COUNCIL MATTERS: August 10, 2020, meetings.
Duplex opposition; insult shouted at Mayor; to ice, or not to ice? TRP report; cannabis store decision, and more . . .
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Dirk Lewis, Janice Nightingale, Andy Morel, and Chris Bowman; Staff: CAO Bryan Teasdale, Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Año Nuevo, Chief Financial Officer Elma Hamming, Operations Manager Scott Lamont, Manager of Special Projects Darrin Albo, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne, and Manager of Recreation and Events Kristi Calder.
Members of the public were asked to come in (and go out again) in groups, depending on which part of the agenda they wanted to observe or participate in, to keep the total number of people in the room at any one time low enough to allow for distancing. Many wore masks.
Mayor Moore opened the meeting, coughed, and croakily explained that she had a cold – “I’ve been tested, it’s just a cold, not COVID-19!” — but that her voice might fail, and in that event, Councillor Dirk Lewis would take over as Acting Mayor.
Zoning Amendment Bylaw # 2729 — to allow a suite for short-term rentals at 941 Redstone Drive. Only the owner spoke; no one objected.
Zoning Amendment Bylaw # 2731 — to allow construction of a duplex at 920 Redstone Drive. One resident spoke in opposition, stating that the actual plan of the proposed building is larger than originally presented by the applicant; he argued the “floodgates” idea – that approving one might open the door to other duplexes; he felt it wouldn’t fit the neighbourhood; he questioned the benefit to the City.
A second resident, living right beside the property, agreed with the previous speaker. They both pointed expecting that it would remain a single-family zone; he said it’s “a huge concern.”
Another Redstone resident is concerned about property values, and felt that Council should have provided the names of the owners – but did not; but the owners seemed to know what his concerns were – he felt that the City had shared his “private letter” with the owners before he even knew who they are. Moore later explained that the owner had been sent the opposing messages, but with the senders’ names blacked out.
A further resident spoke, to agree with the previous speakers, and to add that the challenges of steep driveways in Rossland winter are real, and result in on-street parking.
Another resident feared the erosion of market values. Someone asked if the decision had already been made; Moore said, no, the purpose of the Public Hearing is to allow Council to hear from concerned residents, and to take their input into consideration before deciding.
One of the earliest Redstone residents mentioned the severe restrictions on building in the area at first – “You could choose one of six designs” – and she felt that all that has been changed.
[Some of the speakers seemed to be confusing the original restrictions imposed on the development by the original Redstone developer and the agreements signed by purchasers with the original Redstone developer, with the legal power of the City to re-zone properties regardless of those private agreements.]
Another commented “Everything seems to be geared toward developers, instead of the people.”
Wayne DeWitt, a realtor who works with the builder of the proposed duplex, spoke in favour of the application, and pointed out that the building would fit within the size restrictions for the lot.
Another resident raised the issue of utilities – the sizing of water and sewer services – if there is a flood of further rezoning from R-1 to R-2, and the future need to tear up the streets and replace it all at taxpayer expense.
Another resident argued that Redstone is already more affordable than many other places. She pointed out that adding so much hardscaping (driveways) will add to existing ice problems in winter.
Another resident invited Council to walk around Redstone and compare the homes there with other homes built by Junior Hamm (the proposed builder of the proposed duplex).
[Editor’s note: I may have missed some speakers, and have not reported most names, as they were not always easy to catch. I apologize if I have missed anything of significance. The same applies to the Public Input Period, below; the only names I have reported are those of representatives of organizations, or who seemed to specifically want their names and comments noted, or registered candidates for election to Council in the delayed but upcoming by-election.]
Moore adjourned the Public Hearing, and opened the regular Council meeting.
Public Input Period: Ice, please!
A member of Rotary commented on receiving the grant to renovate the washrooms in the arena’s lounge area.
Two people spoke about Greater Trail Minor Hockey; they hope to “provide some semblance of hockey” this season, following advice from Dr. Bonnie Henry. The City of Trail is currently uncertain whether Trail will be putting ice into their “kids’ room.”
The Rossland Curling Club announced that only 11 of their over 100 members didn’t want to curl this winter because of COVID, so there’s high interest – “the ice is full.” Curl Canada has put out guidelines for curling during the pandemic, including positioning, limiting sweeps to one at a time, and so on. They aren’t sure yet whether or not they would have their bar open.
Ona Stanton spoke on behalf of the Rossland Arena Society and thanked the City for the new chiller, and said they are really hoping to have ice this winter. Another speaker said she and her kids would be “absolutely heartbroken” if there was no ice this season.
Martin Lundh spoke to complain about the snowblowing causing him problems at Ram’s Head Inn, and said Council had changed the bylaw to permit that; he also mentioned that his previous input opposing the Josie Hotel’s application for an additional five years of Revitalization Tax Exemption benefit (which application Council had unanimously denied), and about the City potentially allowing 88 short-term rentals in homes being the reason there is so little affordable housing in Rossland, had not been reported earlier.
Dan Haines complained loudly and aggressively about the Mayor’s comment to Fletcher Quince at the previous meeting, and accused her of failing to apologize – Moore responded that she had apologized; “When we were walking out!” he shouted. He complained that Fruitvale has “100 fewer people” than Rossland, and has “only four City staff!” and asked why Rossland needs 18 City staff. [Editor’s Note: the Village of Fruitvale’s website states that it had a population of 2005 people as of 2018. Wikipedia gives a figure of 3,627, but it does not state what area that includes, or where that information came from. Rossland’s population is reported as 3,729.] Haines asked why there hadn’t been a by-election yet; Moore responded that the City is accepting direction from the Province about when and how it can hold the by-election, and that she thought it could be held soon, but could not yet provide a firm date. Haines demanded to know whether the City would hold a referendum on the issue of a new City Hall at the same time as the election; Moore replied that it would not. Haines demanded “Why not?” Moore answered that Council had voted against holding a referendum. Haines shouted at Moore, “You’re an embarrassment to this town!” Moore responded quietly, “Well, I could say the same.” Haines said, “That’s an insult!” and demanded an apology; “Well, Dan, I am sorry for you,” Moore responded.
A resident spoke about the speeding on Thompson Avenue; she said, the new markers have helped a bit, but that there are some “defiant” speeders, and said she thought only a police presence would help. Another spoke on the same topic, but said she thought stop signs would work better than narrowing the pavement; she is concerned about losing parking, especially in the winter when more people park on the roadway.
Fletcher Quince said that Council’s decision to refuse to hold a referendum on the new City Hall was missing from the last meeting’s draft minutes, and criticized Moore for providing some information on the Facebook “Rossland Talks” forum about a Thoughtexchange survey from 2018, for the information of readers on that forum, that he had challenged her about at the previous Council meeting. He said it was “unprofessional.” He also expressed disapproval of Aaron Cosbey’s action at the previous Council meeting, in standing up and expressing regret that he had signed the petition seeking a referendum.
[Council had the previous meeting’s minutes amended to include the resolution to not hold a referendum, which had carried unanimously.]
Delegation: Recreation Task Force – Trail Recreation Program (TRP):
Aaron Cosbey and Kim Robinson presented the Rossland Recreation Task Force 19-page report (included in the Council materials for this meeting, available on the City website) on Rossland’s recreational facilities, the Trail Recreation Program and settlements reached by other communities with Trail for the use of its recreational facilities, the costs of maintaining such facilities, the populations and relative tax bases of the local communities, the variation in recreational facilities maintained by each of the local communities, and more. The report explored the administrative costs of subsidizing individual users, and noted the discouraging inconvenience to users of the application and reimbursement process.
The TRP requires Rossland residents to pay fees that are double the cost of Trail residents, or to buy a pass which would allow them to use the facilities at Trail residents’ price; but visitors from outside the region can use Trail’s facilities at the same cost as Trail residents without buying such a pass.
The report noted that the Trail Aquatic Centre was built by Trail in 1996, after a referendum held in all the regional communities elicited a negative vote from all the other municipalities about including it in the existing regional recreation agreement.
In its conclusions, the report pointed out that Rossland already “delivers a number of indoor and outdoor recreation services at a net cost of $900,000 – $1,000,000 per year” (before capital). The report provided information, but no recommendations – the issues were too complex and difficult.
In parting comments, Cosbey, referred to Rossland’s lack of a Recreation Master Plan, and suggested considering creating one at some point.
Moved up in agenda: Zoning Amendment – 920 Redstone Drive
At its regular meeting on July 13, 2020, Council gave first and second readings to this bylaw, to permit a duplex to be built at 920 Redstone Drive. Staff had received four messages from neighbours, opposing the application for reasons that Lightbourne addressed in the Council materials: parking is adequate, the size and height of the proposed structure would be allowed for a single-family dwelling at the same location, there is sufficient space on-site for snow removal, the street is wider than many in Rossland on school bus routes, and the parcel size is larger than required for a duplex. Also, the OCP strongly favours densification and energy efficiency. However, the input at the Public Hearing had been strongly opposed.
Nightingale spoke, saying that she originally favoured the application, but is willing to change her vote based on the very cohesive input from the neighbourhood.
Morel spoke in favour of the application, saying that he likes to have mixed housing, not “exclusive” neighbourhoods that look homogeneous.
Bowman commented that it’s a difficult call – but he acknowledged that he thought the proposal would in fact change the neighbourhood in ways unwelcome to the neighbours.
Moore reported that she had gone to look at the lot, and agreed that a duplex would not be such a good fit there.
A motion to deny the application, based on the overwhelming opposition from other residents as presented at the Public Hearing and in written messages, the lack of benefit to the City, and the fact that it benefits only the owner/builder, CARRIED with only Morel opposed.
Referrals from prior meetings:
Cannabis Retail Store License Application: 2185 Columbia Avenue
The report provided input from a much larger number of residents than the number who had submitted opinions to Council for its first consideration of the is question. Survey responses showed that more people who responded (43.45%) thought there should be only one cannabis retailer in Rossland than those who thought there should be two (20.92%), but if those who thought there should be three or “no limit” are added to supporters of a two-store limit, then a majority of respondents (51.96%) think there should be more than one cannabis retailer in Rossland.
Nightingale noted the numbers, and said she would support the application.
Bowman said he would support the application, given the numbers of responses, and that he didn’t think Council should interfere in business competition.
Lewis said he would not support the application, because he thought the survey respondents who cared were clear on not wanting two shops so close together.
A motion to approve the application from “Green Pineapple” to have a second cannabis retailer in Rossland at the proposed location CARRIED with Lewis and Morel opposed.
Moved up in the agenda: Development Variance Permit – Alan Davies applied for a variance to allow him to develop and use a parking area on City property, on the east side of his building at 941 Black Bear Road, where Rossland Search and Rescue will be housed, and suggested that the City enter into a Licence of Occupation Agreement for that area with Rossland Search and Rescue. Staff information indicated that the proposal would not pose any problems, and a motion to grant his application CARRIED unanimously.
Rossland Rotary Arena Lounge Washroom Project
Rossland Rotary has received grant funding to replace the Rossland Arena ‘lounge” washrooms, and seeks Council’s permission – and sufficient time from a City staff member to act as the Owner’s Representative on the project – to go ahead. A motion to approve the project as proposed CARRIED unanimously.
Rossland arena ice and hours: Council was asked to provide direction on the winter season for the arena. Staff had outlined the issues, including likely demand, and presented three options – one being not to put in ice, the other two being putting in ice, but with different scheduling options. The only decision required of Council at this time was whether or not to put the ice in.
Morel was concerned about the spread of COVID. Nightingale suggested keeping the season the same length, but perhaps with restricted hours.
A motion to put in the ice CARRIED unanimously.
Proposed mural for Highway 3-B retaining wall
Anise Bazley had proposed that the City enable an attractive mural to be painted or installed on the large retaining wall alongside Highway 3-B, and property of the Province’s Ministry of Transport, to the west of the downtown area. Staff investigated and found that, though MOT was supportive, a mural there would be damaged annually by snowplowing and would require expensive annual maintenance; installation and maintenance would require traffic control. The costs of such a mural are not in the City’s budget. Councillors expressed appreciation for the concept, and hoped it could be put into effect in some other location.
Morel expressed disappointment that a removable mural, that could be taken down in the winter and put up again in the summer, wasn‘t considered; Moore suggested that the Rossland Council for Arts & Culture could consider the idea if they are interested.
Zoning Amendment — – 941 Redstone Drive
The City received no input on the application to allow a suite to be used for short-term rental; a motion to give third reading to the bylaw CARRIED.
A further motion to adopt the bylaw also CARRIED unanimously.
Election Officials Bylaw # 2728
At its May 19 meeting, Council directed staff to amend the City’s bylaw to increase the hourly pay rate for election officials to $19.04 per hour – the same rate as paid by elections Canada. The amended bylaw was read a first, second and third time on July 13. A motion to adopt the bylaw CARRIED unanimously.
Tax Sale Deferment Bylaw # 2732
The proposed new bylaw would delay the sale of properties for delinquent taxes for one year to help people disadvantaged by the pandemic. A motion to give the bylaw first, second and third readings CARRIED unanimously.
Nightingale was not initially supportive of the bylaw, because the taxes were already past due – the failure to pay was not a result of the pandemic. Hamming pointed out that interest would still accrue on the amounts owing and the City would still collect the money in the long run. Lewis felt that if a property owner was having trouble paying their taxes in 2018 and 2019, they’d probably have more difficulty paying now, and supported the bylaw. “Maybe I’m a bit of a bleeding heart,” he commented.
A motion to adopt the bylaw CARRIED unanimously.
Policy Review: Council reviewed and approved the following policies:
Risk Management – Public Works Inspection & Maintenance Schedule Policy (as updated to reflect current practices)
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic
The policy on Risk Management – Public Works Inspection & Maintenance of Roads & Sidewalks Snow Removal was deferred to the next meeting for more information about on-street parking issues, specifically people who have no other option than on-street parking.
Staff Reports and Updates:
Rossland Senior Citizens Association Interim Lease Agreement:
Morel wanted a way to ensure that the building is being well-enough used; Calder pointed lout that with the Age-Friendly Coordinator being involved, there will be more information. She pointed out that other groups with agreements or leases for City facilities are not required to justify their use.
A motion to approve the two-year lease agreement with the Rossland Senior Citizens Association for the Seniors Hall located at 1916 First Avenue CARRIED unanimously.
Flying Steam Shovel Liquor License Application – Change of Hours: (Bowman declared his conflict and left the room.) The new hours will allow service of alcoholic beverages one hour earlier (starting at 10:00 am) on Saturdays and Sundays. Nightingale said she would be concerned about an application to extend the hours into the night, but she approved of this. A motion to recommend approval of the application CARRIED unanimously.
Water Treatment Plant Improvements: The planned improvements will install a soda ash system for pH and alkalinity adjustment, replace chlorine gas with a ready‐made liquid sodium hypochlorite injection system, install turbidity meters, equip existing filters’ manual telescopic valves with motorized actuators, install a permanent standby generator, and upgrade the SCADA system to include all new equipment. ISL Engineering had recommended that the City accept the lowest of the four bids received. A motion to award the Water Treatment Plant Improvements Project to Industra Construction Corp in the amount of $1,772,217.34 inclusive of GST CARRIED unanimously.
Curbside Organics Collection Program: Council reviewed information; no decision was needed at this time.
Council approved the cheque register report (City payments made).
Development Variance Permit for a new deck at 1506 Kootenay Avenue, allowing a new deck to be built with smaller setbacks at the front and side, where there are wide road allowances (boulevards) CARRIED unanimously.
Council reviewed reports on the taxation of land surrounding places of worship, building permit inspection activity, building permit report, Step Code energy rebates, the July 2020 Public Works report, the Water Production Report (every month this year except January has had lower water usage than the same month in 2019), the July 2020 Bylaw Enforcement Report, and the updated Task List.
A motion to approve the Anti-Racism Movie Screening at Centennial Field in September CARRIED unanimously; Calder noted that each attendee must be recorded, for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes.
Moore introduced the COVID-19 tourism rebuilding strategy, developed by the Resort Communities Collaborative; Nightingale commented that she doesn’t see all of it as a good fit for Rossland. She criticized the strategy for including affordable housing projects without suggesting that service staff are paid a higher wage so they can afford housing.
A motion to support the strategy as presented CARRIED.
Morel presented a written report on developments and information presented at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary board meeting.
Bowman reported that the Museum is dealing with the lowest turnout in recent history, and the annual golf tournament has been cancelled for this year; the Museum is seeking to put on an auction to help raise some funds. They are working on a way to get visiting “influencers” to see other interesting places and events than just the ones chosen for them by Tourism Rossland.
Council recessed to an in camera meeting, and your reporter packed up and lugged her computer home in the darkening dusk, watching for bears and feeling amazed at how quickly this year is passing.