of invasion of privacy, and is not comforted by the City’s assurance that the City does not part with anyone’s information. Moore stopped him after several minutes, explaining that Public Input is really limited to two minutes, and that if he’d like to speak for 15 minutes he should ask to be a delegation.
Andrea Kramer of Grant Thornton LLP, Municipal Auditors, presented information to Council on the City’s 2018 Financial Statements. She explained the function of the audit and the audit report; and explained that this report is “unqualified” which means that all the required information was made available and was complete, and she commented that the fact that so few year-end adjustments were needed is “a real credit to your staff.”
a) Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw #2691: A motion to give the bylaw second reading CARRIED, with the amendment noted below, after extensive discussion. Bowman was concerned that customers of retailers might become angry or frustrated if required to pay for a bag. Lewis is disappointed that it’s only a “check-out bag” bylaw instead of a “single-use plastic” bylaw, and Forsyth spoke in defense making a modest start with a check-out bag bylaw. [Editor’s note: The European Union agreed, on March 27, 2019, to ban a large variety of single-use plastics.] Nightingale moved to remove the requirement that retailers charge “an applicable fee” for any check-out bag. Spooner said, “We’re trying to achieve some behavioural change. If we don’t have people pay, businesses can just keep giving out single-use bags – only they’d be paper.” The amendment, to remove the requirement to charge for check-out bags, CARRIED.
Moore asked how Council wanted to get more public input. Bowman suggested involving the Chamber of Commerce, which could get messaging out to its members.
Nightingale moved that Council specifically invite the retailers to provide their input, as well as the public. CARRIED, with only Spooner opposed.
b) 2019 – 2023 Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw #2694: A motion to adopt the plan, previously discussed at length, CARRIED unanimously.
c) 2019 Municipal Tax Rate Bylaw #2695: A motion to adopt CARRIED unanimously. Here’s a chart of the rate structure:
d) Outdoor Water Use Regulation Bylaw #2696: Lewis moved to amend the bylaw by removing 7(ii) which exempted some water-using businesses from being restricted under Stage 4 restrictions. The motion CARRIED. Someone mentioned that the beer company uses a lot of water, and jokes came up about putting out fires with beer. CFO Elma Hamming pointed out that the smart meters will be useful to the City in informing staff of what uses are most demanding of water.
Spooner asked why the times of certain uses were “so prescriptive.” Manager of Operations Darrin Albo explained that the City is trying to avoid overloading the times of usual peak usage, to even out the demand. He commented that when staff have been able to analyze the input from the smart meters, they may change the times. Albo commented that there are timers for watering, which could allow Spooner and others to water their lawns or gardens after leaving for work. Nightingale noted that some timers can be programmed for times and dates.
A motion to refer members of the public to staff to apply for exemptions during Stages 1 and 2, and to Council for exemptions during stages 3 and 4, CARRIED.
Forsyth moved that there be a two-year graduated program for commercial farms at the end of which they must use non-treated water for their irrigation needs – must have their own water supply instead of using City water. Spooner pointed out that there’s only one farm concerned, and that the farmers don’t own the property. The motion was DEFEATED.
A motion to give second and third reading of the bylaw, as amended, CARRIED.
e) Council Procedure and Conduct Bylaw #2697: A motion to give the bylaw first, second and third readings CARRIED.
Morel moved that Council consider changing its regular meeting night from Monday to Tuesday nights. After discussion, the motion was DEFEATED with only Morel in favour.
(Morel was in the eastern part of the country, and left the meeting at this point.)
f) Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw #2698: Nightingale moved to increase the arena’s hourly ice rental fees consistent with the CPI for the previous year, and to increase the hours to 11:00 pm. Her motion CARRIED unanimously. A motion to give the amended bylaw first reading also CARRIED unanimously.
g) Zoning Amendment Bylaw #2699, for 2650 Washington Street:
The owner has applied to change the zoning to permit short-term rental of a small suite to be built above a garage. A motion to give the bylaw first and second reading, and to schedule a public hearing for June 3, CARRIED unanimously.
h) Red Mountain Specified Area Tax Rate Bylaw #2700:
A motion to give first, second and third readings to the bylaw, which lowers the tax rate for the specified area, CARRIED unanimously.
Staff Recommendations for Council Decision:
1. Development Variance Permit Application: This is an application for the new Operations Building at RED, to allow it to be built without the sprinkler system currently required by the City’s bylaws, but which is no longer required by the new BC Building Code – which supersedes the municipal authority for building codes. A motion to approve the variance CARRIED unanimously.
2. Development Variance Permit Application: This application is for reduced front and side set-backs, to enable a home to be built on the small, tapered lot between 1644 Second Avenue and Highway 3-B. A motion to approve the application CARRIED unanimously.
3. MOU between City and Museum: The DRAFT Memorandum of Understanding sets out the respective roles and responsibilities of the City and the Museum regarding completion of Phases 2 and 3 of the Museum’s Renewal Project, including the above-ground “Mine Experience.” The City will contribute $30,000; Teck has already committed to a contribution of $700,000; the remainder of the costs of the project – estimated at approximately $1,140,000 – must be raised from other sources. Another $530,000 of that amount is listed as “pending” in the budget statement. The City will provide other in-kind contributions as outlined in the MOU. Moore voiced her objection to the word “essential” being used of non-essential groups’ and their services, however worthy and important they may be. A motion to approve the MOU CARRIED unanimously.
4. CBT Community Outdoor Revitalization Grants: Having done further research on potential projects, Staff recommended that the City apply for grants for: (a) planning for a public toilet in downtown Rossland, and (b) a gazebo – a “shade structure”– at RossGlen Park.
A motion to approve an application to CBT for the planning for the public washroom CARRIED.
A motion to approve an application to CBT for the RossGlen gazebo FAILED, with Moore, Spooner and Lewis opposed. Spooner asked what the rationale is for spending funds for a gazebo in RossGlen; Manager of Recreation Kristi Calder explained that it would be a rentable City facility for special events such as weddings, and would provide a community gathering place in Lower Rossland.
5. 2018 Audited Financial Statements: a motion to accept and adopt them CARRIED unanimously.
6. Supplementary Statements of Financial Information: these are prepared in addition to the Financial Statements, in accordance with the Financial Information Act, and released to the public by the end of June each year. A motion to approve them CARRIED unanimously.
7. Tax Exemptions up for revision? Chief Financial Officer Elma Hamming has recommended that Council consider the current opportunities for the City to shape its future by means of both the Permissive Tax Exemption Policy for such places as churches, service organizations and schools, and also the Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw which encourages development and improvement to achieve certain goals. She provided information on both.
Permissive Tax Exemptions: Spooner questioned a tax exemption for the Rossland Legion, saying that they seem to be advertising themselves as “just a bar.” He also queried why Golden City Manor has an exemption, when anyone can rent a suite there, with (he thought) no eligibility requirements. Golden Bear Child Care was also questioned, as Councillors see it as being in competition with private child care businesses in the City. The policy will be up for discussion at the next Council meeting.
Revitalization: Nightingale suggested that the Revitalization Tax exemption be available only for the downtown core business area; and that the City restrict exemptions to enterprises that don’t already exist in the City, and start the exemption at 50% instead of 100% of the eligible portion of the City’s share of property tax. She explained that she wasn‘t excluding Red, but wanted to benefit only improvements to existing buildings – not building new ones. Spooner wants Council to think about what they want to incentivize and how the bylaw could be refined to achieve it. After discussion, the idea of starting the exemption at 50% of the eligible portion of taxes was dropped.
Elma commented that the exemption helps new businesses succeed – she cited the statistics about how many new businesses fail in the first three years.
Nightingale moved that the revitalization bylaw be amended to exclude new businesses that would be competing with existing Rossland businesses – so as not to give an unfair advantage to a new business over an established one. Bowman added a friendly amendment — unless it's a not-for-profit entity. The motion CARRIED, with Spooner opposed.
Council reviewed Staff Reports: Public Works Report, and Updated Task List
Requests from Correspondence:
Council received requests for scholarships or bursaries from the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre, and the Seven Summits Centre for Learning.
A motion to provide a scholarship for the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre, in the same amount as last year, CARRIED.
A motion to provide a $200 scholarship for the Seven Summits Centre for Learning CARRIED.
After Councillors reported on the meetings they had attended as part of their Council duties, the meeting adjourned.
Your reporter walked home in the pleasantly cool dark, contemplating the challenges of vegetable gardens, water conservation, and anxiety about wildfires during what promises to be a very hot, dry summer.