COUNCIL MATTERS: UPDATED -- July 13, 2020, Rossland City Council meeting
Library: Please bring books back! That referendum petition; the Josie Hotel’s request for more tax relief; and how big is a “Small” garbage bag, or a “Large” one? Tennis courts and art installations, why we can’t have mail ballots, and do you know anything about Rossland’s Asset Management Investment Plan?
Present: Mayor kathy Moore, and Councillors Dirk Lewis, Janice Nightingale, Andy Morel, Stewart Spooner and Chris Bowman. Staff: CAO Bryan Teasdale, Planner Stacy Lightbourne, Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Año Nuevo, CFO Elma Hamming, Manager of Recreation and Events Kristi Calder, and Manager of Operations Scott Lamont.
Public Input Period:
Reading very rapidly from a one-page prepared speech while pacing back and forth, Matthew Ponka spoke about the wealth gap, and stated that a fair society is not possible under those conditions, and eloquently opposed the application for further tax relief by the Josie Hotel. He went over the 2-minute time limit and insisted on continuing despite repeated requests from Moore and other council members that he stop; “We have your points,” Moore noted. She said it would have been useful for Ponka to send Council his speech in advance of the meeting, so they could read it beforehand. Some members of the public gallery shouted “Take a vote! This is a democracy!” — and Moore responded that City Council meetings don’t work that way.
[Editor’s Note: In case readers wonder about this, Section 133 of the Community Charter empowers the “person presiding” (usually the mayor) at a Council meeting to order anyone who is “acting improperly” to be expelled from the meeting, and can have a “peace officer” carry out the order “as if it were a court order.”]
Sam Ross, on behalf of the Rossland Tennis Society, sought the City’s support for their request.
Laura Pettit pointed out that the Rossland Tennis courts have been there for 110 years, always operated by volunteers, open to all and well used.
Martin Lundh spoke about the “Nowhere Special” hostel, and is unhappy about their snow-blowing which blocks a trail for which he says he has a right-of-way; he seemed to blame Columbia Basin Trust.
Cezary Ksiazek spoke in favour of the City planning for a “very tough” two years to come, and cutting some spending.
Fletcher Quince spoke to ask whether Moore had sent out the results of a ThoughtExchange survey including questions about the qualities residents want in Council members, inter alia. [UPDATE: Mayor Moore reports that the ThoughtExchange survey in question was one taken in 2018, before the last municipal election.] Moore acknowledged that she had not received them, and needs to see if ThoughtExchange still has those results. Quince also spoke against the Josie’s request for revitalization tax exemptions. Quince objected to being interrupted and asked to stand down at the end of his allotted two-minute speaking time, with an argument, and Moore said, “Oh Fletcher, you should have been a lawyer!” Quince responded, “Maybe I will be yet.” Moore responded, “Good – go to school. Do something.” An outcry arose from the public gallery, saying “Put that in the media!” — so here it is.
Aaron Cosbey, who had signed the petition before doing any research on the issues, spoke to express his regret at having signed the petition, and said that decisions about the Mid-town Transition project and a City Hall are for Council to make, not the general public.
Carmel O’Flanagan spoke in opposition to the Josie Hotel’s application for further tax relief.
Moore then apologized to Quince for having been “catty” in their earlier exchange. Quince responded sharply that he didn’t appreciate being interrupted.
Mr. Jesse Crocket, General Manager of the Josie Hotel, presented a request to Council that the Josie’s Revitalization Tax Exemption be extended for a further five years. [The request would require Council to rescind an earlier decision imposing a moratorium on revitalization tax exemptions.] He pointed out that the Josie does currently pay about $62,000 for the year in property taxes. He went on the explain the benefits the Josie brings to business generally in Rossland, the visitors it attracts, the media attention it has brought to the area and other local businesses, and the local employment it provides. His application was supported by letters from Tourism Rossland and four local business owners.
Bowman asked what the Josie would “strike from [its] plan” during the next five years if it doesn’t get the extension of its exemption; Crocket answered, public relations – sales and marketing, which affects businesses in the whole area.
Nightingale asked if the hotel had closed at any time; Crocket explained that they closed for two weeks in the spring, and again in the fall. He said their rooms are closed now, and they’re focusing on the restaurant and lounge. “Everything is so challenged right now,” he commented.
Council moved the issue up in the agenda:
Permissive and Revitalization Tax Exemption Review
Council reviewed the current provisions of the City’s tax exemption bylaws, both the permissive exemptions and the revitalization exemptions, and discussed the purposes they serve. Staff had noted that the City would need to put a new bylaw in place by August 10 to consider any Revitalization Tax Exemption applications this year. The Council package included several pages of information on Revitalization Tax Exemptions, including information on how the BC/Alberta Trade, Investment and Mobility Agreement affects how they may be used.
Moore asked for comments on the Permissive Tax Exemptions; Lewis stated that he doesn’t like a “blanket” exemption for places of worship, but is happy enough to give exemptions to churches if they also engage in philanthropic, charitable activities. Hamming raised the matter of the legislation – municipalities have no discretion about the statutory exemption for “places of worship” which includes the buildings and the land they stand on, but does not include the land surrounding them; municipalities have discretion over the surrounding land. Nightingale said she’s happy with the way our permissive tax exemption works.
Council then considered the Josie Hotel’s request for an extension of its revitalization tax exemption. Moore commented that Council had previously removed the option for a five-year further extension simply because it had never happened in the past; she noted that the original intent (with regard to new structures) was to help businesses get off the ground. Spooner said he didn’t think it was the City’s place to “invest in private businesses.” Nightingale estimated that if the Josie raised its room rate by a little over $8.00 CDN per night, and achieved 30% occupancy, it would raise the funds being requested of the City; she agreed with Spooner. Morel added that he also wanted to vote against it.
Bowman said he’s “not willing to ask our citizens for the money.” Moore said she really appreciates the Josie, but wants to be fair to the other businesses in town, and residents.
The motion to deny the Josie’s request for a five-year extension of its revitalization tax exemption CARRIED unanimously.
Nightingale moved to eliminate revitalization tax exemptions.
Morel agreed with the motion. Lewis noted that he is “of two minds on this.” He likes the option of incentivizing green initiatives, but admitted that those incentives could be achieved in other ways. Moore liked the intention of the revitalization tax exemption, but thought it was not well executed and could be amended to make it more useful. She thinks it might be helpful to refer it to the OCP committee.
Nightingale’s motion to eliminate the tax revitalization program FAILED 3-3.
A motion to accept no further revitalization tax exemption applications until a further decision on the matter, and to refer the issue to the OCP committee CARRIED unanimously.
The Rossland Tennis Society submitted a letter outlining the history of tennis in Rossland, describing the courts, their use, the history of their upkeep and improvements, and their current failing condition; and requesting assistance from the City in beginning the refurbishment of the tennis courts, starting with reinforcing the cribwork that supports and surrounds the courts.
Moore wanted to know how the communication barrier between the City and the Tennis Society could be resolved; the knowledgeable person on the Tennis Society does not do e-mail – but he is willing to meet personally with City staff and Council members. Laura Pettit pointed out that the tennis courts are an ideal place to discuss it all while social-distancing. She asked if they could look forward to hearing from the City soon; Teasdale explained, not tomorrow – but perhaps in the next few weeks.
Why we can’t all vote by Mail Ballot:
Council reviewed a staff recommendation to not amend the bylaws to allow for voting by mail ballot in Rossland’s municipal elections and by-elections. The Local Government Act does not permit voting by mail ballot for the general public – Section 110 limits voting by mail ballot to voters who “who have a physical disability, illness or injury that affects their ability to vote at another voting opportunity” and those who will be away on voting day and all advance voting days, and municipalities cannot alter that restriction. No motion was needed.
Año Nuevo pointed out that a mail ballot also poses time problems, getting the ballots back in time to be counted.
Zoning Amendment request – 941 Redstone Drive
The owners request a zoning amendment to allow them to rent out two bedrooms on a short-term rental basis. The home is in a Resort Residential area, so the OCP supports the request. A motion to give first and second reading to the zoning amendment bylaw, and to schedule a Public Hearing for August 10, CARRIED unanimously.
Zoning Amendment request – 920 Redstone Drive
The owner seeks an amendment to allow construction of a duplex on the lot, rather than a single-family dwelling. Lewis moved to deny the application, as he didn’t think it would fit the neighbourhood. Nightingale said she really likes the application, and spoke in favour of allowing a duplex there. Lightbourne pointed out that most of Redstone is zoned to permit duplexes. Lewis’s motion FAILED.
A motion to give first and second reading to the bylaw, and to schedule a Public Hearing for August 10 CARRIED unanimously.
Check-out Bag Regulation Bylaw: Make it better
Council reviewed the current DRAFT bylaw, and correspondence from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Strategy, including information abut the results in municipalities that have imposed a fee for providing paper or reusable checkout bags. A motion to rescind third reading of the current DRAFT bylaw and work on a “more robust” bylaw CARRIED.
Councillors briefly discussed that several grocery stores in the region – but not Ferraro’s — are now permitting reusable bags to be brought in by customers, as long as they don’t put them on the counters or ask staff to fill them.
Election Officials’ Remuneration:
At the May 19 Council meeting, Council reviewed a report on election officials’ pay rates, and directed staff to prepare an amendment to the City’s bylaw, to raise the pay for Poll Clerks and Ballot Counters to $19.04 per hour, which is the rate currently set by Elections Canada. The bylaw presented instead would have matched the pay rate to that set by Elections Canada all the time, and Council preferred to retain control over the rate, so changed the bylaw back to the $19.04 per hour pay rate. The increase will add approximately $500 to $1000 to the cost of an election. A motion to give the bylaw first, second and third readings CARRIED
Residential Solid Waste and Yard and Garden Waste Rates Bylaw # 2730:
The new bylaw is proposed to ensure that the costs of the new contract with Alpine Group for solid waste collection are covered. It also sets out the size limits for “Small” and “Large” garbage bags:
“Small” garbage bags can be up to 24’ x 28” (60 by 70 centimetres) – about 40 to 50 litres;
“Large” garbage bags can be up to 30” x 33” (76 by 83 centimetres) – 80 to 100 litres;
No bag of garbage weighing over 25 kilos will be picked up.
As reported in a previous “Council Matters,” the cost of a “Large” sticker will be $3.00, and the cost of a “Small” sticker will be $1.50, effective August 1, 2020.
A motion to give Bylaw # 2730 first, second and third readings CARRIED; and a further motion to adopt the bylaw also CARRIED.
(Adopting a bylaw on the same day that it has been given first, second and third readings is possible only during the COVID-19 State of Emergency, under Ministerial Order 192, which replaces M139 which was declared ultra vires – that is, beyond the powers of the government — by the BC Ombudsperson.)
Council reviewed and approved the following list of policies, one at a time:
Asset Management Investment Plan: Spooner said he thinks “we should share this with the community – the more people who know we have an asset management plan, the better.” Councillors discussed the difficulty of getting residents to care at all about a municipal asset management plan. For those who are interested, it is available on the City’s website in the “Document Library,” under “Administrative Policies.” It outlines in detail how the City determines whether a given project is a worthwhile investment, among other things.
Employee Rules and Regulations Policy, as amended: confidentiality provisions were added, and language and format were updated.
Employee Step Discipline Policy (One business owner muttered, “I need one like this!”)
Information Acceptable Use Policy
Respectful Workplace Policy as amended; it now includes reference to the City’s Anti-Racism Policy.
Community Grant Funding Policy (with only minor edits.)
Staff reports and Updates:
City of Rossland Annual Report for 2019 has been available for public viewing, and has been duly advertised as such; at this meeting, Council unanimously voted to approve the Annual Report.
Council then reviewed other reports: Invoices paid; Corporate Management Workplan update; Budget Update for Q2, including COVID-19 financial impacts (minimal); building permit and inspection reports; Public Works Report; Water Production Report (June 2020 showed significantly lower water use than any other June for the past eight years); and the Updated Task List.
Bowman asked how staff are feeling about the workload; Teasdale explained that “it’s been a very long year – and it’s only July.” He listed some of the factors that have led to the heavier and more challenging workload.
Requests Arising from Correspondence:
Rossland Council for Arts and Culture (RCAC) has requested permission and assistance from the City to install the nine-foot-long “Viking Bench” donated by the Sons of Norway, near the skatepark, at an estimated cost to the City of $2,000. Staff have concerns about the safety of the installation, and liability for injury, and suggested that RCAC enter into an agreement with the City with RCAC retaining ownership of the bench and being responsible for public liability insurance.
A motion to not approve the request FAILED 3-3.
A further motion CARRIED to approve the installation of the Viking Bench on City property with the CIty contributing just $500 toward the installation, at a different better location, and RCAC will own it and will obtain public liability insurance on it.
RCAC also requested City permission for, and assistance with, a Sculpture Symposium from September 11 to 13, 2020. The assistance would consist of the City installing three one-foot-square concrete pads along the Centennial Trail, at a cost of approximately $3000 plus staff time, for mounting larch or cedar sculptures.
A motion to allow the symposium, with the City contributing only $1000 toward the installation, CARRIED 4-2 with Nightingale and Spooner opposed.
Petition requesting a referendum for the Midtown Housing Project: the petition, and the response from Moore on behalf of Council (see separate news item for the text of each), formed part of the Council package.
Lewis moved to not put the question to a referendum, on the basis that the petition was based on misleading information. Morel said he has been very impressed by the work done to date on the project and notes that “we aren’t ready to even start.” Nightingale said that she has spoken to a number of people who signed the petition, and who regretted having signed; and has also spoken to others who signed and think there should be a referendum for reasons having nothing to do with the statements in the petition, including that it’s “such a big project.” Spooner said he thinks “we live in a town with a lot of eccentric people with weird ideas.”
The motion to have no referendum CARRIED unanimously.
Lewis noted that the library will not be charging overdue fines incurred during the pandemic, but would REALLY like people to bring their library books back.
Bowman mentioned the cancellation of Golden City Days this year, and reported that some people think not having GCD this year may be a good thing, to spur a “refresh” of the whole event.
Morel had sent out a four-page report on the RDKB meetings he has attended, covering a wide range of topics. One item indicated that the RDKB Education and Advocacy group will be advocating against issuing any more licences for commercial groundwater extraction and bottling operations.
Nightingale attended two Mid-town Transition meetings. She also took part in a Rural Health webinar – and noted that lack of bandwidth caused some problems.
Moore: Resort Municipality Initiative mayors discussed future tourism, and think it may take a couple of years before things recover. There will be a “virtual UBCM.”
Council adjourned the meeting at 8:30 pm, and your reporter headed outside into a clear and refreshingly cool evening and, once out in the open, removed the cloth mask to stroll home, noting the preponderance of well-known invasive plants en route – spotted knapweed, hoary alyssum, thistles, common tansy, burdock, policeman’s helmet, orange hawkweed, field bindweed, hoary cress . . . and pulled up a few dozen thistles.