Ask Pat: Smoke and edibles.

DB asked—

The bylaw regarding Cannabis Regulations No. 8043, 2018 has a section saying retail shops cannot sell edible cannabis. I live in an apartment in New West that has a strict no smoking/vaping policy (which I am very happy about). Edible Cannabis is a work around for situations like mine – unless it will be legal to smoke on the streets (which I am assuming is not the case). I understand it has been adopted but, I still wanted to voice my opinion on it.

That was not strictly in the form of a question. But I’ll take a stab at it.

We are one day away from the legalization if cannabis in Canada, and all three levels of government have been scrambling to get a regulatory regime together. It is a challenge – this an unprecedented change in the regulation of a psychotropic drug. From a local government side, we needed to put together zoning and business bylaws to support the operation of the stores that coincide with the model that the province put together. We also have to think about the inevitable nuisance complaints we are going to receive around the legalization of what is, for all its alleged benefits or harms, a pretty stinky substance.

On edibles, our Bylaw is designed to parallel the federal regulations. There will be no legal edibles sold in Canada in 2018. I suspect this is related to a myriad of packaging and labeling concerns, and addressing the risk to children when sweets and drinks are made containing the psychoactive elements found in cannabis. There is some suggestion that they will address this in 2019, but until then, dried product intended for smoking is the only legal form of recreational cannabis.

Your point about Strata rules prohibiting the smoking of cannabis is definitely a concern. With the existing prohibitions around public smoking – no smoking in parks, in bus stops, 7.5m from the door to any public building, or inside any business or public building – you are right that there will be limited places where it is legal to smoke cannabis. Unlike alcohol, you will not be able to go to a business (like a pub or coffee shop) to smoke, but you will be able (as best I can tell) to smoke on the sidewalk or the street, as long as you are not within 7.5m of a door or air intake. Still, if you are restricted from smoking at home because of strata or rental rules, your opportunities are really limited. This creates a fundamental unfairness – this completely legal product will be inaccessible to some.

I honestly don’t know how to address this and remain compliant with the various laws at all three levels of government. If you have the skills, I suppose you could bake your own edibles using the dried product meant for smoking (I don’t think that would strictly be illegal, as long as you don’t sell the baked goods). Or you can wait until the federal government gets the edibles part figured out. The transition to this new regime is going to be challenging for several reasons.

As a city, we tried our best to put together a comprehensive set of regulations. We had a few workshops with Council and staff, and heard from the public and stakeholders in the industry. After some pretty challenging debates around what the limits should be, we settled on what will no doubt be an imperfect regime, but we will learn as we go along. We will be ready to accept applications for cannabis retailers as soon as legalization occurs on Wednesday, but as the process to get a store approved and operating may still take several months, don’t expect to be buying cannabis in New West until early in 2019.

Update: Time between the legalization of cannabis and the first e-mail complaint received by Mayor and Council abut having to smell the smoke in a public place: 16 hours.  

Ask Pat: Dark Fibre

Jenni asks—

Will the dark fibre network also be connected to older buildings or just new builds?

Short answer is yes, the BridgeNet fibre network can be connected to old buildings and to new builds.

The City of New Westminster is investing in a so-called “dark fibre” network. Hardly as ominous as it sounds, this means we are installing conduits in the ground under our roads, and are putting optical fibre in those conduits. We are not putting light through that fibre (hence the “dark” moniker), but are leasing the rights to light up the fibre to Internet Service Companies (ISPs). We invest in putting fibre in the ground, they pay us to use it. They then sell you (be you a resident or a business) the data connections that are made available. I wrote a little more about it a couple of years ago here. 

The end result for residents and businesses in New Westminster is that they can go to one of the (now 7) ISPs who are leasing BridgeNet fibre and get higher speed internet service than the Big Telecoms are willing to offer in New Westminster. This increase in competition also means your internet (and TV and phone) service may be offered by these ISPs at more competitive rates. Faster internet for less money: that is the goal.

Of course, there are devils in details. We are currently still installing fibre, and it will be a few years yet until all of the major development corridors throughout the city are connected. The “last yard” gap between the fibre and your computer mean that it is multi-unit buildings where the ISPs are concentrating their energy right now in getting hooked up. We have also been working with ISPs to provide specific boutique services to different business sectors, such as higher-cost service to tech businesses that need a really big pipe to move a lot of data, and are willing to pay for it.

There are currently no plans that I am aware of to bring fibre from the BridgeNet Network to single detached home neighbourhoods. The economics are just not there for the ISPs to make that service viable, though there are some interesting delivery models around line-of-sight over-the-air delivery that may make the datarate/cost calculations work out for tat type of service eventually. However, there is nothing preventing older multi-unit buildings from working with one or more of the ISPs to put a junction box in their telecom room, and making the service from that ISP available to their residents or business owners.

Again, the Cit’y role here is to provide the fibre to ISPs and charge them for its use, when it comes to providing retail service, you are best to contact the ISPs directly (or through your Strata Council or Building Management Company).

Ask Pat: Two projects

In the spirit of getting caught up, Here are two Ask Pats with similar answers: “I don’t know”.

mmmmm beer. asks—

I appreciate the transparency your blog offers. I just have a quick question. What ever happened to the Craft Beer Market that was supposed to go in at the New West Station. Is that still moving forward?

Shaji asks—

Firstly, thank you for getting back to me on my question about Frankie G’s 😊
Secondly, there are many of us residents at the Peninsula and Port Royal in general wanting to inquire about the plans for the Eastern Neighbourhood Node. I know there were some extensive discussions and planning sessions between the City and Platform Properties. We also have noticed that some ground preparation work has started. Any updates that you can share on what work has started, what are the prospects and what are the timelines for this project. Thanks 😊

Yes, the answer to both of these questions is “I don’t know”.

The Craft Beer Market was a proposal that came to Council for a Development Permit back in July of 2016, and was proposed for the empty lot across from the Anvil Centre at Eighth and Columbia. You can read the report starting on page 348 here. It was brought to Council as a Report for Information, and the next steps were to be Design Panel review and some public consultation, then staff would bring a Development Permit bylaw to us for approval or rejection. I remember the conversation about the proposal being generally positive (see the Minutes of that meeting, Page 13 here), but we have not, in my recollection, seen any further reports.

The Eastern Neighborhood Node that would connect Port Royal to the rest of Queensborough with a mix of residential and commercial property has been the subject of several meetings. The most exciting part of the proposal (and the part that led to some discussions around the layout of the site ans stage of development) was the allocation of some 50,000 square feet of neighbourhood-serving commercial. This would bring (it is hoped) a small grocery store a some basic services to the booming Port Royal community. There would be some land assembly required, as (again, to the best of my knowledge), the developer does not own all of the land required to make the development work, and some pretty significant utility and drainage engineering needs to be done to support the development.

Both of these speak to how complicated development can sometimes be, and to the fact that Council is not directly involved in some of what makes development happen or not happen in the community. We can, obviously, say “no” to a development proposal that requires variances or zoning changes, but once we say “yes” to a development we really can’t force the developer to build. Even the “yes” we give a developer does not typically contain a timeline to completion. As plans are developed, construction costs are calculated, compromises are negotiated, and market forces are navigated, sometimes the math ends up not working out for the proposal we see at Council, and it never happens. Commonly, those things occur in a way that Council would never see. If there is no decision for us to make, no plan or change of plans for us to approve, we are most likely in the dark about the details of what is holding the situation up.

Both of those proposals have some very public-facing companies involved. They may be able to answer your questions better than I can. As a general principle, I think getting retail happening on the eastern end of Queensborough and that empty lot at Eighth and Columbia activated would be great things for the City, and for our residents. I don’t know how I can make either happen faster than the landowner plans to invest. I can tell you that there is no action that I know of that Council has taken to slow down either proposal.

Ask Pat: Bent Court

I have been tardy on Ask Pats. I have this other project going on, and have taken the Ask Pat thing analogue a bit to reach more people. However, there are a few in the queue here, and I am going to spend a bit of my Thanksgiving weekend trying to get caught up. Enjoy!

Chris asked—

Hello,

In an archived memo back in 2016 you posted this regarding the future study of Bent Court.

Bent Court: This area is interesting, a mixed residential and commercial district that is zoned for high-rises, although it is unlikely that anyone would build to that scale here. Staff is recommending a special approach here that can incentivize the preservation of the heritage homes, whether they be used for residential or commercial.

Can you help clarify why it is unlikely that ” anyone would build to that scale here”

Bent Court is a bit of an anomaly. The comment you hearken back to was part of the OCP discussions, where we recognized a few areas in the city that didn’t fit into a bigger area-wide picture very well. The West End and Massey Victory Heights are pretty internally homogeneous, but areas like Lower Twelfth Street and Bent Court are not easily defined, nor is it clear what land use will be most successful there.

Bent Court is mostly a collection of heritage-aged houses, many of them converted to some sort of commercial use. They are immediately adjacent to the uptown commercial area, but also serve as a buffer to the residential areas of Brow of the Hill. There is currently one project being (slowly) built on this site where a heritage house is bring preserved and a 6-story residential building is being built. Even they project caused us some challenges, as determining what a full compliment of parking should be for an area like this that is walkable, but not that close to SkyTrain is a difficult estimate. Street parking can sometimes be at a premium, but many of the apartment buildings nearby have largely underutilized parking. Alas… parking…

My thought in that statement about building to full high-density at Bent Court (in C-3 Zoning, this means Floor Space Ratio of over 5, mixed-use commercial at grade, residential above) was my own feeling that the economics and difficulty of assembling land to make it happen make it unlikely in the current market. Each of the lots is worth more than $1 Million now, to build to the scale of the adjacent mixed-use towers, one would have to assemble a dozen properties. Some (or most) of these properties have some potential heritage value (which adds some uncertainty to the approval process), and are currently returning commercial lease rates that make them economically viable as they are.

That said, there is a lot of development going on right now across the region, and I am not a land economist, so I may not be reading the market well. Not long after I wrote that statement, a real estate company put signs up suggesting land assembly and high rise development are viable options. That doesn’t mean it is going to happen, nor has there been an application for any kind of rezoning or development permit arrive at Council, nor is it clear how staff, Council, or the community would approach such an application. A Bent Court Area Study is planned for 2019 as part of the ongoing OCP Implementation Plan, and this will provide a little more robust economic analysis than my speculations above. Stay tuned, because there will no doubt be opportunities for community input at that time.

I could imagine Bent Court as a pretty special place. Co-op ownership, preserve the heritage houses, convert them to live/work units where artists can set up studio space and live on their studios, add a few food and drink opportunities and some clever marketing, and it could become a unique mini-artisan village of regional importance. However, one doesn’t have to be a land economist to recognize at a million dollars a lot, it would be neigh impossible to make this work unless one had small fortune to dig into… any patrons out there?

Council – Oct 1, 2018.

Final! Council! Meeting! Of! The! Term!

The election is reaching fever pitch, but some of us still had some work to do. The final council meeting included some time to reflect on the careers of retiring councilors Lorrie Williams and Bill Harper. I will talk more about that in a future blog post, because we also had a full agenda:

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Public Engagement Strategy Update
The City’s Public Engagement Taskforce created a strategy to improve how the City engages its residents and stakeholders in planning and decision making. We are a year into implementation, and have already achieved some of the short-term tasks like creating a Public Engagement staff position and developing a toolkit for all departments in the City to use in their own engagement. There is much work to do, however, and this report lays out our approach to the medium- and long-term tasks.

Council Approval of Future Forward: An Economic Development Plan for New Westminster 2018-2023
Similarly, our Economic Development plan has taken almost two years to put together with extensive public and business community consultation. One of our great advantages in New Westminster is our collaborative relationship with our BIAs, with our Chamber of Commerce, and with other business groups like the New West collective and the Tech meetup. Getting business leaders in the City involved in the development of this strategy means we avoid the top-down approach that overlooks the local element. I’m looking forward to seeing this plan implemented, leveraging the advantages of the RCH expansion and the new regional buzz New Westminster is experiencing>

Proposed 2019 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
This schedule shows a slightly reduced number of meetings compared to 2018. We had a bit of discussion about this, because we have had issues this year with extremely lengthy agendas, and fear that some of the items are not getting the fulsome review that is ideal. That said, meetings are expensive – they take a lot of staff time and resources, and that is time not being spent doing the other things staff have on their busy schedules. We need to strike a balance.

Ultimately, I hope we can schedule a couple more daytime workshop meetings. We had great success this term with workshop format meetings on complex issues like the Heritage Conservation Area and cannabis regulations. We were able to debate, disagree, express our concerns and work with staff towards consensus. They were the most satisfying part of my Council experience, as they gave us a change to dig into policy implications of our decisions. Though we may not be able to predict what new strategic direction the new council will take, and therefore what the workshop topics will be, I hope to continue that trend.

New Westminster Food Security Action Plan (October 2018): for Information
About 10% of New Westminster adult residents are at some time of the year food insecure. The City has been working with stakeholders and service agencies to help address this issue in the City as part of our larger anti-poverty strategy. Some will argue this is outside of the mandate of local governments, and indeed we are not the lead on this policy, but we do have a role in supporting the agencies who are experts at this work.

813 – 823 Carnarvon Street: Housing Agreement Amendment Bylaw for Three Readings
We have occasionally failed in the past to manage parking provisions in some affordable housing/ market housing development, and this is currently causing quite a bit of conflict in one community in the City. As we work on that legacy problem, we need to assure we are not repeating the mistake, and make it clear to developers who are receiving development benefits in exchange for including affordable housing what the expectations are for parking, secure cycle storage, and general storage in those developments so that the people in the affordable housing portion are not nickel-and-dimed out of affordability.

Q to Q Pilot Ferry Service – Update and Extension of Pilot
This report is good news. The ridership of the QtoQ Ferry is good enough (65,000 rides!) that it warrants an extension through the winter to determine if it is viable not just as a summer cruise, but as a transportation link.

There are some details in here about challenges. One is determining how to make the waiting areas at each end more customer-friendly and less impactful on neighbours through signage (cues to help the QtoQ queues), and another is the challenge of Compass Card integration. We also need to get a long-term business plan together to decide what the best structure is for a permanent service if the winter ridership supports this.

In the short term, we will continue running the QtoQ until May at the least, and will adjust the schedule somewhat to reflect expected off-season use patterns. Staff and the operators will continue to talk to the users to make the schedule as useful for those users. Ultimately, we need ot make this link work for them if we are going to make the case for long-term investment in the ferry service.

New Westminster Urban Solar Garden – Next Steps on a Second Array
Phase 1 of our Solar Garden is installed n the Queensborough community Centre roof, generating electricity, and paying back the investors (including me!). There is still public demand, so we are moving forward with Phase 2, likely to be located at the works yard in Glenbrook North.

Recruitment 2019: Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) Appointments
The Youth Advisory Committee has a different schedule than the other Council Advisory Committees, because we try to synch it to the school schedule. The 2018-2019 edition of the YAC is now struck. There is room for a few more members of the New West youth community – if you know someone between the ages of 13 and 19 who might want to tell City Council how to do or job better, send them here.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Users Fees and Rates Review Amendment Bylaws for 2019
Every year we review our various fees as part of our budgeting process. Almost all of them go up with CPI (“inflation”), but we also review them to assure we are recovering costs and to match with the fee structure in adjacent communities.

In summary, Engineering fees going up 2% to match CPI, Business Fees, building fees and Planning fees will go up 2% with a couple of small exceptions (we are in the bottom 25% of Lower Mainland municipalities on these fees). Cultural Services fees are doing the 2% thing, and the fees we charge Lawyers and Notaries for tax records and other filings are going up more than 2% to align with regional averages.

Due to CPI adjustments, the business licence rate for a Tea Cup Reader is now $47.87 per annum. I expect the Tea Cup Readers saw this coming, and have already raised their rates accordingly.

Investment Report to August 31, 2018
The City has about $180 Million in the bank. Much of this is in reserve funds – money we have put aside for specific purposes (like the CGP replacement and DCC funds that must be used to expand utility capacity concomitant with population growth). We have drawn this down a bit over the last year, as we are spending it on the things it was saved for, like sewer separation in Sapperton and the Ewen Street project.

This is our regular report on the return we are making on investments. As a City and for statutory reasons we are very low risk in our investment strategy, but the bond market is flat right now, so our finance department has moved some money to secure savings accounts. About 2/3 of the way through our year, we have reached about 66% of our budgeted return on investments. We will likely make about $2.3M in investment income this year.

Major Purchases May 1st to August 31st, 2018
This is our ternary report on what the City purchased through sole source or public procurement. We are required by law to have an open bid process for most purchase and use BC Bid to do that purchase. If you bidded on a job at the City, and didn’t get it, here is where you can see who got the job and how much we paid them!

406 – 412 East Columbia Street: Development Permit – Issuance
This mid-rise mixed-use project on a vacant lot in Sapperton has been through extensive review and public consultation, and is now at the Development Permit stage. This is an exciting new landform for Sapperton, mixing commercial,retail and residential, and bringing a bit of new energy to East Columbia. I am happy to support it.

811 – 819 Twelfth Street and 1124 Edinburgh Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement for Six Storey Residential Building – For Information
This is a preliminary report: Council’s first view of a proposed project in Twelfth Street before it goes to internal reviews and public consultation. There is a lot going on here: passive house standard multi-family 6-story building, four more “missing middle” units, lots of family-size units, and a heritage house preserved as a transition to the adjacent residential neighbourhood. Coming soon to a public consultation near you!

837 – 841 Twelfth Street: Rezoning and Development Permit for Six Storey Residential Building – For Information
This is also a preliminary report for a project right next to the above one. It is a little more straight-forward in being all residential. This will no doubt raise some discussion about the role of residential at grade and retail along the Twelfth Street corridor. Coming soon to a public consultation near you!

466 Rousseau Street (Urban Academy): Zoning Amendment Bylaw Text Amendment and Amendment to Development Permit – For Information
Another preliminary report. This is unprecedented in my time on Council, an application to expand the capacity of a recently approved building during its construction! There will need to be some review and public consultation here!

310 Salter Street (Port Royal): Development Permit and Development Variance Permit Application for Four to Six Storey Residential Development –For Information
This is one more – and almost the last – piece in the Port Royal development. It needs to go through DP and some variances for setbacks. Again, a preliminary info report with lots of review and public consultation to do!

268 Nelson’s Court (Brewery District): Development Permit Application for a High Rise, Mixed Use Development – For Information
The next phase of mixed-use development in the Brewery District is ready for the Development Permit stage. At the LUPC, there was a bit of push-back on the level of amenity (specifically, provision for child care) with this development, given its size and scope and the concerns raised in the community the last time the scale of this development was reviewed. (note – this does not include an increase in height or stories over the previous application)

This is a preliminary info report – lots of review and public consultation to do!


We also had a raft of Bylaws to read and adopt:

Tree Protection and Regulation Amendment Bylaw No. 8052, 2018 and Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8053, 2018
These Bylaws that support the recent changes in how the Tree Bylaw is administered were given second and third readings by Council.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8058, 2018;
Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 8059, 2018;
Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8060, 2018;
and
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8061, 2018
These Bylaws that support the fee changes described above were given three readings.

Housing Agreement (813 – 823 Carnarvon) Amendment Bylaw No. 8056, 2018
This Bylaw that outlines the requirement for the affordable housing component of the approved development on Carnarvon Street was given three readings.

Taxation Exempt and Exempt Properties Bylaw No. 8054, 2018
This Bylaw that formalizes the properties exempt from property taxation was adopted by Council.

Five Year Financial Plan (2018 – 2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8055, 2018
This Bylaw that updates the 5-Year financial Plan to reflect some shifts in Capital project spending was adopted by Council.

Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 8042, 2018 to Return Heritage Conservation Area and Related Protection to 207/209 St. Patrick Street
This Bylaw that returns HCA protection to this house in Queens Park upon the request of the homeowner was adopted by Council.

Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8049, 2018
This Bylaw that sets fines for violations of our Business License Bylaw related to cannabis retailing was adopted by Council.

Road Closure and Dedication Removal (Clarkson Street) Bylaw No. 7950, 2017
This Bylaw that closes a thin sliver of Clarkson Street to support the encapsulation of the SkyTrain line and the adjacent development was adopted by Council.

Official Community Plan Amendment (Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Guidance for Development Permit Area Guidelines) Bylaw No. 8039, 2018; and Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in Residential Buildings) No. 8040, 2018
These Bylaws that make it a requirement to pre-wire new residential buildings for EV changing were adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment (420 Boyne Street) Bylaw No. 8036, 2018
Finally, this Bylaw that approves the zoning for the new Animal Shelter facility in Queensborough was adopted by Council.

And that may or may not be my last council report! It’s been fun!

Council Top 3!

This is episode 5 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: Public Engagement Strategy Update
As I recently mentioned over on that other website, I am keenly interested in how the City improves it Public Engagement. The implementation of the Public Engagement Strategy has already seen some great results, but the medium- and long-term action items are yet to come, and this report will outline what staff will be working on to inform, consult, and include the citizens of New Westminster in our decision making.

#2: Q to Q Pilot Ferry Service – Update and Extension of Pilot
This report provides three things: an update on ridership and operation of this summer’s Pilot project, a proposal to extend to a modified winter schedule to determine how amenable people are to using this service for commuting, and the development of a longer-term business case for the service. The report looks like good news on all fronts, and we are getting a lot of feedback from the Port Royal neighbourhood about the desire for us to continue the pilot. However, we do need to assure the service we are providing is tailored for the needs of this community, not just a tourist attraction.

#3: Recognition of Retiring Council Members Bill Harper and Lorrie Williams
There is likely to be laughter and tears at this meeting, as two Councillors with a combined 29 years of service to this City are taking their last council bow. I have enjoyed sharing the table with Lorrie and Bill. I have often agreed and sometimes disagreed with each of them on some pretty substantial policy directions in the City, but have always respected that they had their hearts in the right place, and had real visions for the direction of the City. I have learned a tonne about the job, and about the City from each of them. Regardless of what happens on October 20th, it will be a very different council without them there.

*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, so these are only my guesses. For a full prediction of the entire Council agenda, go to the agenda!

Council – Sept 17, 2018

Once a year, Council heads over the Queensborough Bridge and holds a meeting at the Queensborough Community Centre. This year was the first I was able to take the QtoQ ferry over, which made the bike ride much more pleasant, both because of the ride and because of the ride through Port Royal and along the refurbished Ewen Ave.

It was a meeting with lots of opportunity for public participation, with four (4!) Opportunities to the Heard, Public Hearings on four (!) Bylaws, and Public Delegations. Try to keep up with the twists and turns of the agenda.

We started with an Opportunity to be Heard:

Business Licence Bylaw Amendment Bylaw (Cannabis Regulations) No. 8044, 2018
This is the bylaw that sets out the operational rules for new Cannabis Retail locations, once the federal legislation legalizing the sale of recreational cannabis comes into effect in October. We have had lots of discussions about this at Council, and if you want to do a deeper dive, here is a report from our February workshop, and another from our June discussion. We have gone through some public and stakeholder consultation, Bylaws have been drafted, but they require a Public Hearing to get to third reading.

We received no written submission, and had two presentations from the public: one asking us to move faster, one asking us to consider slowing down. Council moved to adopt the Bylaw, and we have a clear path to this new retail regime.


We then moved into our Public Hearings on three issues:

Official Community Plan Amendment (207/209 St. Patrick Street) Bylaw No. 8042, 2018
The owner of this house wants to opt into the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area. though it was automatically removed during the process where houses were evaluated for heritage value and potential negative economic impact. We received no written submissions, and no-one came to speak to the matter. Council moved to give the bylaw Third Reading.

Official Community Plan Amendment (Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Guidance for Development Permit Area Guidelines) Bylaw No. 8039, 2018 and
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in Residential Buildings) No. 8040, 2018

These bylaws will change the City’s zoning laws to require that all new residential buildings include the built-in wiring to support a Level 2 electrical vehicle charger in all off-street parking spots. This is a Bylaw change that is occurring regionally, as we prepare our community for the next decade of transition away from fossil fuels. We had a single piece of correspondence in favour of this change, and no-one came to speak to the matter. Council moved to give the bylaws Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Cannabis Regulations) No. 8043, 2018
These are the zoning law changes that will set out the location rules for new cannabis retail businesses in the City. Again, these are changes that were workshopped and discussed at length (see the links above), and we wanted to have them in place before Federal regulations make cannabis retail legal. We received no written submissions and no-one came ot speak to this matter (though the earlier speakers at the Opportunity to be Heard were really also addressing this issue). Council moved to give this Bylaw third reading and adoption – it is now the law of the land!


We then had the following Opportunity for Public Comment:

Five Year Financial Plan (2018 – 2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8055, 2018
We need to update our 5-Year Financial Plan to reflect revised plans for the electrical substation in Queensborough (both in timing and cost for the project) and for increased costs for the new Animal Shelter and Tow Yard project related directly to regional construction market changes. No-one came to speak to this matter.

…and more Opportunities to be Heard:

Temporary Use Permit for 610 Brantford Street (TUP00018)
The development at the north end of Bent Court includes market condos and the preservation of a historic single family house. The condo marketers want to use the protected house as the sales centre for the condos. This requires a Temporary Use Permit, because this use is not specified in the zoning for the lot. We had no written submissions, but the owner of an adjacent business appeared to express concerns about parking, which were addressed by staff (to the apparent satisfaction of the delegate). Council moved to approve the TUP.

Development Variance Permit for 1 Cumberland Street (DVP00652)
That big construction site at the foot of Cumberland Street is a new sewer pump station being built by Metro Vancouver to support population growth in the northeast sector (Coquitlam, for the most part). A development like this would usually require that the electrical services be undergrounded, but that is not technically feasible on this site, for a variety of reasons related to rail crossings, riparian areas, and rights of way. So they require a development permit variance to allow this variance from what is permitted. We received no written submissions, no-one came to speak to the matter, and Council moved to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit for 200 Nelson’s Crescent, 228 Nelson’s Crescent, 258 Nelson’s Court and 268 Nelson’s Court (DVP00650)
The Brewery District is a unique development, especially in how it faces Brunette Ave. The developer wants to create a better aesthetic for the façade facing Brunette Ave, but require a variance of the sign bylaw to do so. We received no written submissions, and no-one came to speak to this variance. Council moved to approve the variance.


Council moved the following items On Consent:

BC Penitentiary Cemetery Restoration Task Force
This task force’s work is completed with the official opening of the preserved BC Penitentiary cemetery memorial site. So the task force is being dissolved.

Exempt Properties – Review of Questionnaire Results
There are some properties that don’t pay property tax. Some are exempted by provincial regulation, like churches and private schools. Others are given a “permissive exemption” based on their public service, mostly supportive housing, daycares, and sports facilities. This review of exempted properties is something we do as part of our annual budgeting process.

41 and 175 Duncan Street (Townhouse and Child Care) Consideration of Issuance of Development Permit
This townhouse development in Queensborough has gone through the OCP amendments and rezoning required, it still needs a Development Permit to move forward. The DP is the stage where “form a character” work is done, including landscaping, building, building design, etc. A separate DP for the attached Child Care centre will come to a subsequent Council meeting. Council moved to approve the Issuance of the DP

11 – 30 Capilano Way (Another Brew Co.) Brewery Lounge Endorsement
A small start-up brewery in the Braid Industrial Area wants to open up a tasting lounge of 20 seats. This endorsement is part of the business and liquor licensing process. Council moved to approve endorsement.

200 to 400 Blocks Columbia Street: Sewer Interceptors – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
There is a semi-regular piece of sewer maintenance work that cannot occur during the day because sewer lines are too full of water and… stuff. In order to do this kind of work at night, we need a construction noise bylaw exemption. The work will occur in September of October on a night when storm water flows are low. The equipment will be muffled as best as possible, but nearby residents will be aware of the work happening.

2017 Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Update
There is good news and bad news on GHG emissions – we are ahead of our target in every sector except our fleet. The fleet is killing us, as the technology for large vehicles, utility trucks, and such has not kept up with that of automobiles when it comes to adopting hybrid and electric technologies. This clearly needs to be the area of concentration in the coming year as we implement a new emissions reduction plan.

Amendments to Tree Protection Bylaw: Tree Protection and Regulation Amendment Bylaw No. 8052, 2018, and Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8053, 2018
We are making adjustments to the Tree Bylaw to make it work better, less onerous for residents, and potentially less expensive. We are not reducing the protections for trees in the community, but are seeking to streamline the processes to reduce the cost and hassle of the bylaw for our internal operations and for homeowners.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Updated Intelligent New West Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022
The Intelligent New West program has been a pillar of the City’s Economic Devleopment plan for the last few years, and has turned in some serious benefits – from a big increase in tech-industry employment in the City to a successful dark fibre utility and Smart City 21 designation. However ,a strategic vision for where it goes over the next 5 years is needed, and this report outlines it.

Environmental Strategy and Action Plan Final Report
Similarly, the City’s overarching environmental strategy has not seen a comprehensive review in a decade, though much work on sustainability has been done, and new goals and targets have been created. We asked staff to put together a single strategy o align our ecological, greenhouse gas and energy reduction, and waste management goals. After more than a year of public consultation, committee re-working and policy development, the strategy is ready for endorsement.


After all of this, we did our usual reading and adopting of Bylaws:

Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8049, 2018
There were some clerical errors in this Bylaw when we gave it second and third readings on August 27th that Staff needed to correct. So we rescinded those readings and repeated the second and third reading as amended.

Tree Protection and Regulation Amendment Bylaw No. 8052, 2018 and
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8053, 2018
These Bylaws that introduce some changes to our Tree Bylaw to make it more functional were given first reading.

Taxation Exempt and Exempt Properties Bylaw No. 8054, 2018
This Bylaw that formalizes the list of property-tax exempt properties in the City (as described above) was given three readings.

Five Year Financial Plan (2018 – 2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8055, 2018
This Bylaw that updates the Five Year Financial Plan (as described above) was given three readings.

Zoning Amendment (420 Boyne Street) Bylaw No. 8036, 2018
The zoning amendment to permit the new animal shelter, which was given previous readings on July 9 and August 27th, was given three readings, and is now off to external agencies for review.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1084 Tanaka Court) No. 8011, 2018
The zoning amendment that permits a banquet hall to be built in Queensborough was adopted.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (618 Carnarvon Street) No. 7949, 2017
This zoning amendment to permit a large development on the corner of Sixth Street and Carnarvon (the one with the big “618” signs) which had a Publci Hearing back on January 29th, was Adopted by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (205 Clinton Place) Amendment Bylaw No. 8046, 2018
This HRA amendment to give the homeowner a little more time to complete their heritage restoration was adopted by Council.

Development Services Fees and Rates Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No.8047, 2018;
Smoking Control Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8048, 2018; and
Municipal Ticketing Information Amendment Bylaw No. 8050, 2018
These Bylaws that related to the legalization of cannabis retail and better managing the nuisance of cannabis smoking were adopted by Council.

Council Top 3!

This is episode 4 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: We are in Queensborough!
This isn’t an agenda item, but the traditional first meeting in September is held at the Queensborough Community Centre – the only time we take Council Meetings out of City Hall. Also unique in this meeting is that it is Public Hearing on a few items, but we are still going to have Public Delegations (usually Delegations are not permitted on a Public Hearing night- but the point of going to Q’Boro is to hear from the community, so the regular rules go out the window. If you are in Q’Boro, come out to the QCC for a 5:45 start, and if you have something to say, you can delegate at 7:00.

#2: Cannabis Regulation Bylaws:
We will be doing a Public Hearing on the zoning law changes required to get cannabis retail operations ready for application by the time the federal legalization occurs in October. It took quite a bit of work on Staff’s part to get this together on a tight timeline, especially as details of the legalization regime were trickling out of Ottawa and Victoria. We have had several workshops and lots of discussion around the Council table about this (the members of Council have had some pretty fundamental disagreements about how to approach this new regulatory regime). Happy to know we are ready for Public Hearing before the October 17th change in federal regulations. Even if we approve the Bylaws after this Public hearing, it doesn’t mean that the stores will open in October. Staff have developed a pretty streamlined process to get the first tranche of applications through all of the zoning and business regulations, but it will still take a bit of time once applications start arriving. If you have opinions about cannabis retail, you may want to read up on these Bylaws and come to the Public Hearing!

#3: Environmental Strategy and Action Plan Final Report:
It has been some time since the City updated its overarching environmental protection strategy. This solid piece of policy work has been in the works for a couple of years, and has seen public review and endorsement from the Environment Advisory Committee. It outlines our goals in emissions and energy reduction, ecological protection, resource protection and waste management. Implementation will take money and several years, but in Local Government, it is always good to have an endorsed strategy document that staff can point to in guiding their work, and a set of defined goals to know if we are hitting our targets.

*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, so these are only my guesses. For a full prediction of the entire Council agenda, go to the agenda!

UBCM 2018

Apologies to regular readers (Hi Mom!) that I have not been putting a lot of content on this blog recently. The campaign is in full swing, we are still doing our regular City Council stuff, and I have another job that keeps me occupied. Hopefully back to regular programming in later October. In the meantime, I am talking more about campaign stuff on my campaign Facebook page, and on the my campaign website and trying to keep this page about City stuff that isn’t campaigning.

However, I thought it apropos to provide a quick update on the annual Union of BC Municipalities meeting. I was not able to attend this year, mostly due to work and Council commitments. I did go up there on September 10th (disclosure: on the City’s dime) to attend the BC Municipal Climate Leadership Council quarterly meeting, and the Minister’s breakfast that is hosted by that Council (of which I am a member). It was a productive meeting, and we were able to discuss the BCMCLC’s response to the Province’s Clean Growth Intentions Paper, which was both supportive of the work the province wants to do, and suggestive of some further steps the province could take to support local governments in reaching the aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals that are required to meet Canada’s Paris targets.

I then returned to Whistler on Wednesday (not on the City’s dime this time) to attend the Lower Mainland LGA meeting (I am a vice president) and to present the annual Community Energy Association awards to communities taking exceptional efforts to reduce their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. In my role as Chair of the CEA, it was my honour to share the awarding duties with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. I also had the opportunity to give one of the awards to the Mayor of Nelson for their Solar Garden project –and let her know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, demonstrated by New Westminster copying their model for our own Solar Garden project.

The good news coming out the UBCM is that some resolutions we sent to be debated were passed by the membership of UBCM. These were:

B-8: Alert Ready Emergency Alert System

… be it resolved that UBCM works with the Province of British Columbia to provide access to the Alert Ready (emergency alert) system to local governments in order to allow them to broadcast critical and potentially life threatening alerts to residents of their respective communities using the framework of the Alert Ready System.

B-54: Cannabis and Harmonizing Smoking Regulations

… be it resolved that UBCM urge the Provincial Government of British Columbia to extend the prescribed distance from a doorway, window, or air intake in which a person must not smoke tobacco, hold lighted tobacco, use an e-cigarette or hold an activated e-cigarette from 6 meters to 7.5 meters and prohibit smoking in all public parks by amending the Tobacco and Vapour Control Regulations and by ensuring the corresponding distances prescribed in the Cannabis Control and Licensing Regulations are the same.

And:
B-102: Updating the BC Motor Vehicle Act to Improve Safety for All Road Users

… be it resolved that the provincial government be requested to support modernization of the Motor Vehicle Act, addressing the recommendations in the Road Safety Law Reform Group of BC Position Paper entitled “Modernizing the BC Motor Vehicle Act” to enhance safety for all road users.

I have to admit, I’m pretty chuffed about that last one.

Bad Data

I never want to react to the Fraser Institute. The easy ad hominem attack is that they are the Canadian propaganda wing of Koch Brothers enterprises, and their attempts to shift public policy in Canada should raise concern, but the more substantive attack is that they produce terrible reports that would not earn a passing grade if they were handed in as an Economics 101 term paper. They are bad at data, so it is best if we ignore them.

Alas, I was asked by an intrepid local reporter to comment because the City of New Westminster is made to look fiscally irresponsible in their latest fresh-off-the-presses piece of decontextualized tripe, so I did a bit of a dive into the numbers. This turned into several hours of trying to reverse-math their numbers, because like the failing university economics students they resemble, they don’t actually provide raw data or point clearly to what their data sources are, instead providing derived numbers without the benefit of showing their calculations. They are bad at reporting data, and we should probably ignore them.

I dug around in the BC Government website they link to as a data source (this one), and after figuring out how they got all of the population for 2016 wrong (using projected estimates instead of readily-available Census data), I started to dig through the various tables and repeated calculations until I got results mimicking theirs. They primarily used “spending data” from this table, and “revenue data” from this table. But they clearly didn’t know (or didn’t care) that New Westminster’s data includes the financial reporting by our Electrical Utility. They are bad at interpreting the data they have, so it is best we just ignore them.

For context, New Westminster operates its own Electrical Utility. It has since before BC Hydro existed. We hold on to it because it is a great deal for the residents of New Westminster. Using 2016 numbers to be consistent with the Fraser Institute report (See Page 90 of this report for the utility’s 2017 numbers), our Electrical Utility sells about $45,000,000 worth of electricity to residents and businesses in the City, at the same rate (more or less) as those customers would pay BC Hydro if they were in another Municipality. It costs the utility about $33,000,000 to purchase that electricity from BC Hydro at bulk wholesale rates. About half of that difference goes into operating the utility (paying staff, buying wires and building substations) and the other half is paid to the City as a dividend. We are the only Municipality in the lower mainland that does this, so we are the only municipality that includes these numbers in their expenses and revenue tables. This is important context. The Fraser Institute is bad at context, which is why we would all be better off by ignoring them.

Because of this bug in the data, their report suggests that New Westminster has “the second highest municipal spending” per capita, along with “the second highest municipal revenue” per capita. They even have bar charts to prove it:

The problem being, New Westminster’s electrical utility “spends” about $38 Million a year, and it generates about $45 Million in revenue. If you take this into account, those bar charts look very different:

The shorter and more accurate story here is that New Westminster (outside of the electrical utility) spends slightly above the regional average on a per capita basis, and collects slightly less than the regional average in taxation and fee revenue. Think about that for a minute.

“Spending” in the local government context means putting police officers on the street, mowing lawns in our parks, and providing swimming lessons to your kids. The money we spend is providing services to our residents, and we do that at a slightly higher rate than the regional average. At the same time, the revenue we collect from our residents in the form of taxes and fees is lower than the regional average. An alternate Fraser Institute headline may be: New Westminster delivers more for less!

Ironically, part of the reason we deliver more for less is the electrical utility that can buy electricity for wholesale, sell it for retail, and provide a dividend to the City which we can use to provide services that would otherwise need to be paid for through taxes. Arguably, having an electrical utility is the most entrepreneurial thing we do, and is something that the entire “run government more like a business” Fraser Institute crowd would normally celebrate.

There is more in this report, including tables showing the City’s residential taxes are below average for the region (12th highest of 17 municipalities), and our debt servicing costs are average, but that kind of story – “City is about average” – doesn’t make for a very exciting headline.

Alas, New Westminster is just kind of average. And when it comes to managing finances, this is not a bad thing. Every financial decision is about balancing the cost with the priorities our residents and businesses expect us to address. I am proud of the level of service we provide in New Westminster, and our ability to do that while keeping taxes below the regional average.