Council – March 5, 2018

The first meeting in March (I cannot believe it is March already!) started with a special Public Hearing:

Zoning Amendment (813 – 823 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 7974, 2018
This proposal will bring a new 32-story tower to the downtown tower district with 206 market strata units. The building will share a 3-story pedestal with a second, 8-story tower that will have 66 non-market rental units run by the Performing Arts Lodges, a not-for-profit that helps provide affordable housing for veterans of the performing arts industries. I will write a follow-up post on this development, but short version is Council voted to give the project Third Reading.

We then proceeded to our Regular Meeting agenda, starting with a Staff Presentation:

2017 Achievements and Accomplishments
This presentation by senior staff is an annual review of the work done and projects completed. Things are crazy busy in the City right now, partly driven by the (region-wide) pace of growth, partly by Council’s increasingly ambitious plans for moving the City forward in a lot of different directions. I will do a follow-up blog post to talk a little more about this, but short version is staff are running full gas, and I appreciate their work.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Amendment to the 2018 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
This minor change in our calendar will permit a workshop on cannabis regulations on June 18th. Please adjust your social calendar appropriately.

215 Mowat Street: Development Permit Application for Façade Upgrades to an Existing Multi-Unit Residential Building
This older Strata apartment building is in need of some significant envelope repairs, and the owners have decided to do some upgrades to the building appearance and landscaping at the same time. The total estimated costs of the repairs is high enough to trigger the need for them to apply for a Development Permit.

The Brow of the Hill RA supported this project, as did the Design Panel, and the neighbours have been notified and have not raised any objections. Council moved to issue the Development Permit.

312 Fifth Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
This Heritage Revitalization Agreement for a house in Queens Park will provide Heritage Designation and significant restoration of a heritage home in exchange for some allowances around a laneway house on the back of the property. Council gave the HRA two readings, and the project will be going to a Public Hearing on April 30, 2018. C’mon out and let us know what you think!

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Intelligent New West collaboration with UBC Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) Smart City Research Update
This is an opportunity the City has, through the work of our Intelligent City team, to collaborate with UBC and benefit from cutting-edge research on data management and urban systems. They will be looking at innovative ways to make our City work better for our residents and businesses. We have had success with previous collaborations, and want to move ahead with studying three new areas:

• Fast charging infrastructure for Electric Vehicles – assuring the revolution in EVs doesn’t pass the City by, and identifying potential to leverage our Electrical Utility to provide region-leading EV service;
• Modernizing our electrical metering service to allow better data management of our grid;
• Broader public Wi-Fi connectivity – expanding the advantage of BridgeNet to make internet connectivity more available, and more equitable.

Council moved to support this initiative with funding from the Intelligent City budget.

Updated Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy – Proposed Vision, Goals and Evaluation Criteria
As previously reported, we are meeting our GHG reduction goals in every sector except our fleet, which was thrown a curveball last year with the protracted snow/ice event and concomitant increase in vehicle mileage for our road maintenance vehicles. Council is not daunted, however, and we plan to set some aggressive targets for the next phase of our CEERS. I will address the fleet issue in the item below where we talked about our shift to alternative fuels.

318 Fifth Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Window replacement
This HRA project in Queens Park will provide Designation of a heritage home, along with some restoration right away and some longer-term restoration/upkeep commitments in exchange for some accommodations for a laneway house at the back of the property. The project has not yet gone to First and Second reading, however, because it is a little hung up on the timeline for replacement of the existing vinyl windows.

There are multiple opinions here about the windows. The Heritage Consultant working on the house has suggested that replacing the functional and high-efficiency vinyl windows (which are not, naturally, heritage-appropriate materials) at the end of their functional life, citing the cost and impact of breaking the envelope of the building and doing intrusive work when it isn’t immediately necessary. Some heritage conservation advocates (including the Community Heritage Commission) wanted to see the windows replaced sooner, or even immediately. Prior to drafting the Heritage Revitalization Agreement between the homeowner and the City (which will go to Public Hearing), Staff asked for some clarity from Council on how far we should push the window issue.

I was concerned we were missing the forest for the trees here, and think the long-term heritage preservation of such a well-cared-for home for the decades ahead is more important than the short-term heritage “win” of replacing the windows right away, as the consummate costs may put the entire project in jeopardy. I am happy with the commitment to replacement of the windows with appropriate wood-frame versions, on a timeframe appropriate for the long term viability of the house – be that end of life or sooner – and securing that commitment with a covenant or in the language of the HRA.

There were several options provided to council, reflecting the varying opinions of the Community Heritage Commission (replace within 10 years), Advisory Planning Commission (replace windows at the end of their service life with heritage-appropriate units), and the proponents (replace street-fronting windows within 10 years, the rest at the end of their service life). After some discussion, Council chose to support the proponent’s proposal, with the addition of a cosmetic treatment of the current windows to address the non-heritage-appropriate colour; a compromise that may slightly disappoint everyone. But I guess we will find out at the Public Hearing.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Implementation Work Program Update and Proposed Direction
Staff continues to work on the incentive programs planned for the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area, along with development and consultation on some of the other implementation measures promised as part of the HCA.

Several of these proposals were easily supported by Council, but the one part around the process through which homeowners with protected properties could apply to have a preliminary evaluation done of their property to determine if they lack heritage value to the point where they could be moved to Limited Protection status lead to some discussion and clarification. In the end I supported all of the staff recommendations (and all were passed by Council).

This is an ongoing project, and a healthy discussion on Council is important, even when especially when we disagree on some points of language and policy. There is a bunch of work to do yet here, and there are upcoming public meetings on these initiatives, so stay tuned!

1084 Tanaka Court: Development Approvals Process Timeline Update for the Rezoning and Development Permit Applications to Permit a Banquet Hall
The proposal to build a large Banquet Hall on an undeveloped piece of land adjacent to Queensborough Landing is going through an extra level of review, as the proponents have determined the best way to meet their parking requirements is to build a parkade, which is resulting in a redesign of the building shape and form.

Update on the City’s Use of Alternative Fuels and Electric Vehicles
A little while ago, we asked staff to provide us an update on our efforts to shift our fleet to lower-emission and zero-emission vehicles. This is related to the discussion around fleet being the one part of our Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy (above) that isn’t hitting targets. Of course, the issue is more complex than just saying “we need to stop buying gas/diesel vehicles”. We have a legacy fleet and the technology available for small consumer cars (like the Nissan Leaf the City has in its pool) is not expanding to other vehicle types as quickly as we may like. Just try to buy an electric (or even plug-in hybrid), pick-up truck. They don’t exist.

That said, technology is shifting fast. Vancouver is testing an electric garbage truck that can do a 10-hour shift on a 2-hour charge, but that is definitely not a mainstream technology, and we cannot yet evaluate the lifetime costs. We also have everything from backhoes to field lawnmowers and firetrucks that are not likely to see total electrification soon. Our Police are doing a good job with propane-hybrid vehicles and new anti-idling practices, and our fire services are now using separate diesel generators to run on-board systems so the drive engine can be shut off during extended deployments. As stop-gap measures, these are great, but not the end of the discussion.

Its not a matter of if we are going to move to a complete low- or zero-emission vehicle fleet, but when. Even if the pressures of carbon pricing (going up!) were more important than the fact it is 20 degrees above normal today in parts of the Arctic, the emergent health impacts of diesel pollution in our communities is enough to make the case for a shift to a cleaner, greener fleet and fleet practices that reduce engine idling and fuel use.

Council emphasized that New Westminster has its own electrical utility (vertical integration!), is a compact City with high population density within a small area, and has a Council that has demonstrated its interest in finding innovative approaches to problems and expresses an environmental ethos – if New West can’t lead the region (or even the country) on this file, I don’t know what City could. Council called on staff to continue to be innovative and see where they can push some limits here to make our fleet cleaner.

European Chafer Management Program Update
The City provides subsidies to people who wish to apply nematodes to their lawns to battle the Chafer beetle and the animals that tear up yards to feast on them. I have some concerns about us continuing to invest in a losing battle here. This is a subsidy to single family homeowners to maintain green lawns, when there are alternatives available, including better turf care practices or alternative lawn covers. The Chafer is not going away, and I wonder about the value of doing this for perpetuity.

Regardless, I am aware that this is a bigger policy discussion, and am happy in the short term to continue the program until we can come up with a better understanding of a long term strategy.

We then moved on to our regular reading of Bylaws:

312 Fifth Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 7979, 2018 and 312 Fifth Street: Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 7980, 2018
These Bylaws that support the heritage restoration and designation of a house in Queens Park in exchange for allowances around a laneway house, as mentioned above, were given two readings. They will go to Public Hearing on April 30. C’mon out and let us know what you think.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Bylaw No. 7992, 2018
This Bylaw that formalized our 5-year financial plan which was given Third Reading on February 19, was formally adopted. It is now the Law of the Land.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7915, 2017 (for 229 Eleventh Street)
This Bylaw to permit a residential building in the Brow of the Hill which was given Third Reading on January 29th was formally adopted. Please adjust your behaviour accordingly.

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7924, 2018
This Bylaw that makes a bunch of language changes to correct our Zoning Bylaw where it is incorrect, unclear, or didn’t rhyme was formally adopted. Please update all of your bylaw dictionaries and related hyperlinks.

And that was another night of Council work done!

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