COUNCIL MATTERS: Rossland City Council Meetings, April 17, 2023
A proposed new Development Approval Process; Five-Year Financial Plan passes the next hurdle; Tax rate set for Rossland properties for 2023; Aqueduct Trail Improvement moving along; Rossland Farmers Market will have space; Rosslanders commit fewer crimes but more drunk-driving offences and other MVA violations so far this year; Rodenticides poison pets and wildlife.
1. Committee of the Whole meeting (3:30 PM)
Present: Mayor Andy Morel and Councillors Jeff Weaver, Stewart Spooner, Craig Humpherys, Maya Provençal, Eliza Boyce, and Lisa Kwiatkowski. Staff: CAO Bryan Teasdale, Executive Assistant Rachel Newton, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne, Manager of Operations Scott Lamont, Deputy Operations Manager Ryan Niddery.
The topic of this meeting was a project to streamline Rossland’s Development Approval Process, which attracted six members of the public as observers – twice as many as attended the Public Consultation on the Five Year Financial Plan.
Brandy MacInnis and Kristen Harder of Dillon Consulting presented their 41-page situational report, analyzing the current practices and including numerous interim recommendations for discussion. They pointed out that improving municipal processes to expedite development applications is a provincial priority, given the need for new housing province-wide.
The next step in this process will be a more refined and customized final report and recommendations, coming in June.
2. PUBLIC CONSULTATION (5:00 PM): 2023-2027 Five-year Financial Plan
To a public gallery of three residents, plus Council, CFO Mike Kennedy presented a high-level summary of the 83-page draft Plan, available in full in the materials for this meeting. He noted that he had received no comments on the Plan by email, aside from one that said, “riveting reading for a pre-long weekend.”
Kennedy stated this will be a “big year for capital projects.”
He noted that the City works to keep taxation from “spiking” to cover unexpected costs – he referred to Lake Country being hit with just over 17% increase in property taxes this year.
He noted that “it’s a challenging time to be in the business of forecasting expenses.” He read off the property tax increases for a list of other communities, including Lake Country, pointing out that Rossland’s increase is modest – not so bad.
Kennedy also explained that Rossland is required to collect taxes for other jurisdictions, including the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), and that Rossland has no control over those amounts; he expects the RDKB tax bite to increase by approximately 12%, which will also show up on Rosslanders’ tax bills.
Input: One observer criticized the use of consultants, particularly with reference to facilities and recreation master plans – characterized it as “paying for talking about talking about talking.” He said the pool and the arena have been under discussion for years. Kennedy responded that it would be irresponsible to go ahead on a project without a detailed and up-to-date estimate of costs.
Laura Pettitt asked questions about how the gas tax funding (about $212,000 per year) is spent; answer — it is currently allocated to paving projects.
3. REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING (6:00 PM):
Mayor Morel opened the meeting with the City’s Land Acknowledgment.
PUBLIC INPUT PERIOD:
Shawn Gresley-Jones spoke yet again, for the fifth consecutive meeting, about his displeasure about the City’s role in the Warren Hamm lawsuit against the City.
Paul Evans presented “a couple of documents” to Council members. Several councillors rejected or tore up one or more of the documents, and Weaver walked across the room to return the papers to Evans. The documents – “Notices of Personal Liability” — appeared to be two products printed off from the same online source, an organization whose representatives have been banned from attending school board meetings in Mission, BC.
Rossland Arena Society:
Mari Conradie (President), Ona Stanton (Vice President), and Heather Simm (Director) provided a brief and interesting history of the Rossland Arena – starting with the original “Ice Palace” building in 1895 that was unable to withstand heavy snow-loads, followed by another that was used for nearly 40 years before our current arena was built. They described the genesis of the Rossland Arena Society, and listed the work the Society has done to improve the arena and advocate for its value as a community asset. They listed the different studies done and recommendations made for utilizing the arena year-round, and grants that have been awarded for the arena.
École des Sept-sommets:
Julie Grandmaitre (Interim Principal) and Michelle Laurie (President APE/PAC Parent Advisory Council) spoke about Sept-sommets, pointing out that it is a publicly operated Francophone School that opened in 2004 as a K-4 school, and is now a K-9 school with 57 students. There is no additional cost for students to attend École des Sept-sommets.
Laurie reminded Council that École des Sept-sommets is an amenity that makes the City more attractive; she also mentioned that the École has facilities, and would like to trade the use of them for the use of some City facilities when mutually convenient.
Weaver and Humphries, whose children have attended École des Sept-sommets, both spoke to support the value of the school to Rossland, and Provençal one-upped them with the information that she attended the school herself as a student starting in 2004, and went through Grade 6 in it.
Rossland Growing Communities Fund Reserve Bylaw # 2805:
A motion to adopt the bylaw as presented CARRIED unanimously.
2023-2027 Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw # 2804:
A motion to amend City of Rossland 2023-2027 Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw # 2804 by replacing Schedule B as presented CARRIED unanimously, and further, that the bylaw, as amended, receive third reading CARRIED unanimously.
The original Schedule B omitted an allocation of “Other Sources of Funds: Reserves”, which has been added and appropriately adjusted for. There are no changes to actual planned sources or uses of funds from the original version of Bylaw # 2804.
2023 Municipal Tax Rate Bylaw # 2807:
The 2023 tax rate bylaw reflects Council’s direction that the mill rate be set to achieve an increase for 2023 to all property classes by 5%. A motion to give the bylaw first reading CARRIED unanimously, and a further motion to give it second and third readings also CARRIED unanimously.
Ophir Reservoir Local Area Service Parcel Tax Rate Bylaw # 2808:
A motion to give the bylaw first reading CARRIED unanimously, and a further motion to give it second and third readings also CARRIED unanimously. The bylaw sets the rate per unit at $46.08 for 2023.
Council reviewed and re-confirmed the following policies:
— Recreation Facilities User Allocation Policy
— Recreation Facilities and Programs in Adverse Weather; Councillors discussed the appropriate levels of pollution to trigger opening the available facilities (standards are set by provincial authorities), and whether the pool could be used as an auxiliary cooling facility (no).
— Land Transaction Policy
— Pesticide and Herbicide Use Policy.
Boyce asked whether the City has any policy on using rodenticides and other toxins that can, directly or indirectly, poison both pets and wildlife such as owls, who may eat the poison or the poisoned creatures.
Boyce moved that staff investigate a policy for the use of such toxins. Spooner said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to “poison people’s pets” (he didn’t mention wildlife) but he also doesn’t think it’s a good use of staff time. Morel supported the motion, as did Humpherys. The motion CARRIED.
[Editor’s note: FYI— BC permanently banned the public sale and most uses of certain rodenticides as of January 31, 2023.]
DEVELOPMENT PERMIT APPLICATION:
A motion to approve the application for signage for the “Sister Sister” retail outlet CARRIED unanimously. (Lamont left the room before this item came up.)
AQUEDUCT TRAIL IMPROVEMENTS PROJECT – PHASE 2 CONTRACT AWARD:
A motion to approve Copcan Civil Ltd. to continue the Aqueduct Trail Improvements Project through to completion, based on 2023 Capital Budget figures, CARRIED unanimously.
ROSSLAND COMMUNITY FARMERS MARKET ROAD CLOSURE REQUEST 2023-2025:
A motion to approve the Market Queen Street Closure Agreement 2023-2025 CARRIED unanimously.
The agreement allows the market to occupy Queen Street between Columbia Avenue and the laneway on Thursday afternoons between 2:00-5:30 PM, between May and October. Some special events may also be scheduled on a one-off basis, with staff approval, in the same location.
PAYMENT OF MUNICIPAL INVOICES:
Council reviewed and approved the City’s payment for services during March, 2023.
Council then reviewed a series of staff reports:
— the first-quarter 2023 Budget update;
— the first-quarter progress report on the 2023 Corporate Management Work Plan;
— the building permit report;
— the building permit inspections by type report;
— the Step Code energy Rebates;
— the Public Works Report;
— the Water Production Report;
— the Eye on Water report;
— the Bylaw compliance report; among other items of interest, March brought one dog attack on a human, requiring medical attention; and a house fire within city limits resulting from an open burn of prohibited materials, contrary to a City bylaw.
— the Rossland Midtown Status report;
— the updated Task List.
For those interested, the Task List now contains three items:
(a) developing the lease agreement, for future Council approval, with the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society and with the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation for the affordable housing units located at 1920 Third Avenue;
(b) to draft bylaw amendments as identified in the staff report dated August 8, 2022 (regarding Short Term Rentals) and bring them to Council for further consideration, and to initiate further community consultation regarding the proposed bylaw amendments;
(c) to direct the Sustainability Commission to research the prospect of banning the installation of natural gas in all new buildings, and banning the installation of new gas services in renovation projects.
Council also reviewed the RCMP First Quarter Report Statistics, which show that the first three months in 2023 Rossland had fewer Criminal Code offenders charged than during the first three months of last year; but there were more impaired driving charges and more Motor Vehicle Act violations than in the first quarter of last year.
To summarize: so far this year, fewer Rosslanders have been charged with criminal offences, but more have demonstrated drunkenness at the wheel and other unsafe driving than during the same period in 2022.
Morel noted that he and others attended a meeting with an RCMP representative from the coast who was doing an annual service review check. Teasdale noted that Rossland always reiterates our concerns, but the local RCMP detachment seems chronically short-staffed.
Council discussed the value to the community as a whole of the Public Input Period at the beginning of each Council meeting, and noted that this meeting’s public input consisted of demands heard from the same person for the fifth consecutive meeting, and arguably misleading and potentially defamatory documents from another person.
Provençal reported that the Rossland Youth Action Network (YAN) had the region’s highest number of youth applications to attend the Basin Youth Network leadership summit, and were awarded extra spaces to send additional youth.
Weaver spoke about the ReDi Grant allocation process, eliciting sympathetic chuckles from other Council members by his assurance that he is in fact a strong supporter of the arts, despite an accusation to the contrary following the grant allocation meeting. (Minutes of that meeting are here.)
Morel attended a meeting of the Highway 3 Mayors and Chairs Coalition that lobbies for safer highways, wildlife, tourism and improved cell service.
Morel had just received a request from the Rossland Heritage Commission for a letter of support for a grant application to assist in maintaining the old Columbia Cemetery and the Calvary Cemetery. A motion to send a letter of support CARRIED.
The meeting adjourned and your reporter walked home in the chill but pleasant evening, regretting her unilingual status and feeling troubled by the surfacing, again, of disinformation in our community, and wondering about the links some authors have drawn between conspiracy theory believers and various states of mental health: for some reading matter on that subject, check the following links: