COUNCIL MATTERS: Rossland City Council meeting February 1, 2021 -- by Zoom

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
February 2nd, 2021

Wildfire risk reduction;  a regional Community Investment Co-op;  a new bylaw not fully accessible by the general public – and more        

Present:  Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Janice Nightingale, Dirk Lewis, Andy Morel, Stewart Spooner, Chris Bowman and Terry  Miller.  Staff present included CAO Bryan Teasdale, CFO Elma Hamming, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne, Deputy corporate Officer Cynthia Año Nuevo, Executive Assistant Rachel Newton, and probably others not easily visible on the tiny Zoom screen.

Public Input Period: No one raised a little hand icon to speak.


1.       Community Wildfire Protection Plan:  Tove Pashkowski, Registered Professional Forester, presented information to Council, using a 16-screen PowerPoint.  She explained that climate change is causing longer, hotter fire seasons, less rain during fire seasons, drier soils and higher fire risk. 

She said that Rossland is a leader in FireSmart work and fire-risk reduction; she recommends continuing to pursue grants for this work, and outlined three main funding streams to check out.  She noted the “two-kilometer” distance which flying embers are known to be capable of traveling and starting more fires.

She suggested incorporating wildfire prevention into the OCP, and review existing bylaws using “a wildfire lens” to ensure that bylaws are consistent with wildfire prevention efforts. Her presentation went into detail and used maps to show different areas in and around Rossland for fire risk, treatment and maintenance. For our watersheds, she recommended communicating with the Regional District. 

2.       Rossland FireSmart Program Update:  Don Mortimer presented information on Rossland’s ongoing FireSmart work to reduce fire hazard in the City, including the recent initiatives with Columbia Basin Trust’s assistance and the Provincial Community Investment programs too – including fuel treatment programs.  He noted Teck’s work in treating their own lands for fire risk reduction. 

He spoke about the “Hugels for Fire Hazards” work, in dealing with all the debris generated by fuel reduction work, and  contributions to that by Terry Miller and Andrew Bennet.

He showed maps of fuel treatment areas, and described the various Neighbourhood FireSmart events and recognition awards.  He commented that the debris disposal site being used now should be good for several years into the future.

Morel asked whether the frequent motorized use of local FSR roads and trails adds to fire risk, and if so, how to mitigate that risk.  Tove Pashkowski. responded that motorized risk was not analyzed for her report; she acknowledged that recreational use does increase risk, but that the roads can also act as a firebreak and to access fires for firefighting purposes.  Don Mortimer. responded that the FireSmart program is designed to make communities less susceptible to the spread of fires, whatever their cause. 

Spooner asked what plans there are to expand the FireSmart program; Mortimer responded that the perimeter communities are prioritized.  “They’re the pointy end of the stick,” he explained, and noted that there’s lots of work to do in the high-priority areas.  Moore noted that the City is working on updating the OCP, so this is very timely.

3.       West Kootenay Boundary Community Investment Co-op: Donna Wilchynski, Marketing Chair of the co-op,presented information to Council, and asked Council to consider investing between $10,000 and $100,000 in the co-op, to “transform the economy in your city.” 

Her introductory letter explained that the member-owned co-opfinances businesses located in the West Kootenay Boundary, except for Creston which has its own investment co-op; “including all areas of RDKB and RDCK, Grand Forks, Trail, Rossland, Nelson, Castlegar, Slocan, Nakusp, Arrow and Upper Kootenay Lakes, etc., and their surrounding communities.”

By investing in local businesses, the WKBCIC aims to “increase prosperity and financial security in the whole West Kootenay region.”  She acknowledges that this is a new approach, but there are now 12 investment co-ops in  BC. 

“We are asking you to invest in your community.”  She assured Council that local governments are legally able to invest in the co-op, but admitted that there is not yet any precedent for any local government doing so. 

Morel asked if funds from Rossland would go into Rossland businesses; Wilchynski explained that applications from across the region are dealt with by the board.  Her colleague Tyler Rice said, if there was enough interest and funding, funds from one source could be restricted to that source.  Wilchynski said that current board members are from Castlegar, Trail, Christina Lake, and Grand Forks. 

Spooner asked about the return and the risk.  Rice said risk is mitigated by character assessments; the loans to date have been backed by security, and “we have a very risk-averse board.” 

Moore explained that Council will consider their request.

Rossland’s Strategic Plan Review:

Council held a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting on Friday, January 22, devoted to reviewing and updating the City’s Strategic Plan.  Staff noted the desired minor changes and incorporated them into a DRAFT that Council reviewed again for this meeting.  Bowman suggested a re-organized wording of the Mission statement, which all agreed with.  Council also did some further minor wordsmithing to clarify and be inclusive of arts and culture; and discussed the difficulties of achieving what is most needed for long-term planning – including the normal human resistance to change and visionary thinking.   

A  motion to approve the updated version, including the changes discussed tonight, CARRIED.  

Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw No. 2748:  This is a draft new bylaw, intended to replace the 22-year-old existing bylaw.  The staff materials explain that “in 2013, the City of Castlegar, City of Kimberley, City of Rossland, and the District of Elkford partnered with the Columbia Basin Trust to develop a Model Subdivision and Servicing Bylaw to reduce our community’s sensitivity to climate change and enhance their capacity to respond and adapt to a changing environment. The resulting bylaw was a ‘model’ bylaw that draws upon Best Management Practices from Canada and around the world and that can be tailored to the needs of individual communities.” 

Rossland’s engineering consultant, ISL, “used the model bylaw, together with suggestions from lawyers, other communities, and best practices to develop the attached bylaw.”  The draft new bylaw is 94 pages long. 

Your reporter noted that, rather than spelling out requirements, many sections of the draft bylaw just instruct readers to refer to specific sections of the MMCD Design Guideline – a 110-page document produced by the “Master Municipal Construction Document Association, which is an association of British Columbia Municipalities, Regional Districts, Contractors and Consultants.”  The Design guideline document is available to members of the Association, but is not accessible by the general public.

Lewis stated that it’s important to add a definition of “watercourses.”  He also wanted to include control of invasive species, and said it needs to be in the bylaw. Spooner was concerned about housing affordability, and felt the bylaw favours single-family homes.  Lightbourne pointed out that this is only first reading, and that it can be changed at any stage. Spooner suggested taking out the single-family exemption, and all agreed.      

A  motion to give first reading to the new bylaw CARRIED unanimously.  It will go to unspecified “stakeholders” for further input.

Community Wildfire Protection Plan :

Council reviewed the comprehensive, updated 151-page plan, with 49 recommendations for actions by the City to reduce wildfire risk and better enable effective response to wildfire events.

A motion that the City adopt the  Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update CARRIED.

Member Reports (selected highlights only):

Nightingale “had a very interesting conversation with a citizen” about an app for info sharing. She reported that it’s called “Block Talk” and allows information and alerts to go out reliably, and the citizen will be happy to talk with Council and staff about it.

Spooner noted that residents seem happy with Councils’ messaging about staying local and not travelling, but he still sees lots of out-of-province licence plates.

Morel said the RDKB is in the midst of budget and workplans, and will submit a written report by the next Council meeting.

Bowman:  MRDT income was down 73% from last year. (“MRDT” is a small tax applied to sales of short-term accommodation provided in participating areas of British Columbia on behalf of municipalities, regional districts and other eligible entities.)  “Red Chair Diaries” available on the Tourism Rossland website (and Youtube).

Moore reported that Trail said someone has been in touch about hosting the 2026 Winter Games.  COVID: Rossland is a trial community for a program called “Looking Glass” about impacts of the pandemic. 

Moore asked Council whether there is any interest in directing staff to look into investing in the Community Investment Co-op; Lewis said he didn’t think it was the purview of local government, and no one else expressed any keenness for it.  A motion that the City not invest in it CARRIED unanimously.

Council recessed to an in camera meeting, and your reporter exited Zoom, noted with gratitude that the other household human had washed the dinner dishes, looked out the window to see if it was still raining, and comforted the household cat, because it was dark, very wet and foggy out there, and she seemed morose.

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