What’s Coming to New West Council on February 8, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Meeting on February 8, 2021, and here are some highlights of what’s on the agenda.

Draft 2021 – 2025 Financial Plan

This is the big ticket item for this week’s meeting. The Financial Plan lays out the financial plan (obviously) for the next five years, something required by law of every municipality in British Columbia. The key takeaways the general public and press fixate on are:

  • 4.9% property tax increase for 2021
  • Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste rate increases of 7%, 7%, and 12%, respectively, for 2021

General Fund operating expenses (this is basically the cost of keeping the City running) are about $138 million, broken down to the nearest million dollars:

  • Police Services, $33 million
  • Engineering, $28 million
  • General Government, $25 million
  • Parks and Recreation, $22 million
  • Fire & Rescue, $18 million
  • Development Services, $7 million
  • Library, $5 million

General Fund capital expenses (this is basically the cost of building new things like the Canada Games Pool) are about $125 million for what are called “2021 project commitments”. They’ll spend about $66 million in 2021 and the remaining $59 million in 2021 (since, y’know, buildings like the new Canada Games Pool take longer than a year to build).

If you’ve got opinions on the Draft Financial Plan, there’s a handy form included in the Council Package, so fill it out and send it in to the Finance Department before February 22, 2021 and let them know what you think!

Design Variance Permit Application for 632 Carnarvon Street

The applicant wants to open a licensed child care facility for 3- to 5-year olds, and licensed child care facilities are required by Fraser Health to have a certain amount of outdoor play space. The applicant wants to convert part of the parking lot into this outdoor play space, which means that they’ll have fewer parking spaces than their zoning requires.

Play space for children instead of storage for vehicles? That sounds good to me. If you’ve got opinions you can send in an email to Council before the meeting.

Landscaping Guidelines for Laneway Houses in Queen’s Park

Also known as The Great Chain Link Fence Fiasco of 2021, if you’re building a new house in Queen’s Park you’re not allowed to just install whatever type of fence you want because the neighbours won’t like it because it doesn’t match their faux-heritage colonial styles.

In this report to Council city staff have said that the builder will be planting a hedge along the hideous chain link fence. The report does not outline what type of hedge will be planted and if the specific hedge meets with the entire neighbourhood’s approval for being “heritage enough”.

To tie this into the Draft Financial Plan, if you’re one of those people who think that the City is “wasting” money on staff salaries, consider that City staff had to spend time and money researching and writing this report about a chain link fence that is hardly visible from the street. But hey, the Heritage Conservation Area is super important and we need to ensure everything in Queen’s Park looks the same and projects the same British colonial feeling, right, no matter what the cost?

I look forward to a Queen’s Park resident petitioning Council because their neighbour bought a car that doesn’t match the neighbourhood heritage.

Westminster Pier Park – Fire Recovery Update

In September 2020 part of Westminster Pier Park burned down.

The City has insurance coverage, and has so far spent just under $3 million on cleanup, with another $1.7 million projected to be spent.

The part of the park that burned down had the only reliable emergency access to Pier Park. Before the remaining portion of Pier Park can be opened, this emergency access needs to be restored, and City staff have been working with CP Rail to establish this access. This emergency access is the primary blocker towards the park re-opening, and that is expected to happen sometime in April 2021.

Motion regarding Capital City Arcade

The Capital City Arcade on East Columbia Street is trying to get a Liquor Primary license, and the City has a motion on the table recommending the issuance of that Liquor Primary license.