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COUNCIL MATTERS: Rossland City Council Meeting, June 21, 2021

Screenshot taken during the June 21 Zoom meeting of Rossland City Council

It's Bear Smart to keep doors locked -- all the time!  No Canada Day public celebration this year; May was a very thirsty month;  have your say about the OCP review!  Questions about the City's Annual Report? -- Come to the July 12 meeting; and, another proposal for the Cook Avenue site.

Present:  Mayor Kathy Moore and Councillors Terry  Miller, Andy Morel, Chris Bowman, Janice Nightingale, Stewart Spooner, and Dirk Lewis.  Staff members who spoke included City Planner Stacey Lightbourne,  Deputy Corporate Office Cynthia Año Nuevo, and Manager of Public works and Infrastructure Scott Lamont.

Public Input Period:

Laura Pettit wanted to speak, but had technical difficulties and could not be heard. Moore invited her to try using the “chat” function, and promised to consider her comments when they arrived – but they never did.

Moore announced that the local Canada Day celebrations have been cancelled, and suggested that everyone meditate on the steps needed to accomplish true reconciliation with First Nations. 

Delegations:

1.       Mike Badry of the Community Bear Smart Program went through the Bear Smart Community criteria, and noted that “the community has to want to do it.  And the criteria are quite onerous.”  But he indicated that it is worth the effort – benefits include improved public safety, less property damage done by bears, and fewer bear mortalities.The six steps to Bear Smart designation are shown here:

Badry explained that Bear Smart communities have notably lower numbers of  bear/human conflicts, and 18%  fewer calls to a Conservation Officer.  So far there are 10 Bear Smart communities, including Castlegar. 

Garbage is by far the leading “bear attractant” – here’s a chart.

Badry noted that he avoids talking about “bear-proof” containers, as he’s not sure there is any such thing:

2.       Cheyanna Shypika of WildSafe BC reiterated the importance of becoming a Bear Smart community, and explained the primary goal of WildSafe BC –“to keep wildlife wild and communities safe.” In Rossland, she aims to foster a sense of trust between residents and the Conservation Officer – she encouraged calls about the presence of bears in the community to increase the amount of information available.  She emphasized that one of the most important things to do is to always keep your doors locked – house doors and vehicle doors – to prevent bears from opening doors, intruding and doing damage.

Lewis related a recent experience with a bear breaking into his chicken coop and eating a chicken, and noted that he has an electric fence installation coming very soon.  Bowman told about a bear breaking into a nearby house, and “living there for about a day and a half.”

Council response to “Be Amazing Campaign” presentation and request:  Cathy Peters had presented information on human trafficking and sexual exploitation at the previous Council meeting and requested a letter of support, and  lobbying efforts.

Spooner moved that “We don't do anything,” saying he thought Rossland should “stay in our own lane.”  Lewis said, “it’s an important issue” and he’d be fine with sending a letter of support.  Bowman agreed; he appreciates the work Peters has done, and thinks a letter might help her campaign.  Morel said he thinks that as a community, we need to take some responsibility, and a letter would be fine.  Moore agreed that a letter would be appropriate. 

The motion to do nothing FAILED, 5 to 2.

Morel moved that the City send a letter of support to  the provincial  government, asking them to address the issues of human trafficking and sexual exploitation; that motion CARRIED.

Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw # 2759, for 1926 Kirkup Avenue: A motion to give third reading, and another motion to adopt, both CARRIED unanimously.  This bylaw changed the zoning so that the large lot can be subdivided.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw # 2762, for 2276 Second Avenue:  the amendment is to allow short-term rental of an existing secondary suite. A motion to give the  bylaw first and second readings, CARRIED unanimously, imposing a condition that the owner continues to maintain the lane access.  Lewis queried what that meant; Lightbourne said it mean keeping it plowed, because the City isn’t doing it. Bowman has concerns about the parking.  A Public Hearing is scheduled for July 12, 2021.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw # 2763, for 1312 Victoria Avenue: this is another application for zoning to allow short-term rental of a ground-floor secondary suite.  A motion to give the bylaw first and second readings CARRIED unanimously, and a Public Hearing is scheduled for July 12, 2021. 

Policy Review:

Council reviewed the following policies:  

Freedom of the City Policy: Spooner suggested that it’s an archaic thing and should be got rid of; Moore countered that it's a great honour; but Morel agreed with Spooner, and suggested removing the military reference it contains; Lewis also agreed, suggesting Council give it “an expiry date.” Bowman said it’s in the Community Charter, and wondered if Council has the ability to remove it from its policy.  Council confirmed the policy by a vote of four to three, the three being Morel, Spooner and Lewis.

Lewis moved to ask Staff if we are able to revise to abolish the policy entirely; the motion CARRIED.

 Proclamations Policy:  Moore explained that the reason for this policy – not to issue proclamations – is because there are too many requests for official proclamations, and they have the potential for plugging up Council’s agenda.  The motion to confirm the policy CARRIED unanimously.

 Advertising and Promotions Policy: confirmed

Anti-Racism Policy: Spooner felt that the City doesn't uphold it; Miller stated that he thinks it’s healthy policy to articulate the  City’s position – what we aspire to. Bowman said, “This gives us something to work with.”  The policy was confirmed.

Half-Masting of the Flag Policy, as amended: Lewis asked that the term “consensus” be defined, as he thought it was “a bit loosey-goosey.”  He suggested that it should be amended to read “a majority of Council” would have to agree to half-masting. Spooner didn’t want to have a policy on it at all  -- “I want to stick to the basics,” he declared. The motion to adopt the policy CARRIED with only Spooner opposed.

The COVID-19 Policy: Moore suggested changes in wording to add advice to get vaccinated against COVID; Lewis suggested that advice about vaccines is in Public Health’s bailiwick,  not the City’s; Spooner suggested that the policy could advise people to follow all the provincial Centre for  Disease Control advice.  A motion to that effect CARRIED unanimously.

Rossland Tennis Society Facility Use Agreement:

A  motion to approve the second draft of the Rossland Tennis Society Facility Use Agreement 2021-2026 CARRIED unanimously, after Council was assured that the Society agreed to the minor changes.

Development Permit Application for 2276 Fifth Avenue, for a reduced front setback for a double garage, and a wider driveway to accommodate it; Spooner said he’d be voting against it, because he thinks not every lot in town has space for a double garage; Lewis agreed.  Miller concurred, having looked at the sightlines. Lightbourne pointed out that, as things are, they often park one car in the driveway and one car on the street, which is more hazardous; a motion to grant the variance FAILED with only Moore in favour.

Appointment of Chief Financial Officer:  A  motion to appoint Michael Kennedy to the statutory position of Financial Officer for the Corporation of the City of Rossland CARRIED unanimously, with evident good cheer.

Zoning Amendment Application for the old Cook School property; the owner seeks to change the zoning to allow for development of a 40-unit age-restricted (55 years and older) condominium project.  The owner proposes to have six one-bedroom units,  29 two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units, with three road access points to the project – one from Cliff Street, one from Monita Street, and one from Thompson Avenue.   

Discussion:  Spooner noted that Rosslanders often say they want to diversify our housing stock, but hardly anyone wants a development in their own neighbourhood.  Bowman responded that the building is very large, and doesn’t think diversification should happen all in one huge building in the middle of a neighbourhood of single-residence homes.  Nightingale agreed that the building looks too tall, that too much of the parking would be on City property, and  that the lot coverage is more than normally allowed; she can’t support unless the project was downscaled. Morel agreed, and added the concern about adding to traffic volumes and speeding on Thompson Avenue.  Miller said he thinks the site is ideal for a multi-family development, but he said this one is too big for the site. Moore said she “really wanted to support this project” but thinks it’s too big, there are too many units, there’s no transition from the single-family homes all around it.  “It just seems too much!”   Spooner felt that the City should provide some guidance to the builder, instead of just saying “no.”  He asked, “Where could we get to, that actually meets our goals?” Moore thought the builder could work with the City to come up with a viable plan that would be acceptable to the nieghbours and the City.

Here’s a visual representation of the proposed project:

Spooner moved to direct staff to work with the developer to seek a solution that will satisfy our needs. Lightbourne noted that she already works with developers, but in this case the applicant wanted to submit his plan “as is.”   The motion CARRIED unanimously.

Motion CARRIED unanimously to “schedule the annual meeting to consider any submissions and questions from the public regarding the 2020 Annual Report at the Regular Council Meeting of July 12, 2021.”

The usual reports were reviewed:  Water report – Morel noted that during the month of May this year, Rossland used more water than it has for the month of May in the previous eleven years.  

A note about the low level of water in the Star Gulch Reservoir: the dams are undergoing improvement, so the water level has had to be lowered.  Ophir Reservoir is overflowing.

Members Reports (Highlights only):

Moore moved that the city endorse  Bill M-84, an anti-hate initiative, and Bill C-313, to amend the Criminal Code “to broaden the provisions relating to hate propaganda by making it an offence to publicly display visual representations that promote or incite hatred or violence against an identifiable group.”   The motion CARRIED four to three, with the opponents (whose identities I failed to catch) echoing Spooner’s earlier comment about “staying in our lane.” 

Moore’s motion to give direction to Staff to investigate the feasibility of beginning the Bear Smart Community process  CARRIED unanimously. 

Moore is seeking to have as many people as possible contribute ideas and opinions on the review of the OCP, and urged everyone to encourage friends and relatives to take part.

Moore has been taking a course on governance,  and noted that Rossland’s current council is “exemplary” in being collegial and courteous with each other, which, she gathers from other participants, is not the norm in municipal councils.

The meeting adjourned at 8:55 pm, and your reporter bumbled off to bed, having been awake since 3:00 that morning, for no good reason except possibly old age.