Policies and Priorities Meeting, November 14

Trent Ernst, Editor

Present Councillor Krakowka (Chair) Mayor McPherson, Councillors Howe, Kirby, Caisley

CORRESPONDENCE

ADOPTION AWARENESS MONTH – NOVEMBER

Council received correspondence from Stephanie Cadeaux, Minister of Children and Family Development, asking the District to help raise awareness about adoption.

FIFTH ANNUAL TRUCK LIGHT PARADE & FOOD DRIVE

The Village of Pouce Coupe invited the District to participate in the 5th Annual Truck Light Parade & Food Drive being held Friday, November 25, 2016.

UBCM RESOLUTION B70 – INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER

Paul Murray, President of the LGMA, providing an update on policy work pertaining to the possible introduction of an integrity commissioner for local government in BC.

REPORTS

PHASE II SANITARY LAGOON AERATION-UPGRADE GRANT APPLICATION

The Public Works manager requested Council approval to apply for the Canada-British Columbia Clean Water and Wastewater Fund for the Phase II Project to improve the Lagoon Aeration System. Council approved the application submission, which is contingent on District matching funds of $194,000 which includes contingency. Councillor Howe asks if the aeration was a part of the budget that was approved, because he doesn’t recall approving $900,000 for that? Yes, says Wall, but it was at a rate of $250,000 per year over the next few years.

BRANDING DESIGN WRAP – DISTRICT VEHICLE

The District approved a new vehicle wrap design for the Highlander, with the previously identified changes made to the website and rear window photos within the 2016 budget cycle. Council Krakowka points out the vehicle is due to be replaced in three years, while the wrap is expected to be four years. Councillor Kirby says when this was originally presented, the life spans were the same. Councillor Howe points out if the District does get rid of the vehicle, it’s only $1000.

DISCUSSION ITEMS

POLICY – PW8 FLEET OPERATIONS

Mayor asks about some issues that he thought were in here, like no smoking in the vehicle, or not taking the vehicle home. Councillor Caisley says he has no trouble with people taking vehicles home if they are being used for work. But he’s wondering if there have been any complaints about smoking in vehicles. “There must have been a number of complaints for it to come forward to us.” Wall says he has heard no complaints; this was brought forward at Council’s request. Mayor says he’s had no complaints either, but some of the Councillors have. Councillor Kirby says the public does bring forward complaints to council. As a councillor, you bring it up to the CAO. “They might seem like little issues, but I’m wondering how staff deals with it.”

Mayor says it is hard to say that it’s not following policy when it’s not in the manual. “Is it just up to the managers how these things are handled right now?”

Wall says there’s two issues. One, how is policy enforced, and how do you deal with it. There are policy refreshers throughout the year, he says. Each department has slightly different standards for vehicles. “We don’t get a change to monitor all the employees. If there are issues, they aren’t making it to us. If there is a widespread issue of policy violations, it isn’t coming to us. We have to talk to the managers, we have the union to deal with. If you have a problem employee, you have to go through the progressive disciplinary steps, and to do that, you need an eyewitness. You need a first hand account. Right now, there are none. If there are changes that you want to see, bring it forward to this. If Council is hearing complaints, they need to get the people to come and talk to us. If they are just coming to you, I can’t deal with it. It becomes “this person said, that person said.”

Councillor Howe points out smoking is a WorkSafe BC issue, so it is not something that needs to be in the handbook.

Wall says people need to get in the mindset to bring issues to staff, not to Facebook.

TRANSFER STATION

Mayor says there are twenty signs to direct people, but it’s so outdated. “The first building you pass is the recycling building, but you have to go all the way through the dump to get to it,” he says. “It was designed before there was any recycling, and it needs to be redesigned.” He suggests moving the caretaker shack up the road, so they can direct people. “Then you can have one sign: left to recycling, right to burn pile, straight ahead to transfer bins. It’s terrible right now. And I feel for you. I know what you are trying to do, but it’s crazy.”

Howe says once you walk through the reasons, it makes sense. “The only thing I don’t like about moving it up the road is then the person is not on site. If you’re up on that pedestal, it’s like a lookout. That’s the hang up I have.” He brings up the issue of out of town dumping and charging for large items. Also, he’s heard people talking about the birds on the lagoon, and is wondering if there’s anything to mitigate that.

Councillor Krakowka says people from Chetwynd and Dawson come here to dump their cars because there’s no charge. “I don’t want to see people dumping in the bush, but I also don’t want to see people coming here and taking advantage of us.”

Councillor Howe asks if we pay to recycle the vehicles, or if we get paid? Because if we get paid, then bring them on.

Mayor says there needs to be a policy on asphalt shingles, too. “The cost isn’t dumping at Chetwynd, it’s driving.”

He says people who are dumping commercially should be charged. “This summer the tree planters wanted to drop off a bunch of stuff. They were turned away, but they should have been charged. I don’t want to make it harder for people to go to the dump, but there are some things that should be charged for.

Councillor Kirby says if people are driving stuff down there just to do recycling, there should be a way to get there quickly. “People say that by the time they get to recycling, they have to wash their vehicle”

Mayor makes a recommendation to have staff look at this. Howe says make sure to include things like what can be recycled.

Doug Beale says there was a report a few years ago that he can bring back to council, though the pricing is slightly out of date.

In regards to recycling steel, there is some revenue, but not enough to offset the cost of recycling the car. “The cost is quite high compared to the revenue.”

He says the reason they don’t take shingles is because they need a separate bin for it, which is another cost.

Councillor Caisley asks about free cycling shack. Mayor says that’s a great idea. It was brought forward a while back.

Councillor How says while they were doing the tour of the blower system, one of the people mentioned that there was a lot of dust that gets into the system from the road; he suggests looking at putting calcium carbonate on the road. Wall says there are a few ideas that are going to be coming forward, including that or paving.

OCP AND ZONING CHANGES – PRESENTATION BY URBAN SYSTEMS

Chad Carlstrom and Katrin Saxty from Urban systems came to discuss the idea of residential lot expansion.

Council wrestles with the idea of property expansion. Walk around the outskirts of town, and you will notice that property boundaries for many people are more suggestions than actual boundaries. Locals lucky enough to have properties that sit on the edge of town have been using the space behind their properties for years.

Councillor Will Howe has been pushing for a way to legitimize this trend. He says he wants to see the town develop a system that would offers property owners the chance to expand their property.

The idea was discussed with Urban Systems at a recent meeting of council. Chad Carlstrom and Katrin Saxty from Urban Systems came to discuss the idea of residential lot expansion with town Council and to work through a variety of issues that face the idea.

Saxty says the neighbourhoods in Tumbler Ridge were designed to have green space as buffer zones. “When you are in town, you feel like you are in the wilderness,” she says. “But some property owners are already using these areas as extensions of their property.”

One of the biggest issues facing the idea is mixed ownership of land around town. She says some of the properties back onto crown land, while others back onto district land. “For any parcels that back onto district lands, you have to go through OCP to change the designation,” she says. “Park space would have to be revised. Land would need to be surveyed.”

Another issue, she says, is location. “Depending on where you are, you are constrained by landscape, or a road. There are things that have an impact on whether you can expand, which leads to issues, like ‘my neighbour can, but I can’t; it’s not fair.’”

Finally, she says there are also issues with underwater springs and underground infrastructure that is not as visible that needs to be kept in mind.

Urban Systems proposes two processes. In one, an individual looks at doing an expansion. “The District can do the surveying and pass cost onto owner, or owner can be responsible for all the work.”

In the second process, a group would approach the District. This would allow an area to be developed consistently, but is a lot less likely.

There are, she says, five areas that have been identified around edge of town.

The first of these possible areas is in the undeveloped area between Heritage Highway and Gwillim Crescent, but this area has drainage issues. She says Urban Systems doesn’t recommend lot expansion here.

Councillor Howe says he has a vested interested in this area, because his house is there. “Let’s say I want an area for my dog to run, an area to have chickens. If someone were to buy land in this area, you could place caveats on development,” he says. “If you go up in the area there are places where you don’t have issues. There are 17 garages on that street, and only one has had issues.”

Mayor McPherson says that anything the District does in the area runs into legal issues. “It’s not water issues that might be there. I’ve seen where people have dug into the bank, and next door there’s a river running through their basements. We’ve got experts telling us we shouldn’t be doing anything in that area, we should listen. We should take responsibility. We have to listen to what the engineers are telling us. I am dead against anything going on up there. Anything that increases liability for this district, I am against.”

Howe asks if people who are encroaching on the land now with things like boats or firewood right now are causing problems? “No. We can put a caveat on it. If someone wants to take it on, why shouldn’t they take it on? What that person did up there, digging up in the bank? That was their issue, and they’re libel for it.”

Councillor Caisley asks about the geotechnical report to see if this piece of land is able to be developed, is it possible to take and do that?

Carlstrom says in both of the reports, one of the solutions proposed was to install a french drain. “This is essentially digging a trench and backfilling it with drain rock,” he says. “It drops the water table, then you can route the water into the storm system. If there was a homeowner extending their property, it would affect the ability to install a french drain.”

Caisley asks if the issue can be fixed. Yes, says Carlstrom. Both geotechnical reports provide solutions, but the issue is cost, as well as the responsibility of maintaining the infrastructure.

Another possibility is to drill wells to draw the water into, then drain the water out, but, warns Carlstrom, it all adds to the cost.

Jordan Wall says if the District signs off on any building permit, they take on some liability. They already have two geotechnical reports saying not to do it. If they were to do something and were to go before the courts, it could go either way. “It could go before a judge and they could say ‘yes, the individual’s geotechnical report is enough to pass the liability onto them,’ or they can say the town had these two geotechnical reports that they ignored, and the town is liable.”

Howe points out there’s already a french drain back behind his house. Besides, he said, he’s not thinking this area would be open to development. “It’s for if you want property that you can park your trailer on,” he says. “We can go so far as to say you can’t remove any of the natural foliage.”

A second area for possible lot expansion is on the upper bench, just south of the first area: Southern end of Wapiti, Kinuseo Place and Kinuseo Avenue/Pioneer Drive. There’s a lot of infrastructure in this area, Saxty says, so you need to be cautious about what is done. “If, say, there is a property expansion, and then the district needs to do work on the infrastructure, they may have to go in and tear up someone’s garden.” As well, she says a portion of this area is crown, a portion is district. She points out the rules around crown land is fairly onerous. “They don’t want to do it piecemeal.”

Again, says Howe, there are caveats that could be put in place “you can’t build anything that can’t be removed on this area.”

Saxty says a third possibility is the so-called 100 acre wood backing onto Peace River Crescent. This is crown land, she says. This is also a prime area that the District is looking at expanding, too.

Mayor asks what happens if one person expands their lot, while nobody else does. What happens when they try and develop that area later on? Carlstrom says this does become an issue. “If one lot owner expands their lot, then the area goes to development, it would create really irregular boundaries. It’s hard to forecast what sort of development issues there will be, but irregular boundaries will make it hard to develop.”

Howe says the District can carve off a set area of, say 50 feet, that they can expand into. “People are already using this. That way, you can go in and tell people that they have to move their stuff, or they can buy the land.”

Saxty says nothing was done haphazardly in this community. “It was designed with a purpose.” She says by creating irregular boundaries it can create issues later on.

Still, says Howe, things change. “You progress. Times change. Maybe if we had more appealing lot sizes, people would buy here. Let’s try something to see if we can do something to get people to stay here. Twenty years ago you didn’t have people with all these campers and ATVs, and it starts to look like junk. Yes, it wasn’t designed for this, but things are happening. People are utilizing these areas already. The dynamics of the town are changing.

A fourth area is on the Lower Bench at the Western edge of Bergeron. This is a difficult area, as it backs onto a sloped area, and there are potential drainage issues here which could potentially affect it.

The fifth area that could possibly see this type of development is the strip of land between Highway 29 and the cul-de-sacs on the lower bench. The trouble is, says Saxty, the layout of these properties is a hindrance to expansion. “Also, there’s an ATV trail there, so expansion is limited. It could create land disputes, as the lots are pie shaped and expansion areas might overlap.” Finally, the prime water line runs through this area.

In order for the District to mange the land around town, it would have to buy all the property, as it is nearly impossible for individuals to enter into negotiations with the province and buy it all at full market value.

Howe says there are problems, yes, but there are also opportunities. “We have the chance to make money for the District without changing anything. People are already doing this. I don’t want the district to take on any cost for this, but it is a heck of an opportunity for us to sell land and get money.”

Mayor says his worry is the future. “We might have to expand this town, and now we’ve got 100 feet that we sold this guy and it’s right in the middle of this expansion area. We’ll look pretty stupid. I don’t think council is qualified to make this decision right now.”

Howe says there are ways to do this intelligently, with future consideration in mind. “It’s not insurmountable. It’ll take some thought, it’ll take some energy, but it’s a hell of an opportunity to give something to the people who have lived here for 35 years.”

A policy like this would require legal input and review and there’s lots of complex issues, says Carlstrom. “How do you make it fair and equitable to all? That’s hinting towards complexity in developing a policy, so it could be expensive. Which is not to say that it can’t be done. The cost to residents? There would have to be fair value land price, which depends on how large a piece of land they want. I don’t see a policy coming out that would meet every scenario, so they would have to be reviewed. There are so many variables that impact this. To come up with some sort of policy that cover everything would be very complex.”

Wall says another option is to open up some of the green spaces inside of town, but previous attempts at rezoning a park area was met with much resistance. Howe says it should be done on a case by case basis. “There’s a green space up by Claude Galibous that was left as a part for kids to get to school, but there’s no school there anymore.”

Wall says if that happens, then it would have to go to public hearing to make a zoning change, then OCP changes. “It’s months and months and months of work with multiple staff. If we are willing to give up 50 feet of this P1 area, it would be better to do that now. If we do it later, we’ll have to start the whole process over again.”

Mayor says you can see places where the lots were $2000 back during the first downturn and people bought them and turned them into their backyard. “So now you have someone’s front yard and someone’s back yard next to each other. I think there should be bylaws against it. We have to really watch when we start messing around with these lots, because things will start looking bad, and we’ll feel bad because we did the wrong thing trying to do the right thing.”

Wall points out for many of these areas would involve fairly major land purchases. Also, he says, in area three, there is the issue of the urban reserve.

Saxty says area one is not recommended, because of drainage issues. Area two is not recommended because of crown land and right of way. Area three is the best option of the bunch. Area four is difficult because of topography and area five is not recommended because of topography and trails in the area.

Howe says he personally wants to see anyone who wants to develop a lot, that the District look at it. “To me, I don’t see why we can’t go ahead with all these, providing there isn’t an adequate checklist to take care of all the concerns raised by everyone here. If we are able to address all the concerns in a checklist. Perhaps it’s really difficult to do some expansion in area one, but I want to see us being able to do this.

Councillor Kirby says there’s not a lot of area that she sees would work. She doesn’t see that on a case by case basis would work. “A little bit here and a little bit there? Too much work. I’d rather put the energy into future lot expansion.”

Krakowka says he’s not a big fan of surveys, but maybe this is something that needs to go out to these areas for feedback. “I think that’s one way of getting around it. Is it worth committing a whole bunch of funds?”

Councillor Kirby says that sounds good. “We’d have to go by area. Are there people in area one who have gone outside their area?” Boats, sheds, firewood, yes, says Howe. In another area, it would have to be everyone in, to keep the area consistent.

How about this, says Howe, maybe you put in a permit system so people can use ten feet, 20 feet outside their property line with caveats on what the use can be.

Wall says it hasn’t been looked at, and there’d have to be a temporary use variance permit, but every time someone wants a variance it has to come before Council.

Wall says the more complex something is, the more difficult it is to administer, which leads to more Gerry areas. We’re going to have to write down all these considerations and variances. It’s getting very complicated. It’s more complicated than us sitting around and talking about it. It is something that we would have to get experts in.

Howe says the permit system kills two birds with one stone. It may be a good way to bridge the gap. Maybe that’s where we need to go with. Maybe that’s what lot expansion is looking for: more room to park campers.

Mayor says it’s probably a solution he could live with.

Councillor Kirby is worried that it will just become a place for people to dump junk.

She says having some sort of data would be good, because right now it’s just hearsay. She’s also wondering if some people would be reluctant to participate because they’re already encroaching on District land.

Howe recommends to develop a survey.

Councillor Caisley suggests an open house.

Councillor Kirby says she doesn’t think the parameters have been set. Urban systems needs to come up with a report as to what can even be done in specific areas.

Vote passes. Mayor opposed.