April 23 GPC Early Thoughts

It is a decent sized agenda for GPC tomorrow, including two delegations,  discussion on the 2014 Financial Statements and  finalization of the 2015 tax rates. All and all, I’m sure it will be quite political. So what do we have?

Delegations

There are two delegations:

Royal & McPherson Theatres Society

This delegation consists of four people:

  • Byron Smith, Chair
  • Pat Ferns, Treasurer
  • Janis Barlow, Janis Barlow & Associates
  • Lloyd Fitzsimonds, Executive Director

I assume they are at the meeting tomorrow to talk about the intended 2015 Council strategic Outcome of (see page 11):

Increased number of funding partners for the McPherson Theatre.

Related to this, I assume they’ll also be talking about the issue of the apparently still incomplete property transfer (from Victoria to CRD I think) regarding the Theatre itself, a necessary prerequisite to the 2015 Council strategic action of (see page 11):

Work with the CRD to increase number of funding partners for McPherson Theatre by making it more financially viable.

I don’t know much about the theatre or the theatre society, so I’m hoping the delegation will be interesting. Unfortunately no agenda attachments are currently available relating to it.

Downtown Victoria Business Association

General GVBA Manager Ken Kelly will be there to give a report on the Douglas Charrette (design plan for Douglas st) that was discussed at the April 14th special GPC where amendments to the financial plan were made and a motion was passed to reallocate $60,000 of downtown beautification monies to funding the results of this Douglas Street Charrette.

Where one would typically expect the report to be on the agenda prior to a decision to commit funding being made, I suppose we can consider ourselves fortunate that this report even made its way to the agenda after the fact.

Decision Requests

This is always a bit of a weird agenda section. I guess the assumption with it is that items “requiring decision” get placed here. In general practice mind you, it seems to be a place for traditional items (e.g., items prepared by staff with accompanying staff reports) as opposed to off the cuff Council motions and whatnot.

2014 Financial Statements

With Council deliberations on the 2015 financial plan all but complete, it is time for review of the 2014 financial statements. And if you read the quite detailed report from the Director of Finance, Susanne Thompson, you will see that we’ll be receiving a presentation tomorrow from the City’s Auditors KPMG on their review of the 2014 Financial Statements.

Here is the actual audit findings report from KPMG.

Here are the draft 2014 Financial Statements for Victoria.

One handy accessibility feature to note is that the City Finance Director has created a series of appendix spreadsheets that include little notes to explain differences in the financial statements:

Appendix A-Budget to Actual Operating Revenues

Appendix A pg 2-Budget to Actual Operating Expenditures

Appendix B-Budget to Actual Capital Expenditures

Ultimately, all Council is supposed to do with this information tomorrow is “accept the 2014 Financial Statements” as per the recommended staff motion. Here is to hoping that some interesting questions are asked and actual discussion is had.

Proposed 2015 Tax Rates

This is also a report from the Director of Finance which outlines the proposed 2015 tax rates, rates which have been set in response to the financial plan that has been created. According to this report:

On January 29, 2015, following a review of the Revenue and Tax Policy, Council amended the policy for the distribution of property taxes among property classes to maintain the current share, excluding the impact of new assessment revenue, by allocating tax increases equally. The policy to impose the same tax rate on business, light and major industrial tax classes remained unchanged.

One fun thing to note about this is, is that Mayor Helps changed her vote between GPC consideration of the motion (see pages 10-11) and Council (see page 15).  Also according to tomorrow’s report:

The overall property tax increase for 2015 is 2.23%. Allocating this increase as per the approved Revenue and Tax Policy equates to $50 for an average residential property assessed at $518,000 and $151 for a typical business property assessed at $500,000. The proposed Tax Bylaw, 2015 outlines the resulting tax rates (Appendix B).

Related to this, the staff recommendations are that Council:

1. Approve 2015 tax rates based on approved policy as follows:

Residential 4.4414; Utility 37.7158; Major Industrial 13.8749; Light Industrial 13.8749; Business 13.8749; Rec/Non Profit 8.2188

2. Give first, second and third reading to Tax Bylaw, 2015 at the April 23, 2015 Council meeting

All bets are off for what gets discussed at the GPC table tomorrow.

Proposed Alignment of Grants Program with City of Victoria 2015-2018 Strategic Plan

This is a joint report from the Directors of Finance, Parks and Citizen Engagement.  It represents the culmination of a review that kicked off in Spring of 2014 and was reaffirmed in December 2014. According to this report:

In the past, five grant programs had a competitive application process: festival investment, neighbourhood enhancement, greenways, community arts, and sustainability. The budget for these programs totalled approximately $327,000, of which $156,000 was allocated to festival investment grants. The remaining grant budget of approximately $513,000 was for “fee-for- service” grants, for which there is no application intake or opportunity for new applicants seek funding, and grants have generally been approved for the same organizations each year.

The program for festival investment grants is proposed to remain unchanged. This program has a well-established and robust policy and guidelines. It is proposed that for 2015, the fee-for-service grant process remain the same, but that the neighbourhood enhancement, greenways, community arts, and sustainability program grants be discontinued and replaced with a single new grant program aligned with the 2015-2018 Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan has a broad scope and organizations that applied under the previous grant programs will have an opportunity to apply under the new program.

For 2016, it is proposed that the fee-for-service grant program be discontinued and incorporated into the strategic plan grant program. This phase-in is recommended for 2016, to provide organizations with ample notice, in particular those that have not previously been required to go through a competitive process. Also, as the next phase of the financial planning process, Council has directed staff to explore options for participatory budgeting for 2016. Based on experience from other communities, using a portion of the strategic plan grants could be an opportunity.

The new process will provide opportunity for new applicants to apply and will be assessed using common eligibility criteria. However, the grant program itself is proposed to be broader in scope encompassing all 13 strategic objectives so that applicants are not restricted to apply for one type of grant when their project or program achieves multiple strategic objectives. Also, it is recommended that one funding envelope be created, instead of individual funding allocations for each strategic objective. This provides Council greater ability to provide funding to applications that will help meet approved strategic objectives the best and should prevent the historical experience of having some grant programs that are undersubscribed.

Staff’s role in supporting the proposed grant program will be to ensure that applicants are eligible. All grants that impact public space will be further assessed to determine implications on the use and function of the public space as well as budget impacts for ongoing maintenance. Adjudication of the merit of grant applications is proposed to be done by Council. It is also proposed that all applicants make a presentation to Council, at special meetings, in support of their application and will be required to report back on achievements. This is common in other municipalities as well.

In 2015, due to the strategic planning process that concluded earlier this month, the grant process for 2015 is later than desired. Staff are taking steps to ensure that applicants are well informed of the new process and will be offering assistance as applicants are putting their applications together. An information session is proposed to provide opportunity for not-for-profit organizations to learn more about the process and benefit from advice on how to prepare an effective proposal and presentation.

I predict politics tomorrow. Or maybe “trust”. Who knows?

Application for a Liquor Primary Licence, Helijet International Inc., 79 Dallas Road

This is a report from the Director of Legislative Services regarding a liquor primary application from Helijet International. The proposed hours of liquor service would be from 09:00h (9:00AM) to 21:00h (9:00PM) seven days per week. The occupant load for the terminal lounge proposed for liquor service is 30 persons (all inside the building).

79 Dallas Road

In order for the application to move forward, a Council resolution is needed regarding an application by Helijet International Inc. (Helijet Victoria) located at 79 Dallas Road for a Liquor Primary Licence. Because this is a new licence application, it will require Council to receive input from the Public through a Liquor Licence hearing as set out in the Liquor Licensing Fee Bylaw and the City’s Liquor Licensing Policy and Process.

Where there had been significant discussion about the liquor retail stores in neighbourhoods at a March 12 GPC meeting (see pages 7 – 9 in the minutes) I don’t believe there has been any recent Council discussion on the impact of direct liquor sales. Of note, is that zoning at this site (M2 – Light Industrial) apparently permits liquor sales as an ancillary use to the primary use of helijet service. Regarding neighbourhood compatibility of the proposal, the staff report suggests:

If Liquor is sold to ticketed passengers during hours of operation only and those hours of operation are consistent with the schedule provided by Rising Tide consultants, then it is considered that the proposed operation would have little impact upon the neighbouring community.

Regarding Public Engagement & Consultation for this proposal:

If Council endorses the recommendation of this Report, in accordance with the City’s Liquor Licensing Fee Bylaw and Liquor Licensing Policy, all owners and occupiers of property within 100 metres of the applicant’s location will be solicited by mail to provide input regarding this application and invited to attend the Liquor Licence Hearing. In addition, the business will be required to display posters at the access points to their proposed business location for a minimum 3 week period which will also invite the Public to provide input to the City with respect to this application and to attend the Liquor Licence Hearing.

One thing to note is that the original application for consideration of this new “sales amenity” at Helijet was submitted in Summer of 2014. So it has been in the works for a while. Further, my reading of the M2 zone does’t reveal anything specific relating to liquor sales as a permissible use, ancillary or not. Rather, standard use language evident in other zones seems to be:

establishments in which there is a dining lounge license, dining room license or lounge license issued pursuant to the Liquor Control and Licensing Act; and 

Which really makes me wonder, why no rezoning?

Trans Mountain Expansion Project

This is also a report from the Director of Legislative Services on the results of public input received through the City’s Have Your Say Victoria site. From what I understand of it, the City was granted Intervenor Status which meant that after they drafted a series of questions, they received replies from Trans Mountain and from the President of Kinder Morgan.

According to the staff report, what’s up tomorrow is:

Staff are in the process of compiling the City’s evidence submission to the NEB, which must be filed by May 27, 2015. The City’s evidence submission will be a collection of facts and information that supports Council’s views or beliefs on the proposed expansion.

To date, Council has not formally expressed a position with regard to the proposed expansion. Formal direction from Council regarding its position is needed at this time in order for staff to effectively prepare theCity’s evidence submission and ensure that the submission supports any final argument that Council may wish to make. An expression of opposition to the proposed expansion would be consistent with the views of engagement participants and supported by the information provided by Trans Mountain, which shows an increased risk of an oil spill in the waters off of Victoria, but few direct benefits to Victoria or the CRD.

My question: I wonder how much this exercise has cost the city to date? What are the actual benefits of all the staff time and resources that have gone, and will continue to go towards this effort?

New Business

As compared to Decision Requests, these are the freeform requests for action from Council. And because these items are brought to the agenda in absence of staff, there is no context provided as to the actual practical impact of any of these issues on staff operations.

Amendments to the Parks Regulation Bylaw

Building from a motion made at the April 2nd GPC meeting, this is a suggestion from Councillor Isitt to:

Bring forward amendments to the Parks Regulation Bylaw to add the following parks to Section 16A (2) (b) to be considered after the city has consulted people currently sleeping in the following parks and nearby residents and Council has considered implementation of options for temporary housing referenced in (2):

As far as I understand, the larger issue of the City’s need for additional enforcement related to parks as outlined in the original staff report from April 2nd, remains unaddressed. If you’re curious, here is a list of all the City parks in Victoria,

Of note is that the letter submitted by the JBNA President in response to the suggested motion above, led to a Times Colonist article that appeared yesterday about how restricting sheltering in certain parks really only moves the problem along to others.

In order to get a better sense of the issue, I went on a bike expedition to visit all of these parks. First thing to note is that both Haegert Park and Kings park are in Fernwood. Where Kings Park is just an empty lot between houses, Haegert Park is an actual park type area behind Vic High. When I went by the two places this morning I observed one fellow tidying a massive pile of personal belongings in Kings Park and another tidier fellow doing what looked like volunteer maintenance at Haegert Park.

Arbutus Park is a rather wild park area between Gorge/Cecelia Ravine and a bunch of hotels and condos. Lots of bushes and trees and possible hideaways there. Cridge Park on the other hand is a relatively open space surrounded by traffic and massive condos. The majority of Cridge park also appears to be fenced off, perhaps in part to discourage campers.

So what is going to happen tomorrow? I honestly do not know. I kinda hope that a rowdy group of campers types get rustled up to make an appearance in the chambers. Given the placement of this item in the agenda mind you, such a group if they gather might not be able to stick around for when this issue finally comes up. We shall have to see!

Inter-Municipal Correspondence – Nav Canada Assessment Appeal

This is a letter (dated February 24, 2015) from the Mayor of North Saanich asking for financial support in legal action that has been pursued with BC Assessment Authority against reclassification of Nav Canada properties by the Property Assessment Appeal Board. Through the successful reclassification of their properties Nav Canada is now subject to less property tax.

Here is a good summary article from the TC last November.

North Saanich is suggesting that Victoria could experience similar impacts of Nav Canada properties located in Victoria being assessed at lower rates and therefore reducing available taxation monies. Victoria doesn’t really seem to care though and I say this because the issue didn’t come up during the financial planning process. All that got talked about instead, was how I believe neither the BC Legislature or Government House pay either property tax or PILT (Payment in Lieu), and these are two big property in prime locations.

Motion – Good Neighbour Agreements

This is a motion from Councillors Alto and Isitt to encourage Good Neighbour Agreements with social service providers and other partners that also incorporate the role of the service recipient:

“That the City of Victoria works to facilitate Better Neighbour Agreements to include service users and to commit to building understanding and eliminating stigma and discrimination towards service users.”

Such a motion is said to be in accordance with the 2015-2018 strategic priorities of Engage and Empower the Community and Facilitate Social Inclusion and Community Wellness. But what might it actually mean?

I can’t find anything on the city’s website about good neighbour agreements, and given that the majority of these GNAs seem to be with social service providers (+ liquor licensees) I’m honestly confused about how stigma and discrimination could be lessened through any changes. My thought would be, that if we really wanted to reduce “stigma and discrimination” wouldn’t these GNAs have to be extended to other groups like local business and condo dwellers who would have to get signed on, and perhaps get signed on to contribute in their own way to local social service provision?

Just a thought.

Motion – Oil Spill Preparedness

This is a motion from Councillors Isitt and Loveday that seems be in line with the larger organized NDP efforts. All it asks is:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Mayor write a letter requesting that the Province of British Columbia and Government of Canada order an independent audit of the current state of oil spill preparedness and response in BC.

I have a number of friends and family members who have served, and or currently serve in the Coast Guard. From what I understand, the larger cuts to their services occurred a few years back, which is to say,  we shouldn’t really be surprised of the slow response experienced over the April 9th Oil Spill. Should we?

What we do know though, is that Premier Clark has been very vocal in her criticisms and that the Coast Guard has defended their response time.

Which is to say, a request for “an independent audit” sounds whiny. If the City really wants to do anything, I suggest they submit a letter seconding Premier Clark’s demands for a “world-class marine spill response preparedness”. Doing so might get more action.

Closed Business

There is then a lot of closed business:

  • Acquisition / Disposition of Land  (Report to follow): J. Paul, Acting Assistant Director of Underground Utilities & Facilities
  • Legal Advice / Land Acquisition  (Report to follow): T. Zworski, City Solicitor
  • Land / Licence Renewal: R. Woodland, Director of Legislative & Regulatory Services
  • Land / New Lease: R. Woodland, Director of Legislative & Regulatory Services
  • Appointment / Art in Public Places Committee: R. Woodland, Director of Legislative & Regulatory Services
  • Appointment / Greater Victoria Public Library Board: R. Woodland, Director of Legislative & Regulatory Services
  • Motion – Legal Advice: Councillors Isitt and Madoff

Next week I’m going to try and do a survey of how other CRD municipalities use their closed meetings. My focus in doing this review will be to see who deals with what in public vs. incamera. Doing this review will also provide me with necessary context for my belief that Victoria Mayor and Council seem to like their incamera business a bit too much.

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