Council – December 10, 2018

The last Council Meeting of 2018 was an eventful one, as you can see in the Agenda here. We started with two pretty lackluster Opportunities to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit DVP00657 for 41 Duncan Street (490 Furness Street) (Child Care)
Variances are required for this childcare project because the measured set-backs between the childcare building and the edges of the lot they are constructed on are reduced (in part because of the development plan for the overall site, in part to give better playspace. No-one sent any correspondence and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00656 for 618 Carnarvon Street (Sign Bylaw Variance)
A sign bylaw variance is required because the measured area of the sign, not the printed copy, but the entire field of paint, exceeds the Bylaw No-one sent any correspondence and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to approve the variance.


The following items were Moved on Consent without discussion:

2019 Child Care Grant Recommendations
This is an annual $40,000 grant program to support capital improvements to non-profit childcare operations in the City. Council moved to grant a total of $39,321 to eight Child Care projects in the City representing over 400 child care spaces, with the remaining $679 to be allocated through the Child Care Action Team to subsidize education or training to non-profit childcare providers in the City.

2019 Heritage Grant Recommendations
This is an annual $25,000 grant program to support heritage initiatives in the City. There were 3 applications totaling $15,992, and the committee recommended granting them all. Council agreed.

800 Boyd Street (Queensborough Mini Storage): Consideration of Development Permit for Issuance
The landowner at this Queensborough property wants to expand the existing self-storage place to include a third building, and needs a Development Permit to do it. It has been supported by the Residents Association, and their public open house to receive comment on the application was attended by zero members of the public. The Design Panel also approve of the project. Council move to approve the Development Permit.

Q to Q Pilot Ferry Service – Update
This is an update on the QtoQ ferry service, which is seeing much less use than in the summer (as expected). There are a consistent 120 trips a day during the week, indicating a base level of service for commuters (what we kind of hoped would happen), with between 200 and 300 rides a day on the weekends, depending on the weather. Staff are going to do some more monitoring, hoping that they can adjust operations to best suit the needs of the passengers and hopefully save a little on operational cost.

Of bigger concern, there are a few operational concerns with the Port Royal dock, and the Port of Vancouver does not approve of the efforts the City wants to implement to make it work better, because of navigational risks for the log boom operators next door. So we have some more work to do.

Small Dog Off-Leash Area Trial in Moody Park
After some public engagement and a short trial, Parks are ready to install a permanent “small dog only” off-leash play area in Moody Park. Through the public consultation, it is pretty clear that some portion of the dog-loving public is not going to like the approach the City takes, no matter what that approach is, as there are many divergent views on every aspect of dog parks. Of course, a larger facility in another part of the park might be desired by most users, but there is limited space in Moody Park, and having two separate dog areas in that constrained and very busy park is just not fair to other park users.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2019 Amateur Sports Fund Committee Grant Recommendations
This grant fund is a legacy of the 1973(!) Canada Games, along with some Casino funding added in 2000. There is an endowment with the interest paid out as grants to support amateur sports programs in the city. We had $323,000 in requests, and $35,000 budget. Council moved to approve the recommendation that the entire $35,000 budget be allocated to 10 sports organizations in the city, representing almost 2,700 athletes.

2019 Arts & Culture Grant Recommendations
This is an annual $30,000 grant program to support independent Arts & Culture programs in the City. The Grant Committee reviewed requests totaling just over $39,000. Council Moved to approve the recommended granting of a total of $30,000 to 13 different programs.

2019 Community Grant Recommendations
This grant program is meant to support projects which contribute to the community livability of the city, and grant recommendations made by a volunteer committee of New West residents. There is a $75,000 budget for this grant program. There were 24 applications totaling $105,000, and the committee recommended providing grant to 19 projects totaling $63,393, and the transfer of the $11,000 surplus to the Youth Counselling program under the Partnership Grant (see below).

2019 Environmental Grant Recommendations
This is an annual $20,000 grant program to support environmental initiatives in the City. There were $32,000 in requests, and Council supported the committee recommendation to grant a total of $20,000 to 6 programs.

2019 City Partnership Grant Recommendations
This grant program is meant to assist incorporated not -for-profit organizations with delivery of major services to the community. The services must assist the City to fulfill its vision statement and requests are reviewed by a Review Panel. The best way to think about partnership grants is that these are things some might expect a City (or senior government) to do, but it is easier and less expensive for us to grant money to others and let them do it.

Hence, this is the biggest grant category – established programs tend towards here, and it takes on the character of a “catch all”. In this lies the trouble. There is a $485,000 budget for this grant program, but there were 23 applications totaling $1,061,755. Clearly, hard choices need to be made here.

One concern this year is that several organizations that asked for 3-year grant commitments rely on that stability to not only create consistent programming, but also to allow them to leverage other grant sources – both goals we want to see from partnership grants. But if every grant is promised for three years, we have no room for new (and potentially really beneficial) programs to develop.

Alas, this is mess, not because of the work of the review committee, but because we as Council have not done the work to provide clear guidance and priority to inform their work. In the end, Council moved to refer these recommendations back to the committee for more work with a bit of guidance. More to come in January.

Committee Governing Documents
This is an update to the terms of reference of a bunch of our Council Advisory Committees, to explicitly open spaces for representatives from a First Nation, to open up opportunities for co-chairs to make committees work better if needed, and to allow Council to remove representatives that don’t actually show up.

We got into a bit of a debate here about some of the wording, which might have sounded bureaucratic to some, but I think speaks to our cautious approach to reconciliation. The wording of opening up a seat for a “representative of a First Nation” is potentially more limiting than we intended. I think our intent was to incent participation on our committees by people with indigenous experience, but the term “First Nation representative” may be read to mean representative from the governance of a First Nation as a stakeholder as opposed to a community member who can add to our conversation. Nothing wrong with the former, but I think we also want to encourage the latter. At a second level, the term “First Nation” is generally thought to not include Metis or Inuit, which may preclude the urban aboriginal residents we want to hear form. Short version: we can’t make these gestures without considered intent, otherwise they risk becoming token gestures that don’t actually move us towards a meaningful dialogue. So we will do a bit of a review of our language here and make sure the language fits our intent. Let’s make sure we are doing this right.

Rent Bank Program: Update and Request
The Rent Bank is working. It is providing no-interest emergency loans to prevent a small catastrophes from making a people homeless – as serious concern in our tight rental market, as we can stop the vicious cycle of homelessness right at the start. The City provides administration funding for the program (the cooperating Credit Unions provide the loans). It also acts as a point of contact for people facing homelessness, so even if they do not qualify for the emergency loan, they may find out about other programs that can provide them support at a crisis time in their lives. The program in its short history has prevented a couple of dozen people becoming homeless – helping them, but also saving the provincial government a lot of money.

Council moved to increase our funding to help with this administration, and to ask the Province to help fund the program now that it has been demonstrated to be viable and something that is likely saving the Province orders of magnitude more money.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw: Retail Sale of Cannabis – Bylaw for Three Readings
This is a Bylaw we adopted back on November 19, but it had the wrong Schedule B attached at the time due to a clerical error. Staff caught the error, so now we are going to amend it to include the appropriate schedule.

Proposed BC Energy Step Code Requirements for New Part 3 Multi-Residential and Commercial Buildings
The Province has been working on updates of the building code to make buildings in BC more energy efficient in order to meet our long-range energy and emissions reduction goals. There is a lot going on here, but the very short version is that the province has termed it the “Step Code”, with the idea that Cities can phase implementation towards higher “steps”, with the top step being zero energy buildings – those that are so efficient they can be heated by waste energy already in the house (like the back of your fridge and the human bodies in the house). The idea being that this buffers homebuilders, the construction industry, regulators and inspectors from an all-at-once change, and instead we can phase in improvement over time.

The City is already implementing a Step Code strategy for single family homes, and all buildings up to three stories and 600m2, we are now moving into the larger-building sector (condos and purpose built rental). By 2020, new buildings will have to hit Step 3, unless they have a Low Carbon Energy System, in which case they will be required to hit Step 2. The result is basically the same from greenhouse gas emission sense – either they switch to non-carbon energy sources, or they useless energy.

We are also going to look at requiring homebuilders to apply energy ratings on their new buildings, so owners will know what they are buying. Like knowing the fuel consumption of the car you buy or the KW/h usage of your clothes dryer, you really should know what the energy costs of your new house or apartment is.

Update on the City’s Snow and Ice Response Preparations
This is a timely update on the City’s snow and ice response plan, following up on requests last year and the year before to review how snow removal from sidewalks and pedestrian areas are managed in the City. The City is going to do more to get the information out about residents’ responsibility to clear their sidewalks, and to address the issue of lane-ways creating pedestrian barriers.

However, I don’t think we are going far enough. Since we adopted a Master Transportation Plan that prioritizes active transportation (walking and cycling), then public transit, over personal automobile use, it seems incongruous that we spend so much money and resources keeping roads free of ice and cleared of snow, but rely on the neighbourliness of our residents to do the same for our sidewalks and bus stops. This is also in opposition to our Age-Friendly Community Strategy, and our goals to become a more accessible City.

Therefore, I moved that we ask staff to let us know what the practicalities and costs are of the City taking over the responsibility for sidewalk plowing, at least in a set of pedestrian priority areas (in the same way that we prioritize roads). If we can’t afford it, I want to know what that cost is. If we need to move priorities to make it happen, I need to have the data to support that.

September 6, 2018 Arts Commission Recommendation re Cultural Services
The Arts Commission has a recommendation about how we structure Cultural Services in the City. This will likely be a part of our strategic planning process for the coming term, and will no doubt interact with the Arts Strategy which we discussed during the Open Workshop portion of today’s meeting. More to come here…


We then had one item of New Business:

Draft Inclusionary Housing Policy for Rezoning Application Negotiation
The City now has the authority to require that any development above a certain size to include an affordable housing component, in the form of below-market rental. We have the ability to make this a condition of OCP amendment or rezoning. There are a lot of details here, and this is sure to cause a lot of public conversation – and raise a bit of concern among the development community.

The City has already negotiated two below-market affordable housing projects as parts of larger developments – 159 units in Victoria Hill completed in 2017, and 66 units on Carnarvon Street about to break ground now. But the need is increasing, so this policy will allow us to move beyond the ad-hoc process we currently use. This is a preliminary report, and these will be public consultation on this. I am looking forward to learning more as we go along.


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Council Indemnification Bylaw No. 8075, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that outlines when Council members are and are not indemnified in relation to their Council work was adopted by Council.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8062, 2018
Also discussed last meeting, this amendment to the Five-Year Financial Plan to include some financing for the replacement of the Canada Games pool was adopted by Council.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8071, 2018
Discussed at some length, this Bylaw that formalizes the utility rate increases for 2019 was adopted by Council.

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No. 8072, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that allows us to build things with the money we collected from the development community through DCCs was adopted by Council.

Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8066, 2018
This annual update to our Parks and Recreation fees, as discussed last meeting, was adopted by Council.


Whew! It was a content-dense last meeting of the year. I am taking a bit of a vacation, so will probably not be blogging much for the next few weeks. If you want t know where I am, find me on Instagram or Facebook, as I will try to send updates from the vacation. I hope you have a good holidays, and your 2019 is full of the best kinds of excitement!

Council Top Three!

This is regular pre-council list of what I think are going to be the most important three items on our Council agenda on Monday* in no particular order, so you can decide if you want to tune in.

#1: Grant Allocations
We are making our awards of the Amateur Sports, Arts & Culture, Child Care, Community, Environmental, Heritage and Partnership grants for 2019. We had $710,000 in the budget for these grants, and $1.6 Million in requests. Tune in to see what the Grant Committees recommend, and see if Council agrees!

#2: Update on the City’s Snow and Ice Response Preparations
With winter upon us, we are receiving an update report on how the City responds to snow and ice removal. I have shared my concerns in the past that our response (plow and de-ice roads, but but rely on the neighbourliness of our residents and business owners to do the same for our sidewalks and bus stops) does not reflect the transportation priorities set out in our master transportation plan, or other policies in the City meant to support seniors or people with disabilities.

#3: Small Dog Off-Leash Area Trial in Moody Park
This is actually a pretty basic upgrade to park facilities, but few things are as conflict-inducing than off-leash parks. The need for a small dog area in Moody Park is not under dispute, but the design details and questions about where to locate it in the very constrained park have proved to be contentious in the past.  

*normal footnote: The funny thing about Council: it is almost impossible to predict what three items will rise to the top and get the most debate/ public feedback / media coverage. These are only my guesses, and I am only one of seven. For a full prediction of the entire Council agenda, go to the agenda!

Council – Dec 3, 2018

Proving my prognostication skills are as terrible as I always suspected, here is my report on this week’s Council meeting. You can follow along on the Agenda here, and note that I thought those new business items were just Notices of Motion, not topics of discussion this week, which is kinda how I missed them earlier. I’m such a rookie at this.

We started the Meeting with an Opportunity for Public Comment:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8062, 2018
This Bylaw provides us the authority to borrow the money we need to build the proposed Canada Games Pool replacement. We do not yet have a detailed design, and our cost estimates at this point are “Class D” and put the project at about $100 Million, or $114 Million if we expand the facility to provide all of the competition-supporting changes that the swim club was asking for. The rush here is the timing of the Federal government infrastructure grant process, and the requirement that we have a financing plan in place and approved prior to us completing that application.

We had one person ask a few questions regarding the structure of the Five-Year Financial Plan and the planned structure of the loan if and when the City decides to go forward with the project. There will be a *lot* of discussion of this project in 2019 as the design and planning come along and we get all of the details of financing the largest capital project in the city’s history together. In the meantime, Council gave this amendment three readings.


The following items were Moved on Consent without discussion.

New Westminster City Council Indemnification Bylaw
The City’s Solicitor is updating some of the practices in the City, including clarifying the limitations of liability for Council. This is a little meta to how Council operates, but as the executive to a large organization, we have some protection from legal liability if we make decisions in good faith that have bad results. This protection is much less robust if we act dishonestly or in violation of the law.

Engineering User Fees and Utility Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8071, 2018
We talked about utility rates last meeting, and I have been writing a few blog posts about it. This is the Bylaw that makes the water, sewer, and solid waste rates for the next year official, and we gave the Bylaw three readings.

DCC Expenditure Bylaw No. 8072, 2018
Development Cost Charges are money the City collects from developers that the City is required by law to spend on designated infrastructure improvement projects directly related to the impacts of population growth. If we need to replace the water pipes under your street due to it being old and leaky, that is paid for out of your utility rates (through utility reserve funds, usually). However, if we have to build a bigger water pipe to accommodate the new multi-family building on your block, the marginal cost of that expansion is paid for with DCCs collected from the developer of that multi-family building. Like everything else in this City, we need a Bylaw to permit the pulling of the money out of the DCC accounts and spending it on the projects.

For example, there are a couple of drainage projects in Queensborough, one related to Ewen Street redesign, the other a major pump station at the end of Wood Street. They are going to cost a combined $6.4Million. About $4.5M of that (or 70%) will be paid for out of our reserves (ie. paid by all users), while $1.9M (or 30%) will be paid by DCC funds collected through density increases in Queensborough.

Council gave the Bylaw, which authorizes the spending of a little more than $3 Million of DCC funds on various projects.

Code of Conduct for City Council
We have not operated with a modern Code of Conduct for Council. This is something many Cities have adopted, partly because of increased expectations for respectful workplaces, and partly from observing examples from other cities where the municipal operations were hampered by poor conduct on the part of a few disruptive Council members. So, no sign of problems here, just our City Clerk being proactive as part of our general effort to make City Hall and Council function as well as possible. Council move to approve the Code.

Recruitment 2018: ICAC Appointment
The School Board representative to the Intelligent City Advisory Committee is changing due to some staffing shifts at the School District. Moved!

2018 Heritage Register Update – Addition of Five Properties and Removal of One Property
The Heritage Registry is a database of significant heritage assets in the City (mostly single family homes) that have statements of significance, and the owners are able to avail themselves of some special provisions of the BC Building Code to support the protection and preservation of the buildings. Some (not all) are protected from demolition or modification. New houses granted property rights through Heritage Restoration Agreements are commonly added to the Register every now and then, and this time, a building demolished after a fire a couple of years ago has been stricken from the Register.

Recreational Cannabis: Nuisance Monitoring Program
As I’ve said a few times, the biggest hassle we are going to have to deal with as a City with the legalization of cannabis is the inevitable complaints about exposure to second-hand smoke. I am of the opinion that the actual nuisance will not be increasing substantially (because I don’t think legalization is going to come with a substantial increase in users), but I am confident the number of complaints will as people are less sensitive to how their personal use impacts others. Staff have some tools in place, but will provided this report to let us know they will be collecting data and will report back to us about how the nuisance issue plays out in the City.

SkyTrain Stations (TransLink): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
SkyTrain works often involve working at times when the SkyTrain is not running, for some pretty obvious reasons, which usually requires a construction noise bylaw exemption. We are granting one until December 24th, then again starting in January so TransLink can wire up their new announcement system.

Pattullo Bridge Seismic Upgrading: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
As plans for a replacement for the Pattullo bridge proceed, the old structure is still going to carry traffic through to 2023. TransLink has concerns about its ability to withstand high seismic and wind loads events, and want to install an early warning system to close the bridge in the event of a bad event. The work to install some of this will have to happen at night to not impact drivers. So they came to us for a construction noise exemption.

CP Rail Pipe Crossing Agreement – Proposed Watermain Crossing on Braid Street
We need to replace a piece of water main, and it goes under railroad tracks. So we need to get separate approvals from all three rail operators. This is the CP one. This is also related to the reason why the sidewalk improvements along Braid have not been completed to date. The water line thing has to happen first.

Amendment to the Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw (resubmitted)
This is a second shot at updating our Parks and Recreation fees, as we do annually, after a few recommendations came from Council last meeting. Council moved to approve them this time.


We then adopted a few Bylaws

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8038, 2018
As discussed last meeting, This Bylaw that allows us to borrow a bit of money if we need to spend a little bit more cash than we strictly have on hand to get past short term (less than a year) cash crunch was adopted by Council. I have no idea if staff ever use this flexibility, but they are definitely happy to have it.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8058, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that formalizes the annual CPI-related increases in Engineering Fees to assure cost recovery was adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment (1102, 1110, 1116 and 1122 Salter Street) Bylaw No. 8034, 2018
As discussed back in June, given Third Reading on July 25th, and just approved by the Ministry of Transportation, this Bylaw that supports the development of a combined townhouse, rowhome and detached house development in Queensborough was adopted by Council.


Now for those New Business items I thought were Notices of Motion:

Poverty Reduction
Council resolved that: the City of New Westminster support the Coalition’s ABC Plan for an accountable, bold and comprehensive poverty reduction plan for BC; and that this council advocate to the provincial government to develop and implement a provincial poverty reduction strategy that includes the measures within the ABC Plan before February 2019, with the commitment that this council will work with the provincial government in implementing this plan.

This is a motion to ask the Provincial government to include the framework and items in the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s “ABC Plan” for an Accountable, Bold and Comprehensive poverty reduction plan for BC. Beyond just a good idea at a good time, it is important to realize that although the costs of poverty often fall on municipalities to manage, the causes of poverty are firmly in senior governments’ jurisdiction. We do what we can in New Westminster to mitigate the effects, but the root causes will need serious senior government action.

Truth and Reconciliation
Council resolved to endorse the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that the City use the Declaration as a framework for truth and reconciliation.

The City has been working on a reconciliation plan since 2017, and are quickly entering a phase where Council will and the public will be engaging in conversations, and the City will be opening opportunities for truths to be shared. We have taking a cautious approach, but based on the messaging of the recent election campaigns, we will be integrating reconciliation into our strategic planning for the term. In the meantime, it is timely that the City endorse the principles that will provide the framework for those actions.

All on Board Campaign
Finally, Council also resolved to endorse the #AllOnBoard Campaign; the City write a letter to the TransLink Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, the TransLink Board, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction asking TransLink to work with the provincial government regarding funding and developing a plan that will provide free public transit for minors (ages 0-18), and reduced price transit based on a sliding scale using the Market Basket Measure for all low-income people regardless of their demographic profile;
and that the City write a separate letter to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and the TransLink Board asking them to 1) require TransLink adopt a poverty reduction/equity mandate in order to address the outstanding issue of lack of affordability measures to ensure those who need public transit the most can access the essential service of transit, and 2) to request TransLink immediately and without delay amend existing by-laws and cease ticketing all and any minors for fare evasion as the first step towards the full implementation of free transit for children and youth 0-18, and allow low-income adults to access community service and/or culturally appropriate restorative justice community service as an alternative to the financial penalty of a fare evasion ticket;

I have been an outspoken supporter of providing free transit for youth, and the All on Board campaign has pushed this issue forward in recent months.

My only caveat with this motion is my concern that poverty mitigation efforts undertaking by TransLink do not come at the cost of reducing transit service or increasing fares for other users. Reducing accessibility to or reliability of public transit will ultimately hurt those with lower incomes worse than those who have access to other options. I will not support sliding scale or subsidized transit passes for the lowest income categories if it comes at the cost of increasing fares for the next economic tiers. It is not progressive or fair for the marginally poor to be asked to subsidize the poorest sector of society. The provincial government must fund any low-income transit subsidy from general revenue. It is the only just way to address this issue.


Clearly, we have a new Council, one ready to jump in with two feet and get some things done. It should be an exciting term!

Utilities 2018 (Part 2)

In my previous utilities post, I talked about revenues and expenses in our utilities, and readers of our financial spreadsheets would see that we make more money in revenues than we spend operating the utility – we make a “profit” every year. So what happens to that money? And if we make a profit already, why are rates going up?

I feel I have to caveat a bunch of this stuff, probably should have in the last post as well – I’m not a finance professional, or even a decent bookkeeper. I need to simplify what are sometimes pretty complex finance rules and practices to understand them myself, never mind try to explain them. So everything here needs to be read in that context – I may get some of this a little wrong in a way that causes a Chartered Accountant to chuckle, but hey, at least it is them laughing at me for a change instead of the other way around. This is also why I am tempted to put scare quotes around a bunch of terms like “profits”, because I realize I am using the terms colloquially, not strictly. So maybe assume any word below that is not used in a way that strictly fits the definition as having scare quotes.

The short answer to that question is that all of the profit from utilities is re-invested into the utilities through their respective capital budget. Looking at the 2019 Water budget that looks like this:

One would be tempted to interpret this as:
Our Revenues are projected to be:  $13.4 Million
Our Expenses are projected to be:  $  8.4 Million
So the “profit” is                                  $  5.0 Million.

However, this is a simplification of our actual 2019 budget, because it only considers our operating budget, not the way we support our reserves and capital costs. This is why the numbers you see here will be a little different than the ones in my previous post – I am going to try to meld together our operational and capital budgets in a way that makes sense. A better way to look at these spreadsheets for people not that into spreadsheets is a flow diagram:

On the left are all of our “inputs”, and the right are out “outputs”, and all of the vertical bars are to scale (numbers are thousands of dollars). You can see most of the income of the utility is in Rates (about $13M of $14M). Of that money, about $6.5M goes to Metro Vancouver to pay for water, about $2M goes to salaries and other operational costs, and about $5.4M ultimately contributes to Capital costs. Most of that Capital spending is on paying for infrastructure repairs and replacements (actual pipes in the ground, valves, pumps, and such), though some goes to equipment (trucks, wrenches, computers) used to keep the infrastructure operating.

Keen eyes will note that the Reserves bar has a gap at the bottom left – we are budgeting to take about $280K more out of reserves in 2019 than we put in. Not shown on this diagram is the ~$4.3 Million we have stored in our reserves at the end of 2018, and how that will be reduced to ~$4.0 Million by the end of 2019. I will talk more about that later.

I created a similar flow diagram for the 2019 Sewers budget:Immediately, you will notice we are spending much more money (proportionally) on infrastructure here than in the water utility. This is largely due to the ongoing sewer separation work that New Westminster has to deal with. You can see it is almost all spent on actual infrastructure ($13 Million!). You will note also that the gap between what we are putting into reserves and taking out is large – about $2.7 Million in 2019. We are also expected to receive another $865K in grants to help pay close that gap. Again, more on this later.

The Solid Waste budget looks a little different:Two things stand out here: the capital budget is much smaller (it is all equipment), and both salaries and Charges is much bigger. This has to do with the nature of the work, collecting garbage requires people, and I suspect the largest “charges” expense is fuel to keep the garbage trucks rolling.

So that is where we are in 2019, but what will change as we increase rates every year?

This graph shows how the main Water Utility cost drivers are going to change over the 5-year plan. The rates we pay to Metro for water going up steadily, capital spending increasing at a lower rate, and the trend for our reserves is moving from a small annual loss (remember the gap in the flow chart above) to an increase, then trending back to even. You can see by the green bars that our reserves are currently just over $4 Million, with the goal of them settling in at just under $10 million.

The same graph for the Sewer Utility shows Metro rates steadily increasing, capital spending going down, and our reserve contributions again going from negative to a more sustainable level.

Finally, our Solid Waste accounts show Metro rates only increasing moderately, and our capital spending going down for a few years while the trend for reserves will hopefully go from a deficit position to a small positive reserve.

In summary, the current plan will get our utility reserves back into a place where they can support the long-term financial sustainability of the utilities, and constrain our local capital spending a bit to buffer this. The part we have less control over is the Metro Rates, and this topic is something that is making waves across the region. I’ll write more about this in a future blog post.

Council Top Three!

This is regular pre-council list of what I think are going to be the most important three items on our Council agenda on Monday* in no particular order, so you can decide if you want to tune in. Honestly, I don’t see any specific item this week raising a rancorous debate – maybe there will be some good delegations? Anyway, here are my guesses.

#1: Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8062, 2018
This is the first sure sign that the Canada Games Pool project is moving ahead – and that it is going to cost the City a lot of money. The timing here is that the application window for the federal / provincial grant we would like to help pay for this project is closing in January, and we need to have proof that we can finance this project before that happens. So we need to include the updated finance plan in our 5-year Financial Plan, then go to the public for authorization for long-term borrowing. This amendment is the first step in this process.

#2: Code of Conduct for City Council
This should finally put an end to all of the swearing and back-stabbing at Council! Just kidding. This is more staff recognizing that we have not operated with a modern Code of Conduct for some time. This is something many Cities have adopted, partly because of increased expectations around respectful workplaces, and partly from observing examples from other cities (cough, Nanaimo, cough) where the municipal operations were hampered by poor conduct on the part of a few disruptive Council members.

#3: Recreational Cannabis: Nuisance Monitoring Program
With the legalization of cannabis, the City has recognized that our biggest hassle is likely to be nuisance complaints related to smoking in public places. There are both provincial and municipal laws that apply here, and enforcement of smoking has never been easy. Staff have a plan to track complaints and enforcement efforts in a systematic way to help us figure out methods to address it.

*normal footnote: The funny thing about Council: it is almost impossible to predict what three items will rise to the top and get the most debate/ public feedback / media coverage. These are only my guesses, and I am only one of seven. For a full prediction of the entire Council agenda, go to the agenda!

Utilities 2018 (Part 1)

I read this headline, and my best reply is: Yep, I share your frustration.

I hear the concern expressed by residents in New Westminster when they see utility costs are going up at rates much greater than inflation. However, I am challenged in trying to find an alternative approach that balances operational costs while planning for long-term sustainability of the utilities. Its not from a lack of concern or empathy for the impact of rate increases, it is more about responsible management of the budget in a way that doesn’t threaten the financial sustainability of the utilities.

A 7% annual increase (adding up to a 40% increase over 5 years) sounds like a lot, and is clearly well above CPI, which is predicted to be between 2% and 2.5% for the next few years. However, the cost to operate our utilities is also increasing much faster than CPI. The best I can do here is unpack some of the details.

Let’s put aside the electrical utility for a bit, because Council sent those proposed changes back to staff for some more work, and we will be having (I suspect) a deeper conversation about those rates in a future meeting. That leaves the three utilities every City deals with: Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste. Here are the changes as proposed:

All the numbers I use in this post are from the utilities report we received last Council meeting. You can read it all here, starting on page 19.

Note the “Average Single Family Household” cost is an average, and your experience will likely be different. Many people in multi-family have their own commercial solid waste services, so pay nothing to the City for that. The sewer and water rates are flat rates to Single Family detached houses, but metered charges to multi-family dwellings. This is an estimate of the impact to the average household, not your exact bill.

Still, next year this average household will likely pay on the order of $100 more for utilities, and by 2023 pay $600 more a year than they pay now – that is $50 extra a month.

To get a sense of why the rates are going up, here is where the City spends that utility money:

In all three utilities, the majority of the cost is what I slightly misleadingly labelled “Metro Charges” – the money we pay to other agencies to supply the water or to take away and responsibly manage our waste streams. Metro Vancouver provides clean, treated, and pressurized water and charges us per cubic metre delivered. Similarly, Metro Vancouver takes our waste water and sends it to the treatment plant at Annacis Island, where it is treated to be safe for disposal into the Fraser River, again charging us per cubic metre. Solid waste is slightly more complicated because organics, recyclables, and “garbage” go to three different streams, and some of those are costing us more than others.

The other costs are related to how we deliver those utilities. Salaries are pretty clear – that is what we pay people to do everything from performing repairs to pipes to processing your bills. Contractors also do similar tasks, but are usually related to projects like replacing a length of watermain under a street or designing a new billing system. You may note that Solid Waste has proportionally much more salary cost because we need people to drive around in trucks and empty your bins – Solid Waste is inherently more of a “service” delivered by people than one relying on capital sitting in the ground in the form of pipes. Supplies are the paperclips, toner fluid, and rubber gloves that staff need to do the jobs above. Note this category is limited to things that are consumed, as opposed to things like trucks and new pipes that are capitalized and included with our Amortization, but let’s not dig too deeply into the capital budget right now (I’ll talk about it more later) .

It is telling that 83% (water), 80% (sewer) and 62% (solid waste) of our expenses for these utilities are external, and for the two big ones, are going up much faster than the rate increases we are anticipating for the next 5 years:

If we extend the pie charts above over the 5 years of the financial plan, we can see that not only are those external costs the largest portion of our costs, they are increasing at a much greater rate than the other expenses:

So utility rates are going up, because the main cost driver for the utilities are going up. What we can do about it?

Inevitably, someone is going to raise the issue of salary costs – it is unavoidable when talking about government. CUPE contracts that provide decent wages and work conditions, along with decent CPI-level wage increases won through collective bargaining, seems to elicit anger in some members of the public. However, public service wages are not a significant cost driver here, because they make up less than 10% of the cost for delivering utility service in the City. If we were somehow able to cut all salaries in half (those orange areas in the chart above), your utility costs would go down less than 6%. Such a drastic move would not even offset a single year of utility increases, and we would be back to regular increases in year two, with a much less effective utility due to the lengthy labour dispute and loss of staff.

Some will note that our “revenue” for utilities is much higher than our “expenses” for Utilities, and this is where we get to the other part of the equation: the capital budget. This is the money we need to re-invest into the utilities every year to keep them functioning, and to build towards sustainability. In the larger scheme, it is capital investment that explains why those Metro Vancouver rates are going up so much.

But that will have to wait until the next blog post…

Council – Nov. 19, 2018

Our first real meeting of the new term was full of interesting Agenda items, but we managed to get through them fairly quickly, even before the Public Delegations began.

The following items were Moved on Consent without discussion:

Queensborough Electrical Substation Loan Authorization Bylaw and Temporary Borrowing Bylaw
It is time for the Electrical Utility to build a new substation in Queensborough to deal with increased loads on that side of the river. The Electrical Utility is self-funding, so the capital cost of the substation (approximately $30 Million dollars) will be paid by electrical customers through their regular electrical bill, which requires that we borrow the money and amortize the cost of the construction over 20 years. The City cannot borrow money beyond the 5 years of our financial plan without specific authorization from the province and the public. So we are starting that process.

There are actually two Bylaws here. One will allow us to temporarily borrow up to $30 million dollars (“temporary” being within the 5-year financial plan) to provide the electrical utility access to the cash they need to hire contractors to do the work and pay them at the time they need to hire and pay contractors. The second is to do a long-term (and hopefully lower-rate) infrastructure loan through the Municipal Finance Authority so we can amortize up to $30 Million debt over 20 years. In short, we pay the contractor with the first loan, then pay off the first loan with the long-term loan, because it will cost less in the long run.

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8038, 2018
Let’s for a few moments do the dangerous thing of comparing municipal finance to your household finances. The City has a chequing account to pay for day-to-day operations. From salaries to asphalt to photocopy fluid, it all gets paid from this chequing account. Much of the money going into that account arrives in a short period of time around Tax time, but much of it trickles in over the year through fees, senior government grants, etc. We are required (by law) to balance our budget at the end of the year, but it is possible that at some point through the year we may be in a negative cash position because we need to write more cheques in, say, April, than the money we take in that month. In this case, we may need to borrow money for a month or two until those tax cheques start arriving. As a City, we cannot borrow money without a Bylaw authorizing us to do so. So every year, we pass this “revenue Anticipation Borrowing Bylaw” which gives our finance staff the authority to borrow in the short term so we don’t go overdraft.

618 Carnarvon Street: Development Variance Permit No. DVP00656 to Vary Sign Bylaw Requirements – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
There is a development property in Downtown that installed signs that, by the most generous interpretation of the Sign Bylaw, do not comply. When staff informed the developer of this, they applied for a variance.

There is a bit of nuance here, because the printed copy of the sign is within the size allowed by the Bylaw , but the very large white space of the sign is not. In theory, the developer could have painted the wall white (which is exempt from the sign Bylaw) and put a regulation-size sign up and the result would be indistinguishable from the current situation. Alas, after the fact, a variance is the best way to deal with this, and there will be an Opportunity to be Heard at the December 10, 2018 meeting. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8058, 2018
There was a typo in the Bylaw we gave Third Reading last month, so we are going to rescind that Third Reading, and do another one with the edited Bylaw.

1209 – 1217 Eighth Avenue: Rezoning and Development Permit Applications for 22 Unit Infill Townhouse Project – For Information
This is a preliminary information report to let Council know that this project is going through reviews and public consultation. The project is the first larger Infill Townhouse project that Council has seen since the changes in the OCP, so there will be some curiosity about how the project develops. As the project will eventually work its way to a Public Hearing, I will hold my comments until that time.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2019 – 2023 Draft Financial Plan – Utilities
Right back at it in the first meeting of the new Council, and we need to keep the process for the new budget rolling.

Utilities are self-supporting in the City. Water, sewer, and solid waste are paid for through utility fees, including a significant amount of money put aside in their capital reserves in order to fund ongoing and anticipated capital upgrades to the aging infrastructure. The Electrical Utility is slightly different, because it makes a profit and pays a dividend to the shareholder (the City) every year.

Water and sewer increases are pretty much what we have been anticipating. The cost of capital improvements and maintenance locally (the higher-than-inflation increased cost of replacing old pipes in this super-heated construction market) and regionally (we are building many new and improved sewer treatment plants and water supply infrastructure, as both federal standards and public environmental expectations are higher than ever before) means these rates will continue to grow slightly faster than CPI for the foreseeable future.

No doubt 7% increase a year looks like an unsustainable path for many homeowners – this culminates to a 40% increase over 5 years, but the regional water rates are anticipated to go up 62% in the same time, and sewer rates by 64%. So our local rate increases are actually lower than the regional trends.

Solid waste increases have been very modest over the last few years, even below CPI, but those good times appear to be coming to an end. There are some significant problems in the regional solid waste system, including issues with managing the organics stream (with a major Richmond facility shutting its doors in 2019) to ongoing issues with provincially-regulated EPR programs dealing with plastics and printed paper. The amount was pay per household in relatively modest for the level of solid waste service we receive, but with increases averaging 10 percent over the next 5 years, we may want to have another conversation about waste reduction and diversion education, and perhaps enforcement, to reduce tipping costs.

Now on to the tough one. I am not currently willing to support increasing our electrical fees above what is charged by BC Hydro to customers across the borders in Burnaby and Coquitlam. The electrical utility provides a dividend to taxpayers in this City, which is one of (not the only) benefits of having an electrical utility. However, it is much harder to argue that we should continue to offset property taxes by expecting electrical customers to pay *more* than the market rate for electricity. I think that represents a change in practice (if not policy) that requires more discussion around Council.

In the end, we moved to approve in principle the other utility rate increases (staff will now draft the appropriate Bylaws, so we can still debate some of the details), but I asked that the Electrical Utility bring back more options for Council in regards to electrical rates, including an analysis of what it looks like if we peg our rates to BC Hydro rate increases.

2018 General Local Election – Report of Election Results
This is the required-by-regulation report of final numbers for the election. The only new news here is that the turnout of registered voters was 29%, In the end, the turnout of registered voters was 29% turnout is slightly below the previous election but not anomalous. This report will be followed up in a later report with a more comprehensive review of how the election went and we can have a discussion then about voter engagement, poll issues, or budget needs for the next election.

420 Boyne Street (Animal Shelter): Consideration of Development Permit for Issuance
The City still plans to build a new Animal Care Facility and tow yard in Queensborough, and just like everyone else, we need to apply for a development permit to do so. Having Adopted the required Zoning Amendment back in October, and the building complying with that zoning, this shouldn’t be too complicated. The RA has no objections and the Design Panel supports the project with some minor adjustment of the cladding. I had a few questions about the pedestrian realm and roads around the new building, but as far as the DP itself, it’s ready to go!

41 Duncan Street (Child Care): Development Permit and Development Variance Permit – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
The development approved recently for 41 Duncan Street included a building that is intended to be a childcare facility. A DP and DVP are required to put that landuse there. Again, this stage reviews some of the form and character of the building and clarifies the amenities, parking facilities, and such things that will support the final building. This has been through the RA and design panel, and will go to a public Opportunity to be Heard on December 10, 2018. C’mon out and let us know what you think.

Front Street Sewer Upgrade (Metro Vancouver): Request for Extension of Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The sewer project that keeps on going is delayed a bit longer. Some of the work they need to do has to happen at night because that is when sewer flows are lower, so they are asking for a noise variance until the end of the year. I moved that we not give them an exemption from December 24th to December 31st. It’s Christmas, people are at home more and trying to enjoy time with their families. In the end Council moved to grant the variance until December 23, and if they need more time they can come back to us after January 1st.

Integration of the Regional Disaster Debris Management Guideline with the City of New Westminster Emergency Response Plan
This was a really interesting report for me (but perhaps not for everyone?) In the event of a major disaster, management of debris can be a huge logistical issue, and it is difficult to plan this kind of thing after the event when you have piles of debris everywhere. A little regional coordination and pre-planning will help a lot in the event of a seismic event, building collapse, tornado, or other derbis-inducing event. My concerns were mostly around liability and how our responsibilities under the Environmental Management Act are relinquished in the event of emergency action.

I might have geeked out a bit (sorry, staff), but am glad to see that this work is being done, and the region is being proactive planning for the certainty of a major incident.

Amendment to the Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw
We are doing our annual review of fees. There were some election discussions at looking at making some changes to some Parks and Rec programs to make them more affordable, so Council asked staff to come back with a few adjustments of these proposed rate increases, especially around how the toonie program is supported.

There is also some good news in here about staff looking at a system where liability insurance can be provided at a very low cost to “unaffiliated” community group that may want to use Community rooms in our Rec centres and such. This is actually a significant barrier to some small users groups who lack meeting space, and I hope we can make something work here for them


We then had a couple of items Added to the Agenda:

Appointment of Chairs to 2019 Advisory Bodies of Council and Organizations
With a new Council Term comes new responsibilities. I am going to continue to chair the Access Ability Advisory Committee and ACTBiPed, am going to Chair the Intelligent City Advisory Committee, and join the Electrical Utility Commission. I will also continue on the Canada Games Pool Replacement Task Force and Transportation Task Force, and an joining the Riverfront and Public Realm Task Force. Outside of the City I am serving as the Chair of the Community Energy Association, and as second vice President of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association. So that should keep me busy.

Re-Appointment to the New Westminster Municipal Police board
Our Police force is regulated under the Police Act by a Police Board, the members of which are appointed by Order in Council by the Attorney General of BC, but City Council must nominate the appointee and send that recommendation to the AG. We are recommending the re-appointment of a current member.

Appointments to the New Westminster Library Board
Similar to the Police, the Library is regulated by a Provincial Act, but we are able to appoint the members to the Library board without asking the province for permission. We are appointing Councillor Trentadue and a community member to the board for two-year terms.

*I have decided this term to skip talking about all of the Bylaws we give various readings during these reports, its really not that exciting, gets long sometimes, and you can read the details in the Agenda. I will only report on the Bylaws when we adopt them, so you know when they become the Law of the Land and your compliance is expected.

We then Adopted some Bylaws:

Tree Protection and Regulation Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8052, 2018; and
Development Services Fees and Rates Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8053, 2018
These Bylaws that formalize the updates to the Tree Protection Bylaw that were given Third Reading back on October 1st were adopted by Council.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8061, 2018;
Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8060, 2018;
and
Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 8059, 2018
These Bylaws that formalize the updates to our planning and engineering fees to keep up with inflation and changes in operational costs that were given Third Reading back on October 1st were adopted by Council.

Housing Agreement (813-823 Carnarvon) Amendment Bylaw No. 8056, 2018
This bylaws that secures affordable housing will be offered for the life of the recently-approved building in Downtown was adopted by Council.

And other than a few announcements and Public Delegations (that you will need to watch the video to learn about), we were done for the evening!

Council Top 3!

This is episode 7 (?) of my hopefully-regular pre-council list of what I think are going to be the most important three items on our Council agenda on Monday* in no particular order, so you can decide if you want to tune in.

#1: Queensborough Electrical Substation Loan Authorization Bylaws
We need to build a new substation in Queensborough. It has been in the long-term capital plan for the Electrical Utility for quite some time as load demand has been going up, and the fire on the Q’Bobo bridge last year that caused a protracted power outage in the neighbourhood demonstrated a surprising lack of resiliency in our grid over there. Substations are expensive, and we will need to borrow to pay for it (well, the Electrical Utility will need to borrow to pay for it, but we own the electrical utility), which will require a Bylaw and public approval.

#2: 2019 – 2023 Draft Financial Plan – Utilities
The budget process moves on, and it is time for us to talk about utility rates changes so the appropriate rate bylaws can be drafted. No surprise utility rates are going up, but once again the rates are increasing more than inflation for a variety of reasons. The water, sewer, and solid waste utilities operate somewhat separately from the City’s general revenue, and their increases are directly tied to the increasing cost of the service and the need to plan and finance infrastructure improvements. The Electrical Utility is a special case that makes us different than other cities, but it is still impacted by the increasing cost of wholesale electricity from BC Hydro. Expect a robust discussion here about efforts to keep utility rates in check.

#3: Testing out the new ones!
This is the first real Council Meeting for a couple of new Councillors, Chinu Das and Nadine Nakagawa. They have both been inaugurated and through a bit of orientation training, but nothing like budget deliberations to really turn the heat on them. Fortunately, they both have a tonne of experience working on boards and are pretty will versed on how Council works. I’m not expecting any strangeness, though there are still sometimes unexpected procedural hi-jinks even for us experienced types!

*footnote: The funny thing about Council: it is almost impossible to predict what three items will rise to the top and get the most debate/ public feedback / media coverage. These are only my guesses, and I am only one of seven.  For a full prediction of the entire Council agenda, go to the agenda!

Ask Pat: Setbacks

“Jean-Luc” asks

I live in a new condo building that abuts right onto an older building. I’m not sure how the developer got away with building right to the property line. Needless to say, the owners of the other building were not happy with us, and really, it’s not what we envisioned either. What is the minimum distance requirement between two multi-family dwellings…if any?

It depends. And unfortunately, the better answer is buried in a complex and arcane document called the Zoning Bylaw. The Bylaw was originally adopted back in 2001, but has been significantly modified such that the latest version consolidated to include all changes up to July, 2018 are cobbled together into not a single pdf, but a website that links to a relatively well-organized list of several pdfs that you can access here:

https://www.newwestcity.ca/zoning-bylaw

In there you will find a 9-page list of amendments, in case you care to see the evolution of the Bylaw over 17 years. You will also find an introductory document that lays out the format of the Bylaw, including 22 pages of definitions and the names of the 75 “districts” into which the City is divided, each with their own specific rules. Telling, but not surprising if you have ever been to a Public Hearing about a rezoning, this launches off with then 22 pages of parking requirements, before a bunch of seemingly-random but no-doubt-logical-at-the-time rules about things like garbage and recycling storage facilities and satellite dishes… alas.

There is also a little bit in this section about setbacks – the required distance behind a property line where buildings can be constructed, but here it is a strange list of specific spots that were probably put in place for location-specific requirements like utility offsets or traffic sightlines. If you want to know how close you can build to your property line or how close your neighbour can build to it, you probably need to get into the specifics of the zoning district that applies.

To do that, you go to the Zoning Map (sorry, you probably need Silverlight to do that, because it is 2018), and see what zoning district applies to the spot of land you care about. Just open the map, zoom/scroll to your location and click the property, a table with zoning on it should pop up (I circled in red):

Then you need to go to the comprehensive list (7 documents, 400+ pages) of zoning districts to see what the specific rules are. All this to say, there is no single rule, but a set of rules and local exemptions apply, so everything I say here is general and the only relation it has to your specific case is that it almost certainly doesn’t apply to your specific case. Zoning is complicated.

In generality, for single family homes the “side setback” is 10% of the lot width or 5 feet, whichever is less, but never less than 4 feet, although it may be possible for some non-wall to “project” into this setback in special cases. That not clear, but about the clearest case you can have.

Condo buildings vary in their zoning type, depending on what type of building they are (townhouse or small apartment building or tower?). Some fit snugly in a Townhouse or Commercial District designation, others are “Comprehensive Development Districts”, which are stand-alone zoning rules developed to support a specific development at a specific site – and therefore have an address attached to them. The nearest one to where I am sitting now is the one I clicked on in the map above, which is CD-20: Comprehensive Development District (246 Sixth Street). This was put together in 2008 to permit a 16 storey residential tower with commercial “live-work units” at grade, now called 258 Sixth Street, just to complicate matters. It has no set-back requirement at grade, but setbacks above 9.14 metres (i.e. starting on the fourth floor) of 2.5m at the streetscape sides (to reduce the “mass” of the building as it appears from the street), 14.2m at the rear and 7.1m on the neighboring-building side (both to reduce the proximity to current and potential future residential buildings).

When you look at the building you can see that the lower part of the side was build, as most commercial buildings are, to butt up against a future adjacent building, while the upper parts are built to provide a bit of space between future residential areas:

The reality is that the fixed rules are more commonly treated as strong “guidelines” based on best practices. For example, the general practice for towers is to have more than 30m between the “towery” parts of towers, and in commercial areas the best practice is to have no space between buildings at grade in order to create a cohesive, attractive, and safe commercial frontage, where gaps don’t make any planning sense (like this spot I recognized recently in downtown Port Coquitlam but failed to take a photo of, so thanks Google Street View):

Every Comprehensive Development District has its own character, as does each neighbourhood. Its shape and form of any planned building is impacted by the buildings that are adjacent to it and by the future vision of the neighbourhood based on longer-term planning guidelines like the Official Community Plan. However, all of these guidelines can be overruled by bringing a Development Plan and appropriate Zoning Amendment to Council and convincing Council there is a good reason to vary from the guidelines. Sometimes this means placing a tower towards one side of the pedestal in order to reduce the viewscape conflict with an adjacent building, sometimes it means the increasing the size of a setback in order to provide some community benefit like improved pedestrian realm or emergency vehicle access. These are the complicated maths that often require months or years of negotiation between our planning staff, the landowner, stakeholders and the community.

Perhaps that is the part of the entire development-approving process that most of the public don’t understand when they see a project come to Council for a Public Hearing. They see Council approving or denying a specific building, but in actuality it is a large and complicated stack of compromises (by than landowner and the City) and potential benefits built up over those negotiations that Council eventually is asked to approve or not approve.

So your building may have allowed zero setback as part of its zoning, or a zero setback may have been something the City wanted as part of the development to create a more amiable streetscape in the long term, or a zero setback may have been something the developer of your building wanted to maximize the amount of square footage they could sell. Likely at least two of these are true, or else it would not have been built like that.

Council – Nov. 5, 2018

We had a bit of a Council meeting on November 5th. The first meeting of a new term is limited to a few procedural matters that get us up and running as a Council, but there were decisions made so I may as well report on them.

Oaths of Office
First we had Oaths of Office required by regulation, which all of our Council managed to get through relatively unscathed. Even the newbies. And I pronounced pecuniary correctly after 4 years of daily practice.

Metro Vancouver Board Appointments
We officially appointed Mayor Cote to the Metro Vancouver Board, as is the general practice. Municipalities like New Westminster get a single seat at the Board, and it is typically the Mayor who serves that position.

We also name and Alternate to cover for the Mayor if they are not available. In New Westminster, the practice has been to allow the Alternate serve on one of the regional committees with an available spot for New Westminster. (e.g. for the last 2 years, I have been serving as Alternate and have been on the Metro Vancouver Utilities committee). We voted to appoint Councillor Trentadue to serve as Alternate.

Task Force Creation
The Mayor is setting up a new Task Force to give local economic development a little more focus than it previously had. This model – a Task Force with a clear mandate and financial support to do the work needed to bring new ideas to council, supported by staff and outside experts – worked well for Public Engagement last term (although our implementation is a little slower than I might like on that), and on ongoing issues related to Affordable Housing and Transportation.

Acting Mayor Appointments
Sometimes the Mayor is out of town or even (gasp!) on vacation. We always have to have a Mayor designated for some legal reasons around signing important stuff, emergency chain of command, etc. In New Westminster, we share this responsibility with each Council member “acting” two months a year in the event that His Worship is not around. As was the case in the previous term, my months are March and August.

Committees and Task Force appointments
The Mayor gets to assign us to committees and Task Forces as well. This does not include the myriad of Council advisory committees (those are yet to come), but more the legislative committees and Mayors task forces. I will be continuing to serve on the Transportation Task Force and Canada Games Pool Replacement Task Force, and will be serving in a full role on the Riverfront and Public Realm Task Force (after serving as an alternate for part of the last term). My time on the Land use and Planning committee has also come to an end –as we have tried to rotate that around Council members.

Zoning Amendment (1050 Boyd Street and 1005 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 8033, 2018.
Finally, we adopted this Bylaw given Third Reading back in July, because it took until now to get Ministry of Transportation sign-off as required.


First real Council meeting will be on November 19th, and I am expecting a stuffed-full agenda!