COUNCIL MATTERS: June 15, 2020, Rossland City Council Meeting
New chiller for the arena; Anti-racism policy; Cannabis conundrum; garbage bag sizes; traffic calming for Thompson Ave.; a downtown bazaar for the summer; highway mural? And cam camp . . .
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Andy Morel, Dirk Lewis, Janice Nightingale, Chris Bowman, and Stewart Spooner;
Staff: CAO Bryan Teasdale, Planner Stacey Lightbourne, Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Añonuevo, and Manager of Special Projects Darrin Albo.
Public Input Period:
An 11-year-old resident, Anise Bazley, suggested that a mural should be painted “on the large, boring retaining wall” on Highway 3-B & 22. She had written a letter on the subject, to be discussed later in the agenda.
Kevin Duerdin and David Parker spoke on behalf of Warren Hamm’s application to Council, noting that their proposal for a second recreational cannabis store, in the same block at the first one, meets the City’s zoning, and all the other criteria – except for the views of residents, several of whom have expressed opposition. He also pointed out that Rossland has a larger population served by only one store – other communities in the region have populations that provide from 1,148 people to 1,542 people per cannabis outlet, while Rossland’s population is reported to be 3,729. They referred to a survey from 2018 that indicated that Rosslanders were comfortable having more than one cannabis outlet in town.
They argued that having retailers of similar products clustered improves choice and service for customers and tends to improve business, rather than hurting it.
They also presented a document comparing the prices of six of their cannabis products with the prices at five other outlets – their prices as presented tend to be higher than others, with a few exceptions.
Nightingale asked if any other locals were involved in the enterprise, and they said, yes, Jodie Ouimet.
Bowman asked if the population number used included all age groups, or just those of legal age; Duerden replied that the figures included the whole population, including children. Bowman raised the question of how many actual marijuana users per household there are. Moore asked about the prices on the pricing chart – whether the other stores mentioned are in the local area; they are. The application was discussed later in the agenda.
Garbage Disposal Contract:
At the previous Council meeting, CAO Bryan Teasdale was asked to negotiate with Alpine (the sole responder to the City’s Request for Proposals for garbage collection) about keeping a “small bag” option. Alpine agreed, so the small-bag stickers will still be available, and will double in price to $1.50 each – to match the doubling of the cost for large-bag stickers, which will cost $3.00 each.
Lewis noted that there are bag-size issues, and wondered if staff, or Alpine, could work out something to make the approved sizes identified in the stores. Teasdale noted that anytime there is an issue brought to the City’s attention by Alpine, the City does what it can to resolve the problems.
Morel thanked staff for identifying in the materials potential changes when organics collection begins.
A motion to award the contract to Alpine according to the negotiated terms CARRIED.
Alpine noted that there is a “certain element of abuse of the tag system” and asked that the City put out a clear message to residents as a reminder of the bag sizing restrictions.
Council discussed the Freedom of the City Policy; Lewis wanted to remove the reference to “distinguished military unit” and replace it with “volunteer organization.” Spooner commented that the policy seemed archaic, “something from another time.” Moore suggested leaving the military unit in. and adding the volunteer organization. A motion to accept the policy with that amendment CARRIED.
Council voted to reconfirm the Half-masting of the Canadian Flag Policy, the Proclamations Policy, and the Advertising and Marketing Policy.
Then they discussed proposed revisions to the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic Policy, approved at the April 6, 2020, Council meeting. The revisions update and clarify the policy. A motion to approve the revised policy CARRIED.
Draft revisions to the City’s Grant-in-Aid Policy were up for review next. The suggested revisions would replace the former division of applicants into two categories depending on the size of the grant requested (over $25,000 or under $25,000) and instead provide for three types of funding from the City:
· Multi-year Operating Grants – for continuing organizations that provide ongoing benefit to the City, four years of funding per approval.
· Grants in Aid – for shorter-term projects or programs;
· Capital Project Grants – for improvements to City-owned property.
The policy defines each category and sets out eligibility and application requirements for each. The Council materials included a set of e-mails discussing the policy, between Spooner and Lewis.
Lewis stated that he thinks the Multi-year operating grants should really have their own line items in the budget; but Moore explained that they are separate entities rather than parts of the City. Nightingale and Moore agreed that the four-year multi-year terms should not coincide with Council terms – better to have councils make funding decisions after two years of experience. Lewis argued in favour of grants with a longer term than four years. Spooner hoped that funding decisions Councils make are based on ample information.
Staff will take Council’s comments and refine the draft Grant-in-Aid Policy for another version.
A new Anti-racism Policy, intended to support and supplement BC’s Human Rights Code and the City’s Respectful Workplace Policy, was presented for discussion. It acknowledges that racism exists in our community, and pledges to do all that is within the City’s power to “ensure that all who work and interact with the City of Rossland are able to do so in an environment and manner free of racism and racial discrimination.” The City’s powers are limited, and the policy applies to “all employees, elected officials, contractors, volunteers, and students working or volunteering for the City of Rossland or providing professional services to it.” The policy includes a complaints process and the capacity to investigate, with safeguards.
Bowman said the draft policy is timely, and a very good start. Morel agreed, and referred to a visual that had been posted by Hamming (see below).
Spooner was troubled by the acknowledgement of racism in our community “in all its forms” because “they haven’t been pointed out to me” – he indicated that “it just isn’t the case.” Moore agreed that “in all its forms” may not be accurate here.
Lewis said “there is a culture that allows for slightly racist transgressions” – and “we have to actively call it out.” He stated that everyone has a duty to be pro-actively anti-racist – to call out “those little transgressions” which make larger transgressions easier.
Amendment: “the City of Rossland acknowledges, recognizes and will not tolerate the existence in our community of racism in all its forms.” CARRIED.
Below, a helpful diagram on racism:
Request for support from the City to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Board (LCRB) for an application allowing a second cannabis store in Rossland:
The second store would be located on the same side of the street, in the same block, just a few doors down from the current cannabis store (“Jimmy’s Cannabis Shop”). This request was originally on the agenda for the May 19, 2020, City Council meeting; it was deferred to this meeting at the request of the applicant. At that time, the City had received twelve messages, all opposing the application. By the time the agenda for this meeting was published, the City had received twenty-seven messages – twenty-four of them not supporting the application, and three in favour of it.
The LCRB cannot issue the license sought unless the local government provides a positive recommendation.
Council discussed a motion to NOT approve the request:
Lewis didn’t accept the argument that more stores would curb the illegal market in any way; he also thinks that the local market has good access to the products; and he said he didn’t think the 2018 survey, done before legalization, necessarily reflects current views; and he noted that the provincial average is one cannabis shop for several thousand people, in some places up to one per 80,000 people, so he didn’t think that one shop in a town of 3,700 people is unreasonable; and he is concerned by the 24 messages from residents opposing the proposed shop, compared with the three in favour.
Spooner felt that it wasn’t Council’s job to interfere in the market. Morel felt challenged by the pros and cons of the decision – he agrees with Spooner about the role of Council, but also respects the opinions expressed by so many of Rossland’s residents and business owners. He emphasized the value of variety in our downtown businesses. Nightingale expressed appreciation for the information brought by the delegation on behalf of the application; she agrees that there is room for product differentiation; and she noted that choice of locations in Rossland is limited, so the proximity to another retailer may be unavoidable. Lewis commented that he didn’t think it was a matter of Council “picking winners and losers” – but that the Province asked Council to look into location and community reaction. He says he just wants to be objective based on what the province asked. Moore commented that while she would like to support the staff recommendation, she thinks it may be her own prejudice – “personally I’d prefer not to have two,” she also recognizes the value of the 2018 poll. She’s not comfortable restricting businesses from opening in Rossland, and is not that concerned that it’s in the same block, but she does share the concern that perhaps both shops could fail. She appreciated the applicants’ offer to have the shop closed by 7:00 pm, and to postpone their opening for 18 months.
The motion to not approve the request FAILED 3 to 3.
Spooner moved to approve the application as submitted, and that motion also FAILED – 5 to 2.
Moore suggested that Council grant the application on condition that they postpone opening for 18 months, and close by 7:00 pm.
Morel particularly wants a larger amount of input from the business community.
Kevin Duerden expressed willingness to defer their opening for two years; he said it would allow the black market to “get itself out.” He also said they’re willing to close by 7:00 pm.
Lewis supported deferring the decision to get more information.
David Parker added that the market for legal cannabis “is not your typical pot-smoker.” He added that their business tries to provide a comfortable experience for customers.
Nightingale moved to defer a decision on any further cannabis stores until they have had the opportunity to gather more current community input from a greater number of people. The motion CARRIED, 4 to 2.
Development Variance Permit application – 2501 Georgia Street: The owner seeks permission to build a double carport, with the single-carport setback of .3 metre. Staff report that the proposed carport would not change the snow-storage situation, or otherwise impact City operations or sightlines. A motion to allow the variance CARRIED unanimously.
Rossland Arena: Chiller Replacement
Council discussed a motion to award a contract for replacing the arena’s brine chiller and condenser to Canada West Refrigeration in the amount of $435,584 plus taxes; this was the lowest bid of four. The staff report indicated that the replacement would use less ammonia and save energy. The add-on “Scada” for another $50,000 would include a monitoring and alarm system for malfunctions, and enable remote monitoring and adjustments to save staff time and travel.
The City would do some work to keep the cost lower. There were two options – with or without the Scada system; Bowman asked if the Scada system could be added on later. Albo said it could.
Nightingale asked whether adding it later would add any expense. Albo said it could cost more depending on how much later, but couldn’t provide any figures. Moore asked about the lifespan of the chiller and condenser, and Albo estimated about 20 years.
Lewis moved to approve Option 2, which includes the Scada. Spooner pointed out that it’s a lot of money for some data. Morel moved to hold off on deciding about the Scada system until later in the process. Albo asked if the motion could be phrased to allow for adding the Scada system if 50% or less of the contingency allowance has been used by a certain stage. Teasdale pointed out that the whole Option 2 project would still be within budget, and suggested that adding the Scada system could be an operational decision.
The motion to go with Option 2 CARRIED.
Traffic calming measures for Thompson Avenue:
Manager of Special Projects Darrin Albo presented diagrams of a plan for bump-outs and narrowing of parts of Thompson Avenue to reduce speeding. If the measures are effective, then the City could utilize them in other areas where speeding seems more prevalent.
Nightingale spoke in favour of the project, but suggested consulting with residents of Esling Drive before making it one-way; Albo explained that the planned change in traffic pattern would not interfere with access to people’s driveways on Esling.
Spooner agreed that “People have been complaining about this for as long as I’ve been around, and it’s about time we do something about it.”
A question about traffic circles elicited a chorus of “no room!” comments.
A motion to approve the temporary traffic-calming measures for Thompson Avenue as a pilot project CARRIED unanimously.
Community Energy Association – Associate Membership:
A motion to join the CEA as an associate member, for $2500 per year, CARRIED.
Rossland Downtown Open-air Bazaar for Summer 2020:
Council discussed a proposal for an open-air market to be held every two weeks during this summer, for Rossland businesses, in the Esling Park area and possibly the large, privately-owned parking lot at Spokane and Columbia. Spokane Street would be closed from Columbia to First Avenue during the bazaar hours. Participating businesses would have to pre-register and sign an agreement to be assigned a spot, and would have to “obtain a valid insurance policy, as appropriate” and agree to be responsible for any injury, damage or loss – and that the City will not be responsible. Spaces will be assigned at no charge by the Recreation Department.
Rossland’s Mountain Market will not be held this year, for financial reasons; this bi-weekly bazaar is not intended to replace the market, but to provide an open-air shopping opportunity for people who prefer not to enter enclosed spaces during the pandemic.
Moore stated that the requirements proposed should keep the bazaar from being “a flea market;” Spooner said he thinks flea markets are fun, and would rather have as few barriers to participation as possible. A motion to approve the biweekly bazaar as proposed CARRIED.
Council perused the following reports but had no questions about them: Building Inspection Report, Building Permit Report, Public Works Report; and Water Production Report.
Request re Mural on large concrete Highway 3-B & 22 retaining wall:
Lewis expressed concern about disruption of traffic, and asked if the mural could be pre-painted and then installed, like the one by artist Tyler Toews adjacent to the library. Bowman also said he thought a mural mounted on the wall would be a good idea.
Spooner would like to have some feedback from the community; Moore suggested first finding out what the logistics would involve – seeing whether it’s permissible and feasible – and then finding out what the community thinks.
A motion to direct staff to investigate the feasibility of the concept and bring the information back to Council CARRIED.
RCAC Cam Camp workshop:
The Rossland Council for Arts and Culture asked permission to use the Rossland Skatepark (All Wheels Park) on June 27 and 28 for part of a “cam camp” – RCAC explained, “This day camp will teach the fundamentals of point-of-view filming using cameras like GoPro. This will involve teaching students about lighting, location, camera angles, camera movement, and how to direct action. This camp will help kids that are already creating videos to make better videos, and inspire kids who are curious to go out and create with their friends.” The letter of request outlined the safeguards planned.
A motion in favour of granting permission CARRIED.
Councillors reported on the meetings and events they had attended. Moore noted that there is no firm up-date on the byelection yet.
Council recessed to an in camera session, and your reporter poked the button to leave the Zoom meeting, regretting the lack of a walk home afterwards – even if it was dark and tumultuous outside, with frequent showers . . . and continuing to be grateful for those showers keeping the garden watered and wildfires at bay, and suspecting that flooding would inundate less land, less often, if we hadn’t clear-cut so much of the landscape’s former forest cover, and nearly all of its old-growth.