Thoughts on Council’s Open meeting of March 19, 2018

Ron Bolin: March 20, 2018

Kudos to City Hall for providing an interim report and documentation of Meetings on the afternoon following the meeting. Go to “Your Government” in the City’s Front Page, then click on “All News” under “News and Events”, and finally on the “Council Meeting Summary” for the day.

Nanaimo web site here:

News here:

In the Summary you will find the motions and their result as well as a key to the Agenda item involved.  It should be noted that the present Summary does not contain all the motions made during the meeting.  This has been reported.—summary

At the bottom, following the motions you will find a button to get directly to the relevant documents, i.e. Notice, Agenda, Addendum and the video as well the presentations made at the meeting.

All that is missing is documentation of all items added to the agenda before it was passed. There are usually several of these which can change the order of the original agenda. This meeting had a plethora of additions.

In my opinion this is an excellent step toward better management of public information and alleviates the need for lots of searching to put meeting info together -if all the motions are included. Now on with the show…

To set the tone, Mayor McKay once again read his admonitions and threats to all assembled to remember Council decorum.

Following the Adoption of the Minutes (5), the Mayor Reported (7) that a history of the recent Housing debacle would be produced and made public.

Under Administration (8) a number of items were covered:

(a) It was requested that at least three members of Council be appointed to the 2018 Parcel Tax Review Panel. It was curious to note that when asked who was on the Panel last year, nobody seemed to remember…
(b) Minutes of various Advisory Committee Minutes were approved; and
(c) Circa $350,000 in funding was allocated for a number of actions related to homelessness and the problems of downtown in the hope of seeing the tent city set up on the lawn of City Hall being removed. Whether this will happen remains to be seen as some felt that these actions do not measure up to the over $7 million dollars in housing grants which were lost to the City by having only one questionable arrow in its quiver as it dealt with the province.

Under Corporate Service (9a) Parcel Tax Preparation Bylaw 2018 No. 7260 passed its first, second and third readings.

Under Public Services (10), 10a, the 2018 Strategic Directions for the Public Works and Engineering Committee was passed after a discussion of how it was proposed that the reduction in the use of garburators and flushable wipes in Nanaimo was to be accomplished and how the implementation of residential composting for multifamily units was to be achieved.  In my opinion there was no substantive response to those issues.

Also under Public Service, there followed the usual litany of requests for changes in some of the conditions currently pertaining to particular properties under the standing covenants, zonings, development conditions, or other requirements of land use or development including parking. I have been unable to come to a suitable conclusion regarding how I should understand these variances to the common regulations. In virtually all cases the variance increases the value of the property at issue, sometimes to a great extent as even a relatively small reduction in side or front/read yard or height boundaries can lead to the possibility of subdivision, the development of a satellite building, or a larger home or structure which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in sale/resale value, and can, in cases where the neighbours are either ignorant of the change or are, for whatever reason, ignored, lead to tens of thousands of dollars in value decline to adjacent properties.

How should we consider these pre-approved get-out-of-jail-free decisions by Council? As favours if passed and disfavour if not? Certainly they can be seen so… And favours to whom and at what value. There are cases where high values can be created as a result of simple hands-up by a majority of Council granting a variance permitting standard development policies or procedures to be ignored. In such cases should the City estimate the value created and demand some portion for their part in creating that extra value?? Do we owe it to developers to pick up their problems with providing parking for their buyers or tenants? Do we owe it to those with fire or other damage which is irremediable at an economic cost to distress neighbouring property values and if so, for how long? And If we change the specifications for one lot, for example in a case which came up at this meeting where the lot size required to support a secondary suite was reduced, shouldn’t it also be reduced for all similar cases? Picking and choosing favorites can lead to serious issues of trust.. What do you think about these cases? What should be done about flexible standards… We have several coming nearly every week.

Under Public Safety (11) Karen Fry provided an update of Council’s Motion of March 12 regarding a School Board Safety Meeting. The report was not available to the public at the meeting . It only became available on the day of the meeting due to scheduling difficulties, but Staff should have made some copies for distribution at the meeting. Now, after the fact, that Report can be found among the documents available on the City’s web site. See “Details…” link above)   There has apparently been some agreement between the City and the School Board to deal with responsibilities and costs in managing public safety issues related to homelessness and needles in and around parks and schools. The Report contained two recommendations: 1) $24,000 as our share with the School Board, of the cost of a security guard to patrol Comox Park at night; and 2) $45,000 in funding for temporary seasonal workers to conduct park sweeps, needle pick up, graffiti removal and site clean up. These recommendations received assent.

Under Bylaws (12) Leon Cake, acting as a delegation, asked that the Cross Connection Control Bylaw 2018 No. 7249, not be adopted without the addition of a specific reference to the matter of Cross Contamination devices in residences as a matter of greater safety concern than seemed to be evidenced in the bylaw as it stood. Though some concern was expressed, the request to include an amendment calling for immediate action in the case of new residential construction was left mired in ambiguity.

The meeting concluded at 11:30pm after nearly 4 and a half hours with (15 a) – Proposed Resolution for the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. This requests that the AVICC support a request to the Province to amend the Local Government Act in order to allow local governments greater flexibility in determining and funding park and playfield improvements which are required by community growth. This was passed unanimously. As you are may be aware the Province recently turned down Nanaimo’s request to use DCC funds for millions of dollars in park improvements, leaving the City to determine how to cope with the situation.

This was a particularly long and complicated meeting beset with many last minute additions to the agenda and with rambling discussions on a number of issues. Those who dare, but were not there, may wish to approach the video on a by item basis as provided with it.