COUNCIL MATTERS: Rossland City Council Meetings, November 6, 2023
Meeting in the new City Hall; a long discussion on Short Term Rentals at the CoW; how to keep bears from being killed; a very busy March coming up for Red Mountain Racers; that compromise on the building bylaw; and more . . .
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE, 4:00 pm
Council grappled with the competing interests of landlords, long-term renters, commercial accommodators, and Rossland’s citizenry as a whole.
PRESENT: Mayor Andy Morel, and Councillors Maya Provençal, Craig Humpherys, Lisa Kwiatkowski, Jeff Weaver, Eliza Boyce, and Stewart Spooner. Staff: CAO Bryan Teasdale, Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Añonuevo, CFO Mike Kennedy, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne, Manager of Operations and Infrastructure Scott Lamont, Manager of Recreation and Events Kristi Calder, and Executive Assistant Rachel Newton.
PUBLIC INPUT PERIOD:
Don Thompson, President of Red Mountain Resort, had sent in a submission just prior to the meeting, and spoke briefly to its contents, encouraging a continuation of the status quo at Red and nearby residential area.
A resident of Caldera reminded Council that Council is not responsible for people’s investment choices, or to protect them. She noted that Big White has a good solution for dealing with STRs – private security; and Kimberly has a 24/7 hotline that anyone can call to report issues with STRs.
Provincial legislation on short-term rentals is changing: for an explanation of what will be different, read through this BC Government statement, updated on October 20, 2023. One of the changes, which will become effective immediately upon Royal Assent, is to increase the maximum municipal ticketing fine a local government may issue – to add bigger, sharper “teeth” to municipal bylaws regulating short-term rentals.
After a lengthy and wide-ranging discussion, a majority of Council ultimately seemed to agree that the one-per block cap on STRs should be removed; that Old Town should be subject to the more restrictive regulations on STRs; that the zoning requirement should be removed; to retain the requirement that short-term rentals must be in the landlord’s principal residence; and to allow STRs in secondary suites within the home, but not in “carriage houses.”
These are only recommendations – Council will make decisions at a regular meeting of Council in the future.
The CoW adjourned at 5:36 pm.
REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING, 6:00 pm (all Councillors present)
Mayor Andy Morel opened with comments praising the new City Hall premises and meeting space with 37 units of new housing above it, and the efforts of councillors and staff – current and previous – as well as the contractors and subcontractors who made it happen.
PUBLIC INPUT PERIOD:
Shawn Gresley-Jones asked whether the City is paying the legal fees of the former Councillors who are being sued by Warren Hamm. He asked why his question had not yet been answered, and whether the City “has something to hide.”
A resident who lives in a long-term rental in Happy valley expressed her appreciation for the depth and quality of discussion during the Committee of the Whole meeting. She agreed that “it (the rental and housing situation) could get a lot worse” as she thinks it has in some other communities, and hopes it doesn’t – “I don’t want to leave Rossland.”
- WildSafe: Sue Wrigley reported on the 2023 bear season in Rossland. Up to November 6, 2023, seven bears were killed in Rossland by Conservation Officers (COs); these were bears who had been ripping screens off windows and breaking into houses and garages in search of food. “That behaviour cannot be unlearned,” she explained, and the bears would just keep coming back and breaking into places.
COs received 52 calls about bears in Rossland in 2023; some were just sightings, but others – about 17 calls about bears getting into attractants and invading cars or buildings, but not perceived as posing a safety hazard – were forwarded to Wrigley, who followed up on them with a phone call or an in-person visit to obtain more details and provide information.
Wrigley provided a summary of the Bear Aware activities in Rossland to educate citizens on reducing the risks of bear/human conflicts and the need to kill bears. These included information booths at the Museum on Canada Day, at the Rossland Fall Fair on September 9, and at Bearfest on September 10; and 14 WildSafe Ranger presentations at Rossland schools to date, with a total of 227 participants; and several other presentations and activities, including going door-to-door at 47 residences – for conversations averaging 20 minutes long.
Weaver asked what the conversations consist of: Wigley explained that when people tolerate bears eating grass and clover in their yards, that is a message to the bears that “it’s OK to eat anything they can find on or near your property.”
Wrigley noted the reluctance of Rosslanders to call the CO “until it’s too late.” She encourages people to call the CO before a bear becomes a problem, because once a bear becomes a problem, it’s likely to be killed.
Wrigley concluded with a list of recommendations: to host a workshop with a CO to explain relationship between WildSafeBC, Rossland Bylaws and COs; to host electric fence demonstrations for residents and collaborate with Andrew Bennett of Moon Gravity Farm – she praised the job he did at a workshop, saying he was entertaining and informative; to continue education campaigns: more news articles and more workshops; to increase door-to-door canvassing and continue to focus on hotspots; to continue working with the Bear Smart Task Force and Food Security Task Force on fruit tree management ideas; to continue working with the Bear Smart Task Force on garbage management; and to monitor the new curbside organics program.
- Red Mountain Racers: Christine Andison (Race Chair) and Andras Lukacs (Director) explained their plans for hosting the Canadian National Alpine Championships and the FIS BC CUP Spring Series (March 15 to March 25), and the U14 Provincial Championships (March 27 to 31) being held at Red Resort, and asked for a letter of support.
They estimated that the first two events will attract over 260 athletes from across Canada, the United States and Europe, plus additional out-of-region visitors, for a total of over 600 people for the span of 11 days, and that the U14 Provincial Championships will see over 250 competitors – perhaps up to 360, plus their families, coaches and support staff for a total of approximately 800 people from around the province.
They noted that late March is usually a low-visitation period, and the combined economic benefit of these events would likely be about 1.6 million dollars.
In addition to a letter of support, they requested from the City in-kind assistance: closure of Columbia Avenue for a Parade on Monday, March 18th for the Canadian National Championships Opening Ceremonies; use of the City’s new stage at Harry Lefevre Square for the Opening Ceremonies; permission and assistance to have ski racing and event specific streetlight banners installed for the months of February and March.
Lukacs estimated that the event will cost the RMR about $160,000 to host, so they are applying for all the grants and other assistance they can, to help cover those costs.
Andison mentioned that she and Lukacs are also volunteer coordinators, and that if anyone is interested in assisting with the events, please do get in touch with them.
Building Amendment Bylaw # 2819: This is the bylaw that, in the form narrowly approved (4 to 3) at the previous Council meeting, takes a “step back” from the proactive approach taken by some other municipalities across Canada (Montreal, Nanaimo, Victoria, Saanich) which have banned new gas connections for primary heating in new residential builds starting at dates in 2024. A report for Nanaimo stated, “New buildings in the city that rely on electricity as the major heating source are easily meeting new provincial goals, but new builds using mainly natural gas are typically not able to meet the higher standards.”
Provençal stated that she would have preferred Rossland to adopt the stronger option, but is looking at least to stay ahead of the provincial timelines, and she would like to add on that the City is looking to stay ahead of the required timelines for reducing carbon emissions.
The suggested amendment received unanimous support; and motions to give the amended bylaw second and third readings CARRIED unanimously.
Solid and Yard Waste Regulation Bylaw # 2817:
A motion to give the bylaw first reading CARRIED unanimously. The bylaw is updated to incorporate the various changes required by the new organic diversion system and new tagging system.
Sewer Rate (2024-2025) Bylaw # 2821:
A motion to give the bylaw first reading CARRIED unanimously.
Water Rate (2024-2025) Bylaw # 2822:
A motion to give the bylaw first reading CARRIED unanimously.
Heritage Commission Bylaw Amendment # 2823: This bylaw facilitates the removal of a mandatory Council liaison position for the Heritage Commission. Motions to give the bylaw first, second and third readings all CARRIED unanimously.
REQUESTS FOR COUNCIL DECISION:
Draft Recreation Master Plan Implementation Select Committee Terms of Reference:
A motion to adopt the draft Terms of Reference CARRIED unanimously.
Boyce asked why it is better to have a ten-person committee working on the issues rather than just staff; Calder explained that it is very important that it not be seen as “people versus the City.”
Proposed Schedule for 2024 Regular Council Meetings:
The proposed Schedule (all dates are in 2024):
Monday, January 8; Monday, February 5; Tuesday, February 20; Monday, March 11; Tuesday, April 2; Monday, April 15; Monday, May 6; Tuesday, May 21; Monday, June 3; Monday, June 17; Monday, July 8; Monday, August 12; Monday, September 9; Monday, October 7; Monday, October 21; Monday, November 4; Monday, November 18; and Monday, December 9.
After a brief discussion about the rationale for the numbers and timing of meetings, a motion to approve the schedule as presented CARRIED unanimously.
Acting Mayor Schedule, 2023/2024:
A motion to approve the following schedule for Acting Mayor CARRIED unanimously:
November 2023 Councillor Kwiatkowski December 2023 Councillor Weaver
January 2024 Councillor Humpherys February 2024 Councillor Boyce
March 2024 Councillor Spooner April 2024 Councillor Provençal
May 2024 Councillor Kwiatkowski June 2024 Councillor Weaver
July 2024 Councillor Spooner August 2024 Councillor Provençal
September 2024 Councillor Boyce October 2024 Councillor Humpherys
November 2024 Councillor Weaver December 2024 Councillor Kwiatkowski
City Hall December 2023 Holiday Closure:
A motion to approve the closure of City Hall from December 26 to 239, 2023, CARRIED unanimously.
The Council materials note, “Certain departments may still be required to have a presence during this time (i.e. Recreation, Finance and Corporate Services) and Public Works staff will also remain on duty during this time to complete necessary operations for the City. As in previous years, all emergency contact information will be posted on the front doors of City Hall.”
Invoices Paid for Municipal Services October 2023:
A motion approving the cheque register for October CARRIED unanimously.
FOR INFORMATION ONLY:
Trail and Greater District RCMP – 3rd Quarter Crime Stats (2023):
Perusing the statistics provided reveals that Rosslanders seem, on average, to commit more Motor Vehicle Act violations than any other activity attracting attention from the RCMP.
Development Approvals Process (DAP) Modernization Update:
Council reviewed the 257-page report (with nine appendices) by Dillon Consulting with multiple recommendations for improving Rossland’s development approval process. There will be new software involved, most of the cost covered by a grant and the rest already in the City’s budget.
REQUESTS ARISING FROM CORRESPONDENCE:
Correspondence from E. Dearden – Fossil gas terminology to enhance climate change communication and action:
Morel put forward a motion to provide just a letter of support for the suggestion to replace the term “natural gas” with “fossil gas” the raise awareness of its nature and origins; Provençal pointed out that “every time we use the term “natural” gas, we’re participating in a PR campaign.” Kwiatkowski said it didn’t feel “high on the priority list.” Spooner said he thinks it’s advocacy, and not the role of local government. Morel disagreed; “Who else but the leaders in communities can push these ideas forward? That’s why we have AKBLG, and UBCM.” The motion failed with 3 in favour to 4 opposed.
[Factoids for the interested: “Natural” gas is a flammable gas, a potent greenhouse gas consisting mainly of methane (CH4), occurring in underground reservoirs often with oil, and much of it is also extracted from shale rock by fracking, which involves injecting large volumes of mixtures of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals into the earth at high pressure to fracture the rock and release the gas.]
Request to use City Park facilities:
A motion to approve the request from Chaye Hertzel to use City Park facilities for scheduled, and insured, Chi Kung and movement classes until October, 2024 CARRIED unanimously.
Remembrance Day Ceremony Event Request:
A motion to approve the temporary closure of Washington Street between Columbia Avenue and First Avenue and use of the cenotaph courtyard outside of the Rossland Library on November 11th, 2023, for the Remembrance Day event, CARRIED unanimously.
Morel reported that recent RDKB meetings dealt with “nothing earth-shattering at this point.”
There will be an open house at the new City Hal — Rossland Yards — this Friday.
RECESS TO IN CAMERA: 7:42 pm
Your reporter walked the new, longer way home in cold and vigorous rain, noting the residual slush here and there, and contemplating the seemingly impermeable divide between those who get it and those who think there is really no great urgency to do every possible thing to help curb climate change. And wondering whether, given the reality of anthropogenic climate change and its various accelerating effects around the globe, there will be enough snow on Red for the events scheduled for March. Here’s hoping there will be good snow, and lots of it.