Tag Archives: nanaimo

Green Thumb Park Proposal; Cadillac Fire Hall; BC Transit Beef

Some hot topics coming up at the next Council meeting on Monday, May 15th are:

  • Northfield Road and the Island Highway upgrade
  • RCMP operations report
  • Two new 6 storey buildings proposed for 91 Chapel Street
  • Four storey 60 unit building proposed for 5260 Dublin Way
  • Fewer parking stalls at 1805 Summerhill Place

At the May 8th COW (Committee Of the Whole) meeting there were some interesting presentations: an idea for a park at Green Thumb; a rail trail; a BC Transit Beef and a new $17 million fire hall which was approved by Council.

Green Thumb Park Proposal

The Green Thumb Nursery in North Nanaimo is selling for $23 million. Situated between the Island Highway, Hammond Bay Road and Uplands Road, it is the last large undeveloped tract of land in north Nanaimo—44 acres.

This would be an ideal space for a park.  Nearby, 20 storey high rises are slated to be built  behind Costco and Longwood Station.

Green Thumb – 44 acres a possible park at Hammond Bay and Uplands Road
Green Thumb Park Proposal

Fred Brooks, a professional landscape designer, came up with the an idea of a Central Park, Van Dusen Gardens or Beacon Hill type park.

Unfortunately, the Council’s reaction to the presentation was a collective of blank stares. Councillor Thorpe said Council needs to be careful with its money.

What Nanaimo could look like in the future with Green Thumb Park as a centerpiece

More and more people are moving to Nanaimo so smaller lots and big high rises will the the new norm. People will need a park to go to for mental health. Ghettos have no trees and no parks.

Large treed lots are being denuded to make way for high-density small lots. Trees are disappearing fast.

Remember the controversy about saving Neck Point? A lot of people questioned the idea of saving it at the time; now look how many people go there today.

$17 million Fire Hall approved

Last Monday, Council approved the proposal for a $17 million fire hall on Prideaux Street to replace Fire Hall #1. Included in this proposal is $125,000 worth of art.

Opposed were Mayor Mckay and Councollor Hong.
In favour were Councillors Thorpe, Yoachim, Brennan and Kipp.
Councillor Fuller was absent for the vote (because of a business conflict).

Council Discussion:

Bestwick: …What was the cost of the Chase River Fire Hall? $3 million?…We need 3,250 square feet for administration?…a total of 15,000 square feet in this new building…

Hong: …We need a command centre…RCMP is the next building to be re-built…fire, police, ambulance, …we are building a ‘Cadillac model’…$125,000 budget for public art in a fire station?! (Hong screams)…Public art people won’t see!…Public art in this building [SARC] people don’t see…Borrowing is cheap…paying for building over 40 years…we should not be using reserves…

Brennan: …Why do we need to have administration located at the fire hall? Will there be parking issues?..What about the fire hall in the north end? In 2009 we were going to have a fire hall on Hammond Bay Road?…

Mckay: I support a new building but we need to have all services in one building…[a command centre]…

Bestwick: Have we put all our 45-year-old buildings on a list?…What are our priorities?…public works needs a new building…Beban Park needs upgrades…Departure Bay Activity Centre needs replacing…There are more than 10 buildings that need replacing…

Hospital Parking and BC Transit Beef

A resident came to make a beef about the bus transit to the hospital and how it doesn’t meet up with peoples’ work schedules at the hospital. Here is some of what the delegation had to say:

“The first bus leaves from the downtown Nanaimo to the hospital at 6:55am when most people start their shift at 7am. It is useless! So I have to drive…lack of transit coordination… Same with the mall in the northend; the buses aren’t there when mall shifts end or start….The BC Ferry terminal is the same thing…the bus that connects to the ferry leaves empty…why isn’t the bus coordinated with the ferry?…”

Hong: BC Transit…gives us hours…we can only shuffle the schedule…problem is we don’t have enough hours…

Speaker: I am not asking for more hours…just coordinate the schedule with the hospital shifts….

Bestwick: …nothing has changed…we are building a parkade for the hospital…

Fuller: …transit sucks…find more people to complain…

Yoachim: …I am willing to bring this up for you at an RDN board meeting…

Kipp:$8.5 million we pay for BC transit every year…we have had transit reports…empty buses…bad system…you can walk to VIU faster than the bus…we have made a cash cow out of parking…$100 for student parking…empty bus syndrome…our town is linear…we are driving all over the place…soon Nanaimo to Comox will be one big strip mall…

Speaker: …just re-schedule the buses…the #30 that leaves Prideaux Street and goes to the hospital takes 12min and leaves at 6:55am, they don’t care that people are trying to get to work on time!…it is NOT about more hours…

Empty Bus Syndrome

Check out this article called Why Tactical Transit is the Next Big Thing. “Tactical Transit” has the ability to jump start virtuous cycles of increasing bus ridership by speeding up travel times, improving passenger experience and enhancing overall perceptions of riding the bus. Empty Bus Syndrome could be a thing of the past!

Rail Trail Proposal

A group spoke to Council about an idea to have a rail trail from Parksville to Courtenay, citing the deteriorating condition of the E&N rail bed. Their website is Fortvi.ca for more information.

The federal government gives a private company $200 million every year to operate the railway on Vancouver Island yet nothing is being done to maintain the tracks.

There are many areas around the world where trains are THE mode of transportation. Many seniors have mobility issues and would prefer a train system rather than beating off feral dogs and rabbits with their canes.

New building on Skinner

Two new six storey multi-family buildings are being proposed for 91 Chapel Street.  The proposal includes some live-work studios which could be marketed to young creative types.

Out of Order: SARC boardroom Audio System

The audio system at the City Hall building is terrible. If you have ever tried listening to a COW meeting there is a constant noise of paper shuffling, binder clicks and chronic coughing fits. Whenever someone speaks it sounds as though they’re talking through a vacuum tube.

At the last COW meeting the camera was at a very low angle at the back of the room so the view was obliterated every time someone passed by within inches of the camera. In the meantime it was not possible to see all the council members or have a good view of the delegations. Councillor Fuller looked like he had a blue lump on his shoulder and it turned out to be Councillor Kipp.

For a $14 million dollar ‘Cadillac’ building, the audio and visual equipment is ‘Pinto’-like. There will be no audio for a while according to the City so we will just have to fill in the blanks with some wild speculation. There is no date when the audio equipment will be fixed.

New Nanaimo Fire Hall; skinny jeans, real estate frenzy

Next week there will be a Nanaimo COW (committee of the whole) meeting on Monday, May 8th at 4:30pm. Some topics of interest include building a new Nanaimo fire hall downtown, the E&N rail trail to Courtenay, and future uses of the Green Thumb Nursery lands.

Last week Council approved a tax increase of 1.5% and very briefly went over the 2016 Financial Statement:

  • $17.3 million operating surplus (accumulated) – up 1.5 million over 2015
  • $127 million in reserves – up 5 million from last year
  • $43.9 million debt – down 3 million from 2015
  • $634 million in tangible assets – up $11 million

In 2016 almost $152 million of property taxes were collected. The reserve accounts for 2016 include:

  • snow removal budget reserve $400,000
  • photocopy reserve $309,408
  • housing legacy reserve $2,415,652
  • Fire & Emergency reserve $2,047,367

Council discussion:

Hong: …Port of Nanaimo Centre…got a reduced rate so are we going to see a reduced rate for the other projects?…better rates?…

McKay: …better to ask that in the finance committee meeting…

Thorpe: …reserve funds…Old City Parking Reserve (what’s that for?)…

Staff:…it’s for Old City Quarter parking stalls…

New Fire Hall Downtown

The Council will look at a report on replacing or renovating Fire Hall #1 on Prideaux Street, which was built in 1966. It had seismic upgrades in 2000. The report favours building a new fire hall on the existing site with room for administration staff.

Some deficiencies at the fire hall include no accessible washrooms, no elevator (note the polished brass fire pole below), repairs needed to boiler, roof and concrete.

It is surprising to read that the ‘egress systems’ don’t meet current building codes. There is no sprinkler or fire alarm system in the building.  How could they not have proper exits or smoke detectors at a fire hall?

Fire Hall on Prideaux Street built in 1966

This approach is probably the most expensive way to go with a price tag of just under $20 million.

Red Circle is Fire Hall #1 to be rebuilt

This plan would require the temporary use of another building while part of the fire hall is torn down. Tune in next week for any updates.

Skinny Jeans and Real Estate Frenzy

skinny jeans with holes and no socks

What do ‘skinny jeans’ and the real estate frenzy have in common? Maybe tight times.

Skinny pants have usually coincided with economic upheaval – early 50s, early 60s, early 80s and now.

Skinny pants with holes in them and mens’  suits with no socks are now the norm.

How does this impoverished look meld with the escalating cost of housing across Canada? The real estate frenzy shows no sign of slowing down.

Note the skinny pants in the video at 3:35.

Budget Heckler; RDN Buffoonery; City Annex Condos; Old City Quarter Business Improvement

At the April 24th Council meeting there was the ‘Budget Heckler’, RDN ‘Buffoonery’ and approval of the Old City Quarter Business Improvement Area.

The next Nanaimo Council meeting will see the CFO go over the City’s financial statements  with a lice comb, which should be interesting. The establishment of a new economic development department, a new lease for the Nanaimo Yacht Club and plans for condos for the Old City Hall Annex Building, are also on the agenda.

No Public Hearing on tax increase

In the past there have been opportunities for the public to give their feedback on the budget for the coming year, but not this time. The Council is determined to keep tax hikes coming every year. What happened to the ideas in the $300,000 Core Services Review on ways to save money?

At the last council meeting  Councillor Brennan had several questions on the budget. Some councillors appeared defensive of the new tax increase of 1.5% while others had no comment. One heckler yelled at Councillor Brennan several times throughout the discussion.

Council discussion:

Brennan: …I will not support a budget that relies too heavily on reverse [billing]…This is a politically motivated budget… Are we adding any services?…RCMP? What are they asking for?… We are using reserves to keep our taxes lower…Two weeks ago we were facing a tax increase of 2.3% so where did we get the money to cover that?

Staff: …we could have kept the money in a debt reserve account but it was decided to use it to keep the taxes down…

Brennan: …there were several opportunities to reduce services this year as recommended by the Core Services Review…gender guarding eliminated [interrupted by heckler]…did we reap any savings out of that?

CFO: …can’t speak to that …no change has been made yet…

Brennan: …so the instructions were given but it has not yet been implemented?…

CFO: … it’s been implemented…

Brennan: …what about the closure of the Beban Pool during the summer?…going ahead with that?…

Staff: …it’s unclear…

Brennan: …Core Services Review? how much did that cost us?

Staff: …about $300,000…

Bestwick: ..I’ll try not be a bystander and ask that the member of the audience refrain from making comments while debate is taking place…We discussed road repairs, the worse weather in 20 years!…Finance committee is made up of all council and we asked staff to use reserves to cover the road repair budget….

Kipp: …we offered to have gender specific guarding as an overtime issue…we saved money on purchasing…I vote for this budget…some members of council are not attending  meetings (squints at Brennan)…Our wages have gone up 53%…In 20 years we will be $250 million short…we found $5 million in savings…We have to concern ourselves with climbing wages*…

*Reminder to readers that Council voted themselves a 3.35% increase to their base pay a year ago.

Hong: …we have to increase taxes…snow removal…

Brennan: …our staff has done a great job…no argument from me…but skinny budget…

Fuller: …I don’t think it is a political budget…$285 million shortfall for infrastructure over the next 20 years so hence the 1%*…we met and decided…staff did their job…

All voted in favour of the 1.5% increase in taxes for 2017 except Councillor Brennan.

*a 1% property tax is proposed every year until 2022 to cover infrastructure expenditures.

Old City Quarter Business Improvement area

At the last council meeting a new downtown association was approved called the “Old City Quarter Business Improvement Area”. A spokesperson representing the new group came to answer questions.

Council discussion:

Brennan: …to see this gone is a shame [DNBIA]…

Fuller: …I heard at the meeting that they [DNBIA] had $20,000 in the bank at the end…

Hong: sad to see it go…it was too big…too much…you need a lot of buy-in from the merchants…BIA 2 is looking to start forming again…good restart…

Thorpe:…hope we will see a new business downtown group…

Bestwick: …new events funding $150,000 for downtown festivals…

Fuller:…we are seeing another new group with the Victoria Crescent merchants…

Thorpe: …The rebirth of a new business improvement area…

New Economic Development Department

Council will vote on establishing an “in-house” economic development department on May 1st. It was in December 2016 that council shut down  the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.

This could save money with less office space and staff. BUT not if it all goes to more consulting fees! Why is it every time the City turns around it needs to hire more consultants?

Old City Annex building on Franklyn

There are plans to replace the Old City Annex building with a 5 storey, 46 unit, multi-family rental building. It will have commercial space at street level and 26 parking spaces accessible from Robson street.

Old City Annex building – new plans
New Wallace/Franklyn building

Councillor Fuller gets seat on RDN

Last week’s Council meeting got off to a rocky start with Councillors trying to decide who should replace Councillor Pratt’s vacant seat at the RDN board.

Councillor Kipp got hot under the collar accusing the Mayor of playing politics, calling the process “buffoonery”.

Mayor McKay said that they have not been following policy by alternating the RDN board position.

Councillor Thorpe mentioned that Council hasn’t had a primary alternate for the RDN position. He said that while one person had an edge with the number of votes, the other had more years of experience. He nominated Councillor Brennan.

Councillor Hong  said they alternated with Brennan because of Fuller’s health issues.

Councillor Bestwick suggested that there should be a policy to protect them from this mess.

After almost 30 minutes of talking Council voted to go with the person who had received  the most votes at the last municipal election which was Councillor Fuller.

Word of the night goes to Councillor Kipp for “buffoonery”. What will it be next week?

City Clerk Wanted

Clerk Clerk Ad

This job ad for a City Clerk was posted in the Nanaimo News Bulletin. Why does this position have such high turnover?

Some departments are all men, some are all women; maybe they should mix things up a little.

 

Garbage, Taxes, Square One and Oceanview Golf Course

The big question for Nanaimo residents is how much will property taxes be going up this year. Will it be 1.5%? There is a Nanaimo Council meeting planned for Monday, April 24th. Property taxes are set to go up every year as follows:

Tax increaseYear
1.5%2017
2.1%2018
2.5%2019
2.4%2020
1.5%2021

2017 Property tax increase 1.5%

Why are taxes expected to go up 1.5% this year? Here are some of the reasons the City needs more money:

  • $1 million for General Asset Management Fund
  • $1.3 million for 2 new positions* and wage/benefits increases for all staff
  • $349,000 for RCMP
  • $393,000 for snow removal
  • $288,000 for road repairs

If the market value of your home has increased by more than 13.6% then your property tax increase will be higher than 1.5%.

In addition, there are RDN taxes as well as user fees. Taxes are due July 4, 2017.

*two new positions are Social Planner and Communication and Digital Content Specialist

User fee 2017 increases

User fees are also going up this year:

  • 5% increase for sewer
  • 7.5% increase for water
  • 2% increase for garbage

There was a presentation on the new automated garbage system at the last COW meeting. Unfortunately, the bulk of the garbage discussion was behind closed doors so the details of this massive upgrade are not known. Here are some highlights from the presentation:

  • garbage, recycling and organics to be collected by city staff
  • yard waste will be included soon
  • both sides of new trucks can be filled with different material
  • door to curb service available for residents with mobility issues
  • possible glass collection in the future
  • Cost is $169 for first year and $131 for years 2 thru 5

Council discussion:

Hong: …Who owns the carts …if it breaks who replaces it?

Staff: …The City…

Hong: …Is there one rate for yard waste and organics?

Staff: …estimated prices…

Thorpe: …public engagement?

Staff: …will be at public events…information with carts…stickers on carts…

Kipp: …no separate bins for parks, no recycling bins in parks?…

Staff: The RDN has an upcoming program…

Kipp: …Seven of us sit on RDN so we know what’s going on…City has trash everywhere …

Bestwick: …organics and yard waste pick up weekly?…

Staff: Yes

Hong: …are we going to save money? …options of bin sizes? …cost?

Staff: RFP for carts soon…

Bestwick: ..pick up days?…rotate as usual?

Staff: …looking at options…

Yoachim: …high price…but a service we need…City purchased 6 trucks before…not well thought out (not you)…people suffered [worker injuries]…[now] handcuffed to buy these new trucks…

McKay: …split packers…heavy loads…millions of dollars in bins and trucks…West Kelowna private rates $185…they are paying more than us…How much yard waste can you put in? …

Staff: 1″ or 1/2″ diameter branches can go in…grinder to mulch down…

McKay: …are commercial and multi family units going to use multi bins…what about front of house restaurant waste?…

Staff: RDN, that’s their area…free zero waste services for groups holding events…

Kipp: …Our dump is full…What about diversion?…We need to take it away from Vancouver Island…DBL has high diversion rate…Garbage should be sent back to stores like WalMart [where it came from]…

Kipp: …we have never voted on this in public…We never had a real debate we just had the presentation…I am disappointed that we voted about this garbage program behind closed doors…Therefore, I vote against receiving this presentation…I am registering this with the police (points to city clerk)…

Councillors Kipp and Fuller opposed to receiving presentation…

Organic Waste 20 Year Contract

RDN looks to negotiate long-term deal for organic waste for processsing. Nanaimo Organic Waste Ltd. plans to do an upgrade that will reduce odours but they need the RDN to enter into a 20 year deal to make it worthwhile.

Mayor’s report

At the last Council meeting, Mayor McKay showed slides of two new ships that Seaspan purchased for runs between the Mainland and Duke Point. These are truck ferries that can carry several containers at once. The ships will be put into service on May 5th. Will these ships be used to carry garbage for the incinerator proposed for Duke Point?

LED Street Lights

The City is planning on switching street lights to LED (Light Emitting Diode). You can check these lights on April 25th at the VICC from 8pm to 10pm.

A study was completed for the City by consultants for an unknown amount. The switch would have a potential of savings of $200,000 per year in energy and $25,000 in maintenance costs.

Council By-election

July 8th is “Election Day” in Nanaimo to fill the Council seat left vacant by Wendy Pratt. It will cost approximately $150,000 for the election process.

The final results of the March 11, 2017 referendum revealed that 35.3% of eligible residents voted.

End of Square One

Square One was to be a techno hub but ended up being a ‘hot desk’ facility. It was set up under the last Council by NEDCorp. Unfortunately, this type of startup takes a lot of money and needs many groups to ‘buy in’ to make it work. There was a presentation at the last COW meeting.  Here are the highlights:

Closing Square One costs:

  • $115,000 lost in 2016
  • $147,000 to close lease
  • $5,800 furniture lease

Council discussion:

Brennan: …canvassed the industry?…Best idea?…no desire to make it an incubator facility?

Staff: …not feasible…

Hong: …internet service, $6,000 savings?…

Bestwick: …fiber optic service $5,840 a month for 500mb – 1 office had 5x times greater contract? … this contract was done on a 7 year term?

Fuller: …How are we saving money? …we are paying more…looks like we are paying $82,000 more per year…I wouldn’t call it a savings…

CFO: …we can’t get out of the contract…

Coastal Douglas Fir

A presentation was made from a group called Coastal Douglas Fir and Associated Ecosystems Conservation Partnership (CDFCP).

The speaker talked about the Coastal Douglas Fir zone which is endangered as only 9% is protected and less than 1% of the old growth remains.  Also, 80% of Coastal Douglas Fir lands are in private hands which doesn’t include forest company holdings.

The speaker asked if the land at Oceanview Golf Resort and Spa in Cedar were to come before the community that Council members consider planning practices. Councillor Bestwick requested a report from staff on the topic.

Map of Coastal Douglas Fir

Below is a 2009 video about the proposed Oceanview Golf Resort and Spa.

Nanaimo Council and The Arrest – a new documentary?

On November 21, 2016 Councillor Kipp spoke angrily to Councillor Pratt while holding up a copy of the allegedly leaked email in which Mayor McKay listed each councillor’s shortcomings. At one point in his tirade he leaned in her direction and pointed his pen at her.

“…I hope they read this and see what it does. Oh there’s your faces again, you’re beautiful, you’re such a pretty aesthetically pleasing person when you make those [faces].
You turned your back when Billy was talking. The man’s harmed and you don’t give a shit, woman. You are the biggest bully I’ve ever met, under a little sheep’s clothing…”

Why did Kipp feel it was necessary to stand up for Councillor Yoachim whom he referred to as “Billy”? Did he not think that Councillor Yoachim was capable of standing up for himself?

Mayor McKay made a brief attempt to interject but otherwise said nothing. Not one of the other Councillors who were sitting around the table intervened. By saying nothing, the others at the table gave the indication that were in agreement with Councillor Kipp.

A petition has been launched by a group called Women Watching Nanaimo at https://www.change.org/p/nanaimo-city-council-nanaimo-women-deserve-better.

“We, the citizens of Nanaimo, call upon Councillor Kipp to publicly apologize immediately to the women of Nanaimo or to resign immediately. His behaviour is part of a culture at Nanaimo City Hall that is both openly and quietly hostile to women, and we will no longer be represented by such aggressive and misogynistic behaviour.”

It is also noteworthy that the only other woman in the above video, the City Clerk, appeared to also be the victim of bullying at Council meetings, and she is no longer there.

The Arrest

Recently, rumours have abounded as to why Councillor Pratt resigned. According to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, she was the council member arrested for assaulting a staff member at City Hall.

At the time of the assault was there a 911 call made? Or was someone at the Nanaimo RCMP detachment contacted directly and did they order Councillor Pratt’s arrest?

Considering the Nanaimo RCMP have the municipal contract to perform policing services for the City, can they arrest a city politician without being in conflict of duty?

The Independent Investigations Office which opened in 2012 only investigates police incidents involving death or serious harm, but perhaps their mandate will have to be widened to look into matters such as this.

Will this matter be studied in the future? Or maybe Nanaimo will get its own documentary, The Arrest; similar to the one which focused on an incident at Hamilton City Hall, The Push.

Councillor Pratt, Greater Nanaimo Harbour Association, DNBIA, 2.3% tax increase

There was some lively discussion at last week’s Nanaimo Council meeting regarding the formation of a new harbour society, the Greater Nanaimo Harbour Association. Council also heard from a group concerned about the dissolution of DNBIA assets and discussed ducking the environment.

The big news this week was the upcoming property tax increase and Councillor Pratt’s resignation.

Greater Nanaimo Harbour Association

A speaker representing a new harbour group called the Greater Nanaimo Harbour Association is hoping to take over control from the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA). The speaker asked Council for its support.

Note: In 1981, the federal government scrapped the National Harbours Board and created the Canada Ports Corporation. Each former NHB (National Harbours Board) port became a Local Port Corporation (LPC).

Council discussion:

Yoachim: …do you have support from SFN [Snuneymuxw First Nation]?

Speaker:…we are talking to them…

Brennan: …do we have a report from staff on this?

Thorpe: …I agree with Brennan…until we hear from staff…there are other projects we have with NPA…

Speaker: …this is much larger than a rate issue…decay of the harbour…poor relationship…

Thorpe:…we have an important relationship with NPA…

Speaker: …a number of projects are not happening…money is not being invested in the port…community is losing…crisis…

Bestwick: (reads motion)…Council supports the Greater Nanaimo Waterfront Association’s [sic] efforts to work with SFN, City of Nanaimo, RDN and marine industry and the community at large to form a not for profit society tasked with becoming the official stewards of the waterfront…

Yoachim: …I support this motion…we run the risk of privatization of our port…

Hong: …this is going to be a long process…public input…open houses…if the federal government is getting out of running the ports then we should jump on it…

CFO: …the staff report will be disappointing…We would need resources to advise you…we don’t know what is possible and what is not…The City has not been asked to take a position on this; the City is ignorant….we don’t have the staff to advise you on this file…

Thorpe: …I can’t support the motion…rushed…I need more information…

Fuller: …I don’t see this as rushing…it will take a long time…partners will have to give input…City will have to give input…we have some great staff and they can figure it out…I support the motion…

Support vs Explore

Brennan: …I am not clear on the motion…’council supports efforts to form a non-profit society’…it doesn’t give an opportunity for advice from staff…I have an obligation to the people of Nanaimo…I don’t disagree…significant decision…I can’t support it…this is a big task…we don’t have the staff to look at this…

Bestwick: …the motion as it reads is to support the GWNA to work with the community…it’s a process that needs to start…at the end of the day they are asking us to see if this can work…not a coup…if we don’t get going…it will be lost …I will support the motion…

Brennan: …if the wording were…to ‘explore’ the efforts…once you use ‘support’ you commit…We have time to consult with staff…my role is to request information from staff…I would make a motion to amend it to read…council ‘explores’ efforts…I support something less directive…

Yoachim: …we are a harbour city…it works in Victoria…lots of experts here…

CFO: …it’s a complex issue…need funding for this…our role is to provide you with information…but we are not in a position to advise you…

McKay: …this is to overthrow the NPA…we haven’t met all the groups yet…What is the role of Transport Canada? How are they involved?…we need a discussion with other groups…most groups occupy provincial leases…Where is the provincial government on this? …There are only a handful of federal leases in Nanaimo…we need to find out where we are…

Councillor Brennan’s amendment to the motion was defeated. Voting in favour of the original motion were Councillors Kipp,  Fuller, Bestwick, Yoachim and Hong. Opposed were Councillors Thorpe, Brennan and Mayor McKay.

Announcement

Below is some breaking news:

To refresh our readers’ memory, the City of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo Port Authority planned to sell off the harbour for $9 million in 2013.

DNBIA Questions

At the April 3rd regular Council meeting a speaker raised several questions about the DNBIA.

  • was the DNBIA dissolved correctly?
  • DNBIA collected $3 million over the last 16 years – has it been accounted for?
  • what happened to the DNBIA assets?

The speaker had concerns that the same DNBIA group would set up a new group and didn’t want the new group getting any more money.

Council discussion:

Kipp: …[the amount of] money invested by the City into the DNBIA is disturbing…What happened to that money?…What has happened to their equipment?…

CFO: …we changed the way the money was going to be directed…funding is still going to be there to fund events downtown…

Bestwick: …no closure of assets…?

CFO: …no simple accounting received yet…

Bestwick: Who takes the next step?

CFO: …we’re not at the audit stage yet…

Fuller: …concerns the way this was handled…The City contributed a lot of money to the DNBIA…this should be looked into deeply…

Brennan: …be careful how Council talks about groups…

Fuller: Is anyone offended by what I said?

At this point Mayor Mckay closed the discussion.

Ducking the Environment

At the same April 3rd meeting there were a number of approvals of watercourse setbacks that went beyond standard zoning recommendations.

A request was made to council for a watercourse setback in order to allow for renovations at 3100 Hammond Bay Road.

A portion of the house and the entire garage were located inside a 15 metre watercourse setback boundary and unfortunately for the new owners this was non-conforming. A stop work order was issued in September 2016 because work was done within the watercourse setback zone.

In order for the stop work order to be removed and the renovations to be completed they needed approval from Council.

Council discussion:

Hong: …what’s the problem?…

Brennan:… this property was subject to a 1 year long investigation by our Environment Committee (now disbanded) and environmental organizations in town…We should first  work on ways to avoid a setback variance…protect riparian areas…we value our waterfront…very important issue…that is why having an Environmental Committee to advise us was so very important …The Environmental Committee said that this area [at Hammond Bay Road] was very important and I am honouring that…so I can’t support it…

Councillor Brennan’s amendment to the motion to not include a lower deck was defeated. Councillors Kipp, Yoachim, Hong, Bestwick, Thorpe, and Fuller approved the original motion and Brennan opposed. Mayor McKay didn’t vote.

What has replaced the Environmental Committee? Port Alberni has a Food Security and Climate Disruption Committee to deal with issues around rising sea levels, plants for bees, use of pesticides, etc.

2.3% Property Tax Increase

A 2.3% property tax increase for 2017 will be presented to Council at the next Finance Committee meeting on April 12th. The property tax increase does not include the proposed increase to user fees for garbage, sewer and water.

There was a Finance Committee meeting on April 5th and a 20 year plan for collecting money was presented. The goal is to continue with a 1% property tax increase every year for infrastructure. The money would go into a General Asset Management Fund until 2022.

There were presentations from three staff members. They went into details around Development Cost Charges (DCCs) and user fees.

Development Cost Charges

The City is working on a new rate structure for Development Cost Charges. Development Cost Charges are collected to offset the infrastructure needs of new developments. These would include sewer, water, roads, drainage, and parkland.

The City recommends a reduced DCC rate for new small lot developments. Currently, all single family lots regardless of size are charged the same DCC rates.

DCCs are waived in the downtown core. It’s unclear if this will change. A new bylaw should be ready in June. The goal is to raise $117 million in DCC’s over the next 20 years.

New Capital Projects

The City plans to spend approximately $1.1 billion over the next 20 years on general infrastructure, sewer and water projects. So far they have allocated $794 million which means the City needs to raise another $258 million. Where will the City find that money?

Next year the City plans to spend approximately $10 million on sewer upgrades. There are 10 water projects planned for a cost of $135 million.

User fees

User fees will go up to $146 per household for garbage. This is to pay for 7 new automated garbage trucks and bins at $7.4 million. All of Nanaimo will have this service by July 2018.

Over the next three months the City will pay a U.S. based consultant $75,000 to study user fees. Water, sewer, and garbage won’t be included in the study. Possibly, the consultant may study water and sewer rates next year.

Why are these important financial presentations not at open Council meetings? Taxes and user fees impact everyone.

Councillor Pratt resigns

Mayor McKay issued a statement on Friday that Councillor Pratt resigned.

Councillor Pratt appeared to be energetic, enthusiastic and prepared at Council meetings until recently when she looked to be frustrated and dejected.

In the fall of 2016 Pratt asked some very hard questions regarding the City jail guard layoffs.

In November 2016, Councillor Kipp verbally disparaged Councillor Pratt at a public Council meeting. Later, Pratt was quoted in the Nanaimo News Now as saying “outbursts of anger and verbal attacks in public settings are becoming acceptable behaviour for some on Nanaimo council”.

Was Councillor Pratt intentionally bullied out of her job so that her seat on Council could be filled by someone who is socially conservative?

Now there is just one woman left on Nanaimo Council, Councillor Brennan who was also bullied at Council meetings and told to ‘shut up’. She is one of the only Council members who has regularly spoken out about environmental and social justice issues.

Civic politics is often difficult, dangerous and dirty. When the boat gets rocked people don’t like it.

In addition to the City’s lawsuit against the Mayor, the City launched an RCMP investigation into a Council member’s actions and in December a criminal defense lawyer, Mark Jetté, was hired to be a special prosecutor. According to the Times Colonist, Jetté said that no charges have been laid so far and it is not possible to estimate the time this matter will take.

Does this smell like another Health Firings scandal? Will the City end up having to pay out damages? Will the costs of these lawsuits and legal actions be noted separately in the City’s financial statements?

Incidentally, Jetté defended Su Bin, a Chinese businessman and Canadian resident charged by the U.S. government for hacking into computers belonging to Boeing and other companies.

April 10th COW meeting topics

Coming up on Monday night there will be a COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting at City Hall. Some topics on the agenda include:

    • cancelling the $80 million loan application for the Events Centre
    • spending $450,000 for a 5 year IT software contract for Parks & Rec
    • proposal for new hotel at old Jean Burns building site
    • introduction to the Douglas-fir and Associated Ecosystems Partnership