Council Matters: October 5, 2020 meetings
Chicken coops, flu clinics, speeding, short-term rentals, upcoming OCP review, and more . . .
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Janice Nightingale, Chris Bowman, Andy Morel, Stewart Spooner, and Dirk Lewis; Staff: CAO Bryan Teasdale, Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Año Nuevo, Executive Assistant Rachel Newton, CFO Elma Hamming, Manager of Operations Scott Lamont, and Manager of Recreation and Events Kristi Calder.
1. PUBLIC HEARING for residents’ views on:
A. The “Chicken coop bylaw”– the initial draft bylaw on keeping chickens on residential lots proposed various limits – restricting the number of hens that may be kept to five, on the height of chicken coops, and on their location on lots, and prohibiting owners from killing their own hens on their own property. At the first reading of the proposed bylaw on September 14, Council amended two of its provisions – to increase the permitted height of chicken coops from two metres to two and a half metres, and to allow chickens to be raised in front yards as well as back yards.
Council received two emails on the topic: one objecting to the restriction on the number of hens, and one objecting to the lack of a requirement for electric fencing to deter bears, coyotes, raccoons, and other predators that could be attracted to the chickens or their feed.
Sue Wrigley spoke about her experience as a volunteer or Northern Lights bear shelter for orphaned bears, and suggested strongly that electric fences protecting chicken coops should be required – to keep bears safer from being shot for getting into a chicken coop, and keeping cubs from being orphaned.
Sarah Flood said that she has been keeping chickens for ten years without an electric fence – that she has had bears in her yard, but they have never damaged her chickens or her coop. She pointed out provisions in existing bylaws which cover all the points that could be raised about raising chickens. She said she has had up to eight chickens at a time without any complaints; and that we don’t need more bylaws – just more effective enforcement of the ones we have.
Jim Leithead spoke and pointed out that there has never been any problem about people keeping chickens, except one rooster who disturbed neighbours and was dealt with very quickly. He said he has never had a problem with bears, or complaints from his neighbours.
Another resident spoke to say that 5 chickens is not enough for evryone – her family has 5 members, and they keep 7 chickens and still have to buy eggs at times. She opined that there is no benefit to putting a limit on the number of chickens – that it would be better to ensure that each chicken has enough space for health and hygiene.
Jacob Tremblay spoke on behalf of Jillian Sanders, who has worked in bear conservation since 2005, and asserted that electric fencing is the only effective way to keep bears away from chickens. He said that he and his family have an electric fence and it works.
Jill Spearn spoke to say that she thinks electric fencing is useful, and cited her neighbour Andrew Bennet, who uses it extensively. She also pointed out that not everyone is in favour of keeping chickens in town. She wondered if there should be a density limit on chicken-keeping in town, as there is for sort-term rentals.
Lisa Wegner spoke to urge Council to take more time to decide on all the issues involved in keeping chickens. She suggested that education would benefit “wanna-be” chicken keepers so that they can do a good job for their chickens and their neighbours.
Stephanie Leithead spoke to say that she thinks “electric fencing is great as a design option” for those who can’t design and build a coop that isn’t bear-proof. She mentioned that her husband was suddenly unemployed with COVID-19, and their egg supply helps.
Another resident spoke, asking Council to delete the 5-chicken limit; she pointed out that well-kept chicken coops are not smelly or unhygienic.
Jenny Dueck spoke to encourage Council not to impose requirements that force people to use one option over another, for example for protection against bears; she also spoke to say that she thinks people ought to be able to slaughter their own chickens in their own yards.
Caley Mulholland encouraged Council not to place restrictions on the number of chickens a household can keep, or the height of a coop. She spoke about the draft bylaw’s reference to disposal of chicken feces, and pointed out the benefits of chicken manure for building Rossland’s poor soil to grow vegetable gardens. “No one should be putting chicken manure in the garbage!”
B. A bylaw and OCP amendment to change the zoning of 2207 Columbia Avenuefrom Commercial back to Residential; the property had housed the previous location of The Alpine Grind, and then Mook Thai, but before that it was residential. No one objected to changing the zoning back to residential, and Kyle Grady spoke to support it.
2. REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING
Public Input Period:
Jim Albo spoke about the arena, to say that the curling club was only allowed a one-year lease last time, while the library got a 5-year lease; he said the curling rink was built by volunteers, and the club has operated for over a hundred years; “you can’t make fair and just decisions based on bogus information.” Moore and Spooner said that the City is working to get good information, and needs time to do it.
a) Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 2735 and OCP Amendment Bylaw No 2736, re 2207 Columbia Avenue – the four motions required to give third reading and to adopt both the zoning amendment bylaw and the OCP amendment bylaw to enable the property to revert to residential zoning all CARRIED unanimously.
b) Zoning Amendment Bylaw No 2733, 2020 – Animal Processing and Backyard Chickens: Lewis suggested putting a limit of ten chickens instead of five;and, instead of requiring electric fencing, adding a provision requiring chicken owners to “make reasonable provisions for bear proofing.” Spooner said he thinks it’s not helpful to impose unenforceable provisions. Nightingale wanted any limit on the number of chickens to be more flexible. Morel suggested that the electric fence should be a requirement. Bowman asserted that chickens ought to have ten square feet of space each; Moore said she thinks the electric fencing would be a good thing – but she said we should regulate less; she would remove the limit on the number of chickens. Nightingale mentioned the City of Victoria’s requirement for a certain number of square feet of property per chicken. Lewis still objected to mandatory electric fencing.
A motion that the limit be raised to ten chickens, with bear proofing, FAILED unanimously.
Nightingale moved that the bylaw be referred back to staff; with a limitation based on size of lot; and bear-proofing; and to remove the height restriction; and requiring licensing, to give an opportunity for education; and removing the prohibition against killing one’s own chickens. The motion to refer CARRIED. [Editor’s note: interested readers can discover a large amount of opinion and information online on raising chickens, including their space requirements in coops and in runs.]
c) Climate Action Reserve Fund Bylaw No. 2737 – an updated bylaw to replace the current climate action bylaw #2625. Changes include clarifying the pricing rate for carbon emissions, and stating that funds currently in the Climate Action Reserve fund will be retained. Moore pointed out that the current provincial carbon pricing is still on the low side, and suggested using a higher amount, which would result in more money being saved in the Climate Action Reserve Fund. A motion to stay with the provincial amount CARRIED, with only Moore opposed.
Staff Reports and Updates:
Short-term Rental Accommodation Fee and Taxes: Staff requested Council guidance on issues around short-term rentals. Spooner opined that our current situation is unfair and ineffective. He suggested not allowing short term rentals in secondary suites.
Nightingale suggested that we’re seeing a very tight long-term rental market because of the short-term rentals, and suggested that instead of allowing 5% of homes in the old town have STRs, we could limit it to two and a half percent; that would allow only ten more houses with STRs than there are now. Morel said he has no problem with current 5% cap on the number of STRs.
Nightingale moved to reduce the percentage of old-town homes available for STR from 5% to two and a half percent, to encourage long-term rentals. Bowman agreed, and said he thinks STRs are businesses and should treated as such, and that we should invest more in bylaw enforcement. Morel didn’t think that reducing the percentage of STRs will encourage more long-term rentals.
The motion FAILED with only Nightingale in favour.
Bowman moved that STR licenses, or zoning, be time-limited – granted for only five years, after which time, they would have to apply to renew and it would be open to others to apply as well. Lewis said he doesn’t see how it would work in practice. The motion FAILED.
Spooner suggested increasing the business license fee to $1,500 for guest homes and guest suites. Lewis pointed out that increased enforcement might be needed, as the increase in fees could “drive more of them underground.” Morel pointed out that increase could not be imposed now, with COVID. Spooner moved a resolution to direct staff to investigate the budgetary implications of increasing the STR fee to align with Nelson’s, and the likely cost of enforcement. The motion CARRIED unanimously.
Nightingale moved to remove the $400 deposit that has never had to be used, and is returned instead. Hamming pointed out that the compliant people don’t cause problems, and the City gets no money from the non-compliant ones. The motion CARRIED unanimously.
Nightingale moved to not refund the 2020 Tourism Rossland (TR) fees; the motion CARRIED unanimously.
Nightingale moved to charge the TR fee of $150 per year to all STRs. She pointed out that it’s a business expense which gets written off, and TR plays a large role in attracting business for them. Bowman suggested rolling it all up in one fee—the busines license fee, which could give them membership in TR. Nightingale amended her motion to roll the TR fee into the business license fee, and the motion CARRIED, with Moore opposed because she wanted to confer with TR first.
Development Variance Permit Application – 2095 Kirkup Avenue: the applicant is seeking a one-metre reduction in the front setback, from four metres to 3 metres, to enable the home to be build closer to the road on the steep lot – to avoid the need for more fill, and to preserve more of the trees on the property.
A motion to allow the variation CARRIED unanimously, and the lone remaining citizen in the gallery got up to leave. Moore apologized to him for not having moved the item up in the agenda, but he said that he had found the meeting “mostly interesting” to watch.
Review of Official Community Plan (OCP):
In August, the City issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for qualified consultants to undertake a comprehensive review of the City’s Official Community Plan. Earlier, Council had identified a review of the OCP as a priority, and plan to have it completed by the end of 2021. The review will involve significant input from the community, with presentations to the public, the OCP Advisory Committee and Council. For more information, readers can review the RFP in the Council Agenda Package for this meeting, starting at page 43. Staff reviewed nine proposals, and have recommended that Council accept the proposal by WSP Group Canada Limited, in the amount of $98,296.
Spooner left the room for this topic, after declaring a conflict.
A motion to retain WSP Group Canada Limited to perform the OCP review process CARRIED unanimously.
2021 Community Resiliency Investment Program (FireSmart):
A motion to approve an application for FireSmart work for 2021 to reduce wildfire risk in and around Rossland, and that the City provide management support for the work, CARRIED unanimously.
Water Utility Fees for Agriculture:
Chief Financial Officer Elma Hamming provided Council with 6 pages of information on water use in Rossland and on how agricultural use of water is dealt with in two other communities; she suggested four options for future water charges and asked for direction from Council. The package also included information from Columbia Basin Trust on the increases in water consumption in various communities with rising summertime temperatures due to climate change.
Lewis moved that the City develop an agricultural rate for water use. Spooner raised the question of the agricultural rate being misused for “hobby farms” and “just watering the ground.” Hamming said that if a user is serious about producing food, they would buy a meter to get the agricultural rate. The motion to develop an agricultural rate CARRIED.
Spooner moved that farmers be required to purchase and install meters to take advantage of the agricultural rate; the motion CARRIED unanimously.
Morel is concerned that a reduced rate for water will not incentivize conservation; he’d like to “not just give it away.”
Nightingale moved that the agricultural rate be higher from July to October than it is from November to June, to encourage farmers to store water when it is more plentiful, for use during dry spells. Moore pointed out that Rossland has only a few small farms, and it doesn't seem worth it to make the billing more complex. The motion FAILED with only Nightingale in favour. Nightingale commented that supporting local food needs a more widespread cultural change from wanting only cheap food to wanting fresh, local, more nutritious food.
Replacing a Wheel Loader
A motion to approve the tender to supply and deliver a 2020 Wheel Loader to Brandt Tractor in the amount of $192,921.00 (inclusive of trade-in and Provincial Sales tax) CARRIED unanimously, as did a further motion to purchase a 5-year warranty for an additional cost of $4,978.00 and extra attachments at an additional cost of $42,973.35 (plus taxes).
Traffic calming measures to address speeding:
Staff provided a four-page summary of measures that have been tried in Rossland, and measures that could be tried, and the costs associated with each, and requested direction on the potential future use of dynamic signage or other traffic calming measures in school, playground and high traffic residential zones.
A motion to implement option 2 – for staff “to further investigate and/or install Dynamic Signage Center Line School Sidewalk Signat staff-determined locations” and option 4 – “to further investigateand/or install The Traffic Data Collectorat staff-determinedlocations.” Lewis commented, “speeding is an entitlement issue.” Lamont clarified that the data collection installations are moveable. Morel pointed out that, post-pandemic, the RCMP are available to train members of a community task force and provide the equipment to collect data.
Spooner said he thinks it’s all a solution in search of a problem – he hasn’t noticed any problem with speeding.
The motion CARRIED with only Spooner opposed.
Rossland Food Bank:
A motion to approve the draft Rossland Food Bank Operating Agreement for use of its premises at 1860 Second Avenue, in the Rossland Arena, CARRIED unanimously.
Rossland Age-Friendly Update
Council perused a 41-page report by the Age-Friendly Co-ordinator; and a 27-page “Action Plan” – Calder commented that the pandemic interrupted the plan and made it difficult to assess; a motion to continue the Age-friendly work on a regional basis CARRIED unanimously. Nightingale commented that the coordinator worked hard to lessen isolation for elders when the pandemic set in.
Requests arising from correspondence:
Alpine Drug Mart requested that the City allow them to use the Miners Hall for flu clinics on Sunday, October 18, and Sunday, November 15, 2020. Using the Miners Hall would enable them to space people out for social distancing, which would be impossible at their own premises.
Morel wanted to know if Alpine Drug Mart would be making money from the flu clinics; others didn’t think it was a profitable exercise for the business. A motion to allow the use of the hall without rental fees, and the city covering the janitorial fees and posting the information on the City’s sign board; the motion CARRIED unanimously.
Member Reports: selected highlights
Lewis moved that staff look at ways to tie variance approvals to improving energy efficiency, or making other improvements in the proposed building projects; the motion CARRIED unanimously.
Morel provided reports on the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), parts of which were supplied by Nightingale and Moore. The RDKB is seeking grants to help with the wastewater treatment upgrade for the “Columbia Pollution Control Centre” (CPCC), and has created an infographic (below) to help publicize the many benefits of the upgrade, both local and international. The accompanying texts points out, inter alia, “Upgrades to the CPCC from primary to secondary sewage treatment are of vital importance to Columbia River ecosystems and to tens of thousands of residents as well as to First Nations on both sides of the Canada-US border.”
(Report continues below graphic)
Nightingale reported that the Mid-town transition team is focusing on reducing energy requirements, and looking for additional grants to reduce costs.
Moore drafted a letter to the Union of BC Municipalities suggesting improvements for the next “virtual” meeting, a letter of support for a funding application by the Interior Medical Transport Society(IMTS) seeking funding to reduce their charges for transporting patients to and from distant medical appointments or facilities; and a letter supporting an application for funding by the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society to upgrade the existing Aqueduct ski trail for summer use. Motions to approve and send each letter CARRIED unanimously.
Moore had participated in the Fruitvale to Rossland highway clean-up, and reported that the effort collected “tons of Macdonald’s trash.”
Council then recessed to an in camera session, and your reporter packed up and walked home in the surprisingly warm evening, admiring the waning gibbous moon in all its peach-coloured glory in the eastern sky and the various visible stars twinkling overhead, and watching for bears, who were all somewhere else.