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Local New Westminster

What’s Coming to New West Council on June 21, 2021

A new name for the new Canada Games Pool (maybe!), mail in ballots in the next municipal election, BRING DOWN THE WALL, Monkey Rebel, and the worst motion I’ve ever seen.

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Council Meeting on June 21, 2021, and here are some highlights on what they will be looking at.

Establishing the name for the future Aquatic & Community Centre

The Canada Games Pool is being replaced by what’s currently known as the New Westminster Aquatic & Community Centre. That won’t be its name though, the City is going through a process to come up with a different one.

Unfortunately for you, reader, the report for this item has not been attached to the council package so nobody yet knows what the name is going to be, or if they’re even saying what the name is yet!

2020 Statement of Financial Information

If you want to take a look at where the City spent its (your?) money in 2020, here’s your chance.

Some people in the community will undoubtedly see the “accumulated surplus” of nearly $800 million and then say NEW WESTMINSTER IS RICH WHY DO YOU KEEP RAISING PROPERTY TAXES without realizing that the overwhelming majority of that is locked up in what are called “tangible capital assets”, which are things like land, buildings, vehicles, sewer pipes, that sort of thing. So no, New West isn’t stinking rich.

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Report for 2020

In 2020 New Westminster received 88 freedom of information requests and received just over $3,000 in fees for those requests.

Public Solicitation Request by HOPE International

If you want to go door-knocking to ask people to donate to your non-profit, you need a permit. There are some guidelines around these permits, and sometimes a request comes through that doesn’t meet the guidelines and has to go through Council for approval.

In this case HOPE International, a New Westminster base charity that funds clean water, has submitted the permit application but because it hasn’t been brought within the timelines outlined in the policy, Council has to approve the permit.

Increasing Equity in Voting: Mail Ballot Voting for Local Government Elections

To make voting more equitable, City staff is recommending that council directs the City Clerk to bring forward amendments to the Election Procedures Bylaw to enable mail ballot voting in Local Government Elections, along with directing staff to implement a mail balloting system for the election coming up in 2022.

This has been recommended because mail-in ballots can reduce barriers to voting, increase voter turnout, and help seniors and persons with disabilities who cannot get out to vote.

65 East Sixth Avenue: Development Variance Permit for Modification to Parking Requirements

The Fire Hall at Sixth Avenue and McBride Boulevard has a storage structure that they’re not moving, so as part of the New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre parking lot was going to be there but now it won’t, the original Development Variance Permit needs to be thrown away and a new one needs to be put into place to say that the NWACC needs to have a minimum of 386 parking spaces instead of 413.

9 East Columbia Street: Heritage Alteration Permit

The Pattullo Bridge is being replaced, and as a part of that project Columbia Street is being realigned. The project wants to align it right overtop the heritage Woodlands Wall, which they’re proposing to bring down and rebuild north of where it is now.

The existing Woodlands Wall at Columbia & McBride
Proposed patio at Columbia & McBride in New Westminster
Detail of the proposed patio and multi-use path at the corner of Columbia & McBride

I’ve only been angry at this wall since at least 2014 so I’m sarcastically happy to see that it only took a billion dollar bridge replacement project to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at this intersection. I’m actually happy that it didn’t take someone being seriously injured or killed to get change here — I’ve nearly been struck at least twice, and I know of a lot of other community members who have nearly been struck by inattentive or uncaring drivers.

I am annoyed that one of the two targeted consultation groups is focused on heritage, and there’s no targeted consultation with pedestrian and cycling advocates. Again, the bias of heritage trumping safety shines through.

100 Braid Street: Housing Agreement Bylaw

The new building going in at 100 Braid Street will be a combination of market and affordable rental, and this bylaw will be put into place to ensure that the units remain rental for 60 years or the life of the building, whichever is longer, and that the affordable units remain so for 16 years in accordance with CMHC’s affordability criteria and requirements.

Environmental Strategy and Action Plan Progress Report

The City is doing a bunch of work to make New Westminster one of the most sustainable cities in British Columbia. This report outlines progress to date, including:

  • implementation of Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code, which puts requirements on the environmental impacts of new construction
  • reducing water consumption in corporate irrigation systems
  • supporting activities that protect the natural environment, such as the Glenbrook Ravine Restoration project
2021 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level

The snowpack is still above normal levels, but the flood risk from snowmelt alone has dissipated. Heavy rainfall events can still trigger flooding, and the risk of significant rainfall in the Fraser River basin is still high.

Albert Crescent Park Maintenance Update
One of the Albert Crescent Park signs placed by Monkey Rebel

A few weeks ago some signs popped up in Albert Crescent Park that drew attention to the removal of a tree, overgrown vegetation, and litter and garbage in the park. Some other signs popped up that linked to Monkey Rebel, so the City contacted Monkey Rebel (I am not going to stop saying Monkey Rebel) and Monkey Rebel provided a list of changes they wanted to see to the park. City staff have done some of these!

Good job Monkey Rebel!

Canada Day 2021 Update

There will be some things going on in New Westminster for Canada Day while acknowledging and recognizing that the colonizing history of Canada resulted in people doing absolutely terrible things to the people who already lived on this land, and that Canada Day should be a day to reflect on the entire history of the country and the people who where here first instead of just being about waving flags and watching fireworks.

Motion: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Applications in the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area

The Queens Park Residents Association doesn’t like Heritage Revitalization Agreements because they’re used to very gently increase density in the Queens Park neighbourhood, so they wrote a letter to Council to ask them to stop HRAs. Mayor Cote took this letter and has presented a motion to Council to temporarily suspend HRAs in Queens Park, which effectively turns “very gently increase density” into “don’t increase density at all”.

This is a disappointing motion to see come forward, as HRAs have been used over the past few months to preserve the Queens Park Deli and allow a 1907 pre-fab home to be preserved at the cost of slightly more living and working space. They’re not being used to knock down houses to build towers, they’re not even being used to knock down houses to build townhomes, they’re being used to preserve existing homes and occasionally add a little bit more space to a laneway house that’s already allowed.

This, apparently, is even too much for the delicate sensibilities of Queens Park, where an HRA to allow a laneway house that’s 958 square feet instead of 475 square feet is an affront to heritage and will ruin the entire neighbourhood because god forbid a family would move into that laneway house.

The motion also says that this would be “temporary” but there is absolutely nothing in the motion putting an end to this suspension on gentle density other than “until a revised HRA policy is in place” which means that they can continue to kick that can down the road as higher priority items come up and knock this down the priority list.

What a terrible motion. I mean, I see “heritage” and I think “oh here we go the riches are getting riled up again” but Heritage Revitalization Agreements have been used in the past to allow more heritage to be protected while at the same time adding a little bit more housing in New Westminster, and now that little bit is being taken away?

Terrible.