We had an uncharacteristically short council meeting this week, at least the open part. There was a fair amount of good info and important stuff in the reports we read and received along with the Agenda, there was just not a lot of detail discussion among Council about it.
We started with this item Removed from Consent for discussion:
COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
This is our weekly reporting out by the task forces put together in the City to address the pandemic response. If you want to know what the City is doing, read this report for the latest summary.
Of course, these are just the extra things City staff are doing. There is still much “regular” business going on in the City. Buildings are being inspected, Bylaws enforced, police doing police work, fire department responding to calls, grass being mowed, planters being tended, financial reports being prepared and audited, trash being removed, etc. etc. All of these things still go on even as staff are having to adjust how they do them.
So when you look at this list of Task force works – it is above and beyond the usual work load. This includes coordinating food distribution by the Food Bank and other service agencies to assure the most vulnerable in our community at least have the dignity and security of a regular meal. There was a recent announcement that the Vancouver Foundation provided a huge grant to local food security in New West, and thanks to this work, 80 families will receive a weekly food hamper every week for three months to help get through the crisis time.
This means working with BC Housing to assure that those without a roof, or in threat of being without a roof have access to a safe, dry place where they can be connected with other resources they may need. This also means assuring that isolated seniors in the community who have been separated from their usual community supports due to physical distancing and their higher risk status have a friendly voice to talk to and someone who can ask them about their needs.
The City is also connecting with every business in the City to assure they know about the supports available to them from senior governments, to talk about their security or social distancing concerns, and to help them determine what kind of supports they are going to need in the recovery phase after this crisis passes so the City is ready to help with those supports. It means coordinating a Support Local campaign to assure residents know what businesses are operating, and need customers to support them now.
Then there is the education and enforcement part of managing physical distancing and the use of City spaces. There are staff reviewing daily the federal and provincial announcements, so that we are on top of the changes, and can change our operations and the info we provide to the public appropriately. There are City staff re-assigned to getting out into parks and public spaces to talk to residents, creating signage, adjusting our Bylaws so that enforcement was possible, making determinations about what uses are still OK, and which need to be adjusted, closed, or adapted. Staff have identified pedestrian areas that need to be improved to permit physical distancing and have made that happen. They have also been managing inquiries from the public through a special hotline, both to educate and to follow up on concerns the public may have.
None of this was in anybody’s work plan in February, none of it built into any departments budget. Our staff have, in my opinion, done a spectacular job adjusting to a new reality that is changing every day, and our community is coming through this strong. It isn’t over, but we can start to put some resources towards looking towards that time. We will be talking more about that next meeting.
The following items were Moved on Consent:
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw to Reflect COVID-19 Interim Development Review Process: Bylaw for Three Readings and Adoption
Last meeting, we talked about some changes to the development review process in light of the ongoing physical distancing requirements and limitation on meetings in City Hall. The cost of internal processes for reviewing developments falls on the developer on a fee-for-service basis, which requires a bylaw, which needs to be edited slightly due to some of the changes we approved last week. This report outlines the edits to that Bylaw which we adopted below.
618 Carnarvon (Urban One Project): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The property at 618 Carnarvon was given approval for development last year, and includes some work immediately adjacent to the SkyTrain guideway. Some of this work needs to happen at night when the SkyTrain is not running. Right now that is just a night or two of work to install a fence to keep the guideway and construction site separate. This requires a Construction Noise Bylaw exemption to permit the night work.
2020 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8196, 2020
As we approved a financial plan last meeting, we must now establish formally the property tax rates for 2020 to match that financial plan. Property taxes will increase 3.1% this year, plus the 1% Capital Levy will be redirected to a reserve to specifically pay for COVID-19 emergency measures. As always, your personal tax experience will vary based on how your property value changed this year relative the average property value in the City. The average residential property value in the City dropped 7.1% last year. My own property dropped 0.3% last year, so I will be paying about 10% higher municipal property tax than last year.
Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 8197, 2020
We had previously established some Electrical Utility rate increases this year to mirror BC Hydro rate changes, along with a shift from mirroring the old BC Hydro “Rate Rider” model to putting part of that into a special levy to help pay for some Climate Action plans within the utility. Due to the change in how BC Hydro is rolling out rate changes in light of the COVID-19 emergency, we are putting off those plans for now, and maintaining the same rates for 2020, which means we need to change the Bylaw again to go back to where it previously was.
We then adopted the following Bylaws:
Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8196, 2020
As discussed above, this Bylaw that sets our Property Tax rates for 2020 was adopted by Council.
Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 8197, 2020
As discussed above, this Bylaw that re-adjusts our Electrical Rates for 2020 was adopted by Council.
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8198, 2020
And again as discussed above, this Bylaw that changes the language in our Development Fees Bylaw to match the recent changes in process was adopted by Council.
And that was a meeting, short & sweet. I promise there will be more exciting conversation next week, as I plan to start talking about this.