The Oct. 28 Council Meeting: the Case of the Dog that didn’t Bark and other Tractions

Ron Bolin: Pct. 29, 2013

There was a lot on Monday’s Council agenda, unfortunately it mostly turned out to be much ado about nothing.  See:

Dr. Witty’s presentation regarding the South Downtown Waterfront Initiative provided little or no new info, but was a very appropriate call to the public to take part in Initiative events on the 12th, 13th and 14th  of November.  See: and take part…

Mr. Brian Patterson’s presentation on the Transportation Master Plan was also primarily an exercise in covering the history of the project and its objectives, but was a teaser in that it was primarily an advertisement for the Phase 3 report which is to be released this week.  See:  . One hope that this report will put some meat on the bones of the Plan.

There were the usual everyday matters of licenses, zonings, rezonings, permits etc. which one expects at these meetings which generally are of interest to only those adjacent to the affected properties.  One such development permit application however was of particular general interest as it involved not one or two minor variances, but variances in virtually every category in which a variance might be involved: Front Yard Setback;  Rear Yard Setback; Side Yard Setback (west); Lot Coverage; Maximum Building Height; and Required Driveway Access.  One must wonder whether we are on the way to a system which, rather than being governed by bylaws, is governed by the judgement of Planners.

Two readings of a bylaw to change the zoning of a light industry (I2) parcel to industry (I4) in order to permit a medical marijuana growing operation were passed by Council but it was noted that more legal work was needed before the bylaw could be adopted as there were questions regarding the property tax status of the grow op.  Taxing the property as agricultural land as seems to be possible would severely decrease the value of the land for taxation purpose and deprive the citizens of Nanaimo of property taxes.

The Manson Store (1876) and the attached Home (1895) which are on Nanaimo’s Heritage Register were, under City bylaws, ordered to be demolished as the buildings have deteriorated to a point deemed to be beyond repair.  The owner requested a two year extension but was refused.  If demotion does not begin within 30 days, the City will undertake the work and charge the expense to the landowner.

The disposition of the City Owned Land and 100 Gordon Street, the much awaited Hotel to be built by SSS Manhao, was approved.  We will look forward to the start of construction early in 2014.  Will the exemption granted under the revitalization bylaw begin in 2014, i.e. will they lose a year’s exemption on the land only?

Animal trapping in the City, brought to the fore by leg hold traps or snares which pose a threat in the City not only to the targeted animals, in this case beaver in the Linley Valley, but to children and domestic pets, has led to City Staff being requested to design a bylaw in this matter which can both protect citizens and their pets and pass muster with the Ministry which must approved such matters.  The Fur Bearer Defenders:  has and will continue to provide advice on non-lethal methods for dealing with such animals.

Property Tax Exemption Bylaw 2013 No. 7177 was passed without serious discussion as it was brought for adoption only three days before provincial legislation requires that it be passed.  Before this meeting three 2014 budget discussions had been held.  None dealt with this looming obligation.  Despite over the years hearing Councillors lament that they have been forced to pass expenses in a future year before that years’ budget has been discussed, it was allowed to happen again this year.  Some 154 properties, following their once every three year review at a Committee, were peremptorily given about $4.6 million dollars in tax exemptions over 2014, 2015 and 2016.  About $563,450 goes to the Lands And Building of places of worship (churches);  $170,393 to Senior Citizens Housing Lands and Buildings; $763,876 to Community Care Facility Land and Buildings; and the bulk, about $3.1 million, goes to “Miscellaneous Non-Profit Lands and Buildings”.  You are reminded that tax exemptions do not reduce city expenses by an iota, but simply pass those expenses on to other ratepayers.  These exemptions of about $1.5 million per year raise general tax rates by nearly 2% each year.  And they represent only the tip of the tax giveaway iceberg.  I will be writing more about the total amount of your tax money which Council and the province give away at their total discretion in a later piece.

Finally, as if Council silence on permissive tax exemptions were not enough, it had been touted about that a Councillor who had been absent from last week’s decision concerning increasing a grant to upgrade the Centre Stage Theatre at an expense of $194,700 (on a pre-admitted way to spending some $800,000 in renovations on that building) would be brought back on the grounds of absence of Council members from the decision.  It was hoped that Council would be reminded of the original Staff report which provided time for an adequate consideration of alternatives for about $20,000.  Instead the short handed Council, with only Councillor Kipp opposed, voted to take the option which will lead to $800,000 or more in expense.  Unfortunately on this Monday Silence reigned and the opportunity for reconsideration was lost.

From: Silver Blaze, a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”[2]