Trent Ernst, Editor
Present: Mayor Wren, Councillors McPherson (Chair) Litster, Leggett, Caisley, Snyder
South Peace Community Resources Society
Arden Smith, Department Manager for Family Safety, Counselling and Support Services and Jane Harper, Executive Director came before council to request a partnership with Tumbler Ridge on the Police Based Victim Services Programme in Tumbler Ridge.
According to Smith, the coordinator is currently working 21 hours a week, but not everything happens from nine to five three days a week, and so they are hoping to add in a few on-call hours every week.
One option is to cut back on the existing hours. The other option is to find an alternative source of funding. Last year, they were able to do this because the current coordinator didn’t work the full 21 hours for the first year or so of the contract, but now that extra money has run out.
They are currently working a similar partnership in Dawson Creek, where the city funds about 60 percent over what SPCRs get from Ministry of Justice. According to Smith, there is a couple hours per week designated for administration, but that needs to be there because of the strict reporting policies needed on the contract.
Mayor Wren says that the District already provides an amount in the form of a Grant-in-Aid request for training. This amount is included in this presentation, says Harper.
Mayor Wren says that this is a provincial responsibility. The municipality has already funded training which wouldn’t happen. “If there isn’t additional money from the province, I don’t know that the municipality should pick up the slack.”
Harper says that from the beginning, there has always been the assumption that the municipality should be picking up a portion of this contract. “Originally there had to be matched funding,” she says, but that formula has gone by the wayside. “We are already fundraising to pick up the deficit this year.”
A lot of cost from the province is being dumped back down on the municipalities, says Mayor Wren. A lot of cost is being dumped on SPRCRS, too, says Harper. Wren asks what would happen if a local organization were to manage the contract? Harper says the reason why SPRCRS is managing these contracts is that the local organizations dropped them. “We’ve never competed in Tumbler or Chetwynd against a local organization,” she says, “but I think that ship has sailed.” Besides, she says, there is some cost saving to having one group managing all these contracts, as you only have to pay one person to run all the contracts.
Mayor Wren says that he is struggling with the idea of covering more of what should be provincial funding, but it’s an important service for residents. Harper says SPCRS can manage without additional funding by cutting back hours and converting them to on-call.
Zoning Bylaw Amendment #613
Kees Van DeBurgt has come to discuss the proposed bylaw amendment. He starts off by expressing disappointment that he’s the only one to do so. “I am most disappointed that the Chamber of Commerce is not here.”
Van DeBurgt says he’s going to sound like a broken record, but he’s the only one there. “I don’t know what the answer is. I know that changing the zoning bylaw isn’t it. It won’t work. It can’t work.” He produces a letter from his bank, saying that they believe the price of his property will drop if a more restrictive bylaw is imposed. “I think the whole bylaw is counter-productive, even for new construction,” he says. “Developers are going to be shying away.”
The unit he rented to Peace River Coal has been a good thing for his business. The furniture he stocked was not selling, as the mines aren’t buying houses.
He agrees that rent is too high for retailers. “I’ll be the first one to tell you that. You can’t be a small retailer and pay the rent I need to pay the bank. But you cannot penalize me for that. I do the best I can. I really don’t think that retail, with the population we have…it’s going to be awfully tough. Even at 13 or 14 dollars, it would be tough. We’re living in a different world than in the 1980s and 1990s. By putting this bylaw into place, you just scare away developers and banks as well.”
Van DeBurgt argues that it’s better for the town and for the District to have a new building with more office than retail than to not to have any new building. “For a developer to come here, they wouldn’t put the shovel into the ground until they had sixty percent occupancy. It’s better to have that building built and collect taxes than not have it. I know that you don’t want the mines downtown, but it was a great help to have the mine move into my building.”
Councillor McPherson wonders why retail isn’t happening. “Talking about the old Quintette days, the downtown was alive with retail,” he says. “We don’t have any fewer people now.”
Van DeBurgt says that online shopping has changed the game. “I talk to people who say to me ‘I got all my Christmas shopping done and I didn’t leave my house.’ You didn’t have that in those days. Times have changed. The dollar store is an established business, but we are in decline. It’s a totally different world.”
Councillor McPherson says that out-of-town shopping is also hurting the town. “When people go out of town to shop, they buy everything out of town, which hurts you, but we’ve got to try something.”
Van DeBurgt says he understands that all too well, but he’s still not sure that having retail in town would help. “The best scenario is if we can keep people from going out of town but that doesn’t take away from online shopping. I would feel very sorry for someone who tries to start a retail store.”
Van DeBurgt says that he recently needed a part for his alarm system. “I couldn’t install it myself. I had to get someone from Fort St. John. You know how much it cost? It cost $130 for the part, $75 for the labour and 700 bucks in travel.”
Councillor McPherson asks: “Do you think Council should say the computers are taking over so let’s forget downtown?”
Van DeBurgt says council should do what it can to revitalize the downtown. His only point is “don’t hurt me when you do it.”
Mayor Wren says it is not their intention to cause harm. And he doesn’t know what role online shopping plays in it. “But I know when we did the planning, the number one thing we were asked was to make the town diversified, and without a downtown core…the strategy is to bring in new retail and help everyone, including you. We put out some ideas and what we’ve heard is not to do certain things. But what options would make a difference? If we see a downturn in mining, I know that the businesses are going to come and say ‘what did you do to protect us?’ We need to look at five years, ten years down the road and make sure the community is viable in the future. This is not an easy problem.”
Van DeBurgt says more restrictions isn’t going to help. “The biggest problem is population. The times have changed so that 2000 people are not enough.”
Mayor Wren says if that is the case, the law of supply and demand should dictate that the rates should be going down. Why has the price of spaces gone up?
Councillor Leggett compares the market here to the market in Whistler, where there were no rules, and the place got bought up by out of town investors, and people who want to live and work there can’t afford it. “The price is being influenced by people with the capacity to outbid anyone else.” Then he points to Jasper where the rule is if you don’t live there, if you don’t work there, you can’t own there. “Maybe these people (in Tumbler Ridge) should have restrictions on them, too. Does that line of thought make sense to you? We have the equivalent of a wealthy Asian buyer coming here and buying up the property. ”
Vandeburght says he made the conscious decision to build his own building. “I brought in retail,” he says. “I brought in Subway. And all I want to do is be left alone so that I can make it or break it on my own. I was given a list of what businesses were allowed and no other. If I wanted to bring in something that wasn’t on the list, I couldn’t. And if I can’t change that, why should you be able to?”
Mayor Wren says the District didn’t lower taxes fifty percent with the end result of having mining and union offices downtown. “The notion was to have more businesses downtown. If that isn’t working, then why are we doing it?”
Zoning Bylaw Amendment #613
The letters that were sent to the previous week’s meeting are duplicated this week for information. They are as follows: letter dated March 11, 2014 from Kees Van DeBurgt of KC’s Dollar Store and More; letter dated March 11, 2014 from Anthony Boos, Royal LePage / Cascade Realty; and letter dated March 12, 2014 from Al Kopeck, Koals Holdings Ltd.
Community Paramedic Initiative
Council received correspondence from Minister Terry Lake, Ministry of Health, regarding a Community Paramedic Initiative in Tumbler Ridge.
Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Project
Council received correspondence from Brian Westgate, Project Assessment Manager, advising that Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd.’s application for an environmental assessment has been formally accepted and the review process has begun.
Canada Post – Elimination of Home Mail Delivery
Council received a letter from Derek Corrigan, Mayor of Burnaby, advising that a copy of the “Community Impacts of the Proposal to Eliminate Home Mail Delivery Service by the Canadian Post Corporation” report is enclosed.
Minerals North 2016 – Host Community
A letter of support was received from Karen Goodings, Chair, Peace River Regional District in support of hosting the Minerals North Conference.
Ripple Rock Elementary School
The principal of Ripple Rock Elementary School on Vancouver Island sent a letter saying that Tumbler Ridge had been selected as a project for the Grade 5 Social Studies Class. Council votes to send them a package of information and material from Tumbler Ridge.
Town Hall Meetings
While this was discussed at the previous meeting, a date needs to be set. Mayor Wren argues that it should stick with previous formula, as that was the best attended Town Hall meeting ever. May 22 is set as a potential date.
Policies & Priorities Committee
Council is going to cancel the PPC meeting scheduled for April 9, 2014 due to a) the PRLGA being held the evening of April 9, 2014 in Dawson Creek; and b) the Corporate Officer and Deputy Corporate Officer will be away at a conference. “If anything time sensitive comes up, we can schedule a special meeting,” says Mayor Wren.
Northern Lights College
Councillor Litster leaves as Mayor Wren discusses an article in the Chetwynd Echo about possible cutbacks to the college. He is concerned that this might happen without any consultation and discussion, especially when the Northeast is being told to prepare for more and more industrial activity. He says he received a request from Laurie Rancourt, president of Northern Lights, to have a meeting on April 15. “I don’t know what that’s about but I’m worried that this may be a fait accompli by then, so I contacted her office to request we have a meeting earlier. I contacted our MLA to get him working on it. But we need to make it clear that we won’t stand for any reduction to our college.”