COUNCIL MATTERS: Rossland City Council meeting, October 3, 2023
No budging on birdfeeders; despite strong arguments in favor of the highest standard, a majority of Council compromises with a “step back” approach on greenhouse gas emissions; getting started on prep for the 2026 BC Winter Games in Rossland and Trail; aquamation request ignored
Present: Mayor Andy Morel, and Councillors Maya Provençal, Lisa Kwiatkowski, Jeff Weaver, Eliza Boyce, Stewart Spooner and Craig Humpherys. Staff: Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Añonuevo, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne, Executive Assistant Rachel Newton, Manager of Recreation and Events Kristi Calder, and Chief Financial Officer Mike Kennedy.
PUBLIC INPUT PERIOD:
A resident of Redstone spoke in support of Council adopting the highest standard of the Step Code to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and read out a letter signed by several other people as well.
Brad White spoke about a lack of information regarding a development happening next to his home. He suggested that a more collaborative approach would be helpful to all concerned. “I’m not against development,” he said, “I’m just against being encroached on.”
Linda Szymkowiak spoke, asking Council to amend the Wildlife Attractant Bylaw that received first, second and third readings at the previous meeting on September 11, 2023.
The proposed bylaw, scheduled for adoption at this meeting, forbids “the placement of outdoor bird feeders containing bird feed, seeds, suet, nectar, or similar other Wildlife Attractants … between March 1st and November 30th of each year.”
Szymkowiak suggested that April 1st would be a more reasonable cut-off date for bird feeders, and requested that nectar feeders for hummingbirds be permitted during bear season as long as they are suspended well out of reach of bears. She identified herself as a hummingbird researcher and bander, and stated that hummingbird feeders are necessary for conservation, pointing out that the Rufous hummingbird in particular is “endangered and at a tipping point.”
Another resident spoke in support of Szymkowiak’s request, adding that bird feeders should be allowed all year if they are inaccessible to bears. She also mentioned that natural food sources for hummingbirds are decreasing, and that Rufous hummingbirds are “in big trouble.”
Margot Lore spoke in support of Rossland adopting the highest standard of Step Code.
Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health – Kootenay Boundary
Dr. Kyle Merritt, ND, and Katherine Oldfield, RN student, spoke on “Future Proofing Kootenay and BC buildings, improving human and planetary health by accelerating the new provincial zero carbon step code to meet BC’s commitment to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 40% by 2030, and ways to achieve net zero by 2050.” Their primary target was “natural” gas used for heating and cooking – particularly new gas installations; noting that new gas connections are still being added to new construction. They said there are “decades of studies” showing evidence of harm; they referenced materials by numerous researchers at medical schools, hospitals, and health organizations, including the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, showing that heating and cooking with natural gas releases contaminants detrimental to health – as well as being a significant contributor to climate change. They provided information on the share of carbon pollution produced by natural gas in Vancouver (57%), Nelson (33%), and Kamloops (29%). They also noted that electricity in BC is largely from “clean” sources, and that retrofitting is more expensive than incorporating zero-carbon measures into a new build from the beginning.
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO COUNCIL COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS:
Council PASSED a motion to rescind Liaison Committee appointments with the following groups effective January 2024:
- Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL)
- Rossland Council for Arts & Culture (RCAC)
- Age-Friendly and Rossland Seniors’ Centre
- Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS)
- Rossland Arena Society • Youth Action Network (YAN)
- Rossland Historical Museum & Archives Association
- Heritage Commission
- Design Review Panel
- Rossland Public Library
- Lions Campground Committee
The topic had been the subject of a Committee of the Whole meeting held on September 11, 2023. Since then, Staff researched the agreements and bylaws, and found that Council has the discretion in each instance to appoint a liaison, or not.
Kwiatkowski commented that she appreciated the efforts by staff to provide the information each group, and she encouraged Council (collectively and individually) to look for other means of engagement with the groups than formal liaison roles.
Wildlife Attractant Bylaw # 2816
A motion to adopt the bylaw CARRIED with Boyce and Humphery opposed.
Spooner spoke in support of the bylaw, and said he thought it is more important to prevent problems with bears than to feed hummingbirds. Humpherys took issue with some of the wording; he also noted that local food security is also important, and he’s not in favour of “chopping down all our fruit trees” – “bears are part of this community.” Boyce said he didn’t like passing all three readings in one meeting; that it didn’t make it sufficiently open for discussion. Kwiatkowski indicated that she thinks the bylaw can be enacted and adjusted if necessary – “see how it plays out.” Weaver said he has confidence that staff can work with the bylaw “without making enemies.” Provençal said she’d be open to changing the date for bird feeders, as suggested during Public Input Period. Boyce spoke up to comment that hummingbirds are in trouble, and she would like to amend the bylaw to allow feeding them as long as the feeders are managed properly — inaccessible to bears. Morel commented that Rossland has had problems with bears for a very long time, that too many residents have been unwilling to pick their fruit or take measures to keep their garbage safe from depredation.
Boyce suggested an amendment to the bylaw that would allow properly-managed birdfeeders.
Fees and Charges Bylaw # 2818
A motion to adopt the bylaw CARRIED unanimously.
Permissive Tax Exemptions for 2024-2026, Bylaw # 2815
The Council materials prepared by Staff explain, “Under Sections 220 and 224 of the Community Charter, municipalities can exempt buildings set aside for worship, land surrounding the exempt building used for worship, property owned or held by a charitable, philanthropic, or other not for profit corporation, and buildings owned by an incorporated institution of learning, as well as other type of exemptions. Also, under Section 225 of the Community Charter, municipalities can have partnering, heritage, riparian, and other special exemption authority. The City has no such exemptions in place on this front.”
The City received one request for a permissive exemption this year, from Golden City Manor. This was discussed at the previous Council meeting, and Councillors noted that they were not satisfied with the information provided by the applicant, but rather than denying the request, decided to grant a one-year exemption and request more complete information for the next application. The current bylaw embodies that decision, and motions to give the bylaw first, second and third readings CARRIED.
Building Amendment Bylaw # 2819 – Zero Carbon Step Code
The BC Energy Step Code was first introduced in 2017. It authorizes local governments to go beyond the requirements of the minimum provisions in the BC Building Code to increase the energy efficiency of new buildings. It has since been revised in an attempt to increase its effectiveness, because it was not producing as much reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as planned.
On May 15, 2023, Rossland City Council discussed the options available for Rossland’s Building Bylaw, and made the following motions:
RESOLVED THAT council directs staff to adopt a full carbon reduction pathway as the preferred approach to adopting the Zero Carbon Step Code of the BC building code;
AND FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to draft amendments to the Building Bylaw No. 2716 and Energy Efficient Building Policy to reflect the chosen option and bring it to council for consideration.
AND FURTHER that staff carry out consultation/education with the local construction industry regarding the Zero Carbon Step Code option commitments.
As a result of Staff consultation with the local construction industry, Staff recommended a “step back” from Council’s decision – one that would result in delay and more emissions, but less inconvenience and a more moderate (if any) “learning curve” for builders.
A motion to support the “step back” approach by giving the recommended motion first reading CARRIED by a narrow margin.
During discussion, Provençal spoke eloquently in favour of adopting the more stringent standard, as Council had sought to do at its previous meeting. She cautioned against some of what she referred to as misinformation that seemed to influence some of the input from the building community. Humpherys spoke in favour of the “step back” approach, as he had at the previous meeting, though he acknowledged that “we can’t be burning natural gas much longer.” Kwiatkowski spoke in support of the more stringent standard, and stated that she would not be in favour of doing second and third readings at this meeting. Boyce, speaking as an engineer, noted that it’s a complex issue, and that embodied energy should be considered as part of any decisions. Spooner said “there’s the right way to do things, and there’s the way everybody’s doing them.” He said he’s struggling with how far Council should go in influencing people’s actions. Weaver said he thinks the “step back” approach as recommended strikes the right balance. Morel says he thinks Council should do what it can; that he thinks Council should be prescriptive. He does not have concern for the building industry; they have the ability to build to Step Five. He does not want further increases in gas infrastructure in our community. “We need to be really strong in our commitment to our citizens and to the larger community. … We’re used as an example, and I’m proud of that. … I don’t want to take the easy way out.” He pointed out that the community is growing faster than it has in decades, and he referred to RNG as “greenwashing.”
DEVELOPMENT VARIANCE PERMIT – 4280 Red Mountain Road
The applicant seeks permission to have 19 outdoor, uncovered parking spaces, rather than the 10 that would be allowed, because constructing the necessary foundations for a covered carport to accommodate the 9 extra spaces would be more expensive than anticipated because the load-bearing capacity of the ground is inadequate. A motion to allow the variance CARRIED, with the suggested condition that a covenant be registered on title, requiring the applicant to be responsible for removing snow from the easement area, should the City deem that there is insufficient space.
A motion to allow the variance CARRIED unanimously.
DEVELOPMENT VARIANCE PERMIT – 2483 St. Paul Street
The applicant seeks an interior side setback variance from 1.8 metres to 0.0 metres – a 1.8 metre variance – to permit construction of a carport that would not be impacted by snow sliding off the house roof, and would permit snow-free access to the home from the car. A motion to grant the variance CARRIED unanimously.
PREPARING FOR THE 2026 BC WINTER GAMES:
In 2021, Rossland and Trail collaborated on a successful bid to co-host the 2026 BC Winter Games, to be held in February of 2026. The two cities are now in the initial stages of organizing – including letting their respective council members know what will be involved in preparing for the event. Staff provided a brief introduction, which included an example of a suggested board structure, based on the Maple Ridge hosting of the 2020 BC Summer Games. For readers’ edification, a portion of that chart is pasted here – it has, at the top, the positions of “President” and “Vice President.”
Kwiatkowski commented that she wants Council to take a strong role in moving this forward, and to be very clear on the benefits. Calder noted, “This is not a staff initiative.” She suggested that it is up to Council to discuss with Trail Council how to coordinate and operate the event. Morel suggested that a third party project coordinator should be hired to do most of the work.
REQUEST FOR LETTERS OF SUPPORT: AQUAMATION
Representatives for legalizing “aquamation” – also known as alkaline hydrolysis – as an alternative to cremation of deceased human bodies are requesting that all municipal governments pass resolutions in support to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and their MLA. But what is this process, and why is it preferable to burial or cremation?
The letter sent to Council says, inter alia,
“The Cemetery, Interment and Funeral Services Act of British Columbia needs to be amended because it only allows for burial or fire-based cremation. Using large tracts of land for cemeteries is no longer a viable option and cremation has become the most widely chosen form of human disposition, by up to 90% of BC residents. Crematoria are huge emitters of carbon. The smoke from these facilities makes them unpopular in any neighbourhood. Thus, bodies are being brought to Vancouver Island from Vancouver for the process with the ashes returned to the city.
There is a better option. Aquamation or Alkaline Hydrolysis is gaining recognition in Canada, the US and around the world as being an environmentally friendly and economically viable alternative. . . . Established goals of carbon reduction require our provincial government to broaden the definition of “cremation” to include flameless or water cremation (alkaline hydrolysis or aquamation).”
The reference materials explain that the process uses much less energy than cremation, and produces very small amounts of greenhouse gas emissions in comparison; it is a much less expensive option to operate. It is now available in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland/Labrador and the Northwest Territories – but in BC, so far it is used only for pets. It consists of dissolving the soft tissues of bodies by immersion in an alkaline solution, at controlled temperatures, leaving only the sterilized bones – which are then crushed into grit or “ash” and provided to the family of the deceased, as are traditional cremains.
Spooner and Kwiatkowski didn’t think it was Council’s business; Morel and Boyce pointed out that it has to do with seeking to persuade the Province to amend legislation with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there was no motion to provide a letter of support.
Weaver commented that attending the UBCM is very beneficial for Councillors, especially those in smaller communities. Kwiatkowski echoed his comments.
Spooner said he was able to clear up some confusion at a Tourism Rossland meeting about what RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative) funding is and what it does.
Morel said that anyone who will not participate in the Green Bin program (curbside organics collection) can return their bin to the RDKB office.
There were over 2000 delegates to the UBCM. Morel met with Josie Osbourne and talked about the magnesium mine proposal, said she seemed very receptive of Rossland’s concerns.
Weaver got a “bear-proof” garbage bin, and says it works – a bear tested it.
The meeting adjourned, and your reporter walked home to her little newly-heat-pump-warmed house, appreciating its advantages – a far smaller volume of GHG emissions! More even heating, greater comfort! Effective cooling in the summer! Less reliance on fossil fuels! Now, if only it could somehow infuse this old body with the energy to take better care of the yard and garden …