Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Strategic Planning Sessions Summary January 7-8, 2015

North Saanich Committee of the Whole
Strategic Planning Sessions Summary

Jan. 7, 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Jan. 8, 8:30 a.m. to approx. 3:15 p.m.

With thanks to the North Saanich Residents Association

[NB:  This is not a verbatim account of the meeting, merely an abridged “snapshot” of highlights, or matters we deemed of interest to the majority.  We did our best to be as accurate as possible, but errors may have occurred. Please consult the webcast for more detailed and accurate information.  Information is listed in order as it happened, not grouped according to subject.]

Allison Habkirk chairing.

Ms Habkirk gave an overview of the governance process.

Strategic Planning sets direction and goals
Establish shared values and standards/expectations
Guides the use of resources
Prioritizes initiative/work
Provides a roadmap to follow
Provides a basis for evaluating progress

She asked each Councillor to articulate what they hope to accomplish today and tomorrow.

Coun. Orr:  this is the chance for new councilors to articulate their visions, what they heard campaigning, develop together what they want to accomplish and overlay on strategic plan

Coun. Stock: mainly financing issues; Agricultural land issues; Parks, beaches (enhances quality of life for residents)

Coun. Weisenberger:  decision about OCP (review or?) – highest priority

Coun. Thornburgh:  Parks, trails, bike paths (more integrated?);  Communication with community;  Would like to know from residents how to improve neighbourhood meetings (number, format)

Coun. Gartshore:  sense of the bigger picture, and finding a vision we can all get behind

Coun. McClintock:  Clear understanding of what the strategic plan is;  seek clarity about what we’re capable of in the strategic plan (what’s possible)

CAO Rob Buchan explained how the process might unfold:
            Council comes up with range of what it wants to get done
            Draft plan gets sent back to staff
            Staff evaluates as to resources
            Report to Council – can it be done, how much cost
            Council makes decisions based on Staff feedback (reality check)

Director of Financial Services Theresa Flynn gave a financial overview:
1.62 % increase in taxes over last three years.  Had growth which helped us keep taxes down.  Labour contracts were increased.  Found cost savings, funded things differently, used surplus for some things.  Sooner or later need to cut services if we want to keep increases to 0%.  Reserves are quite healthy right now.  Doing a report on infrastructure gaps (asset management, such as water, sewer, pavement etc.).

New works:  Budget is created by staff, reviewed by Finance dep’t., then by CAO before coming to Council.  Staff then reports to Council what tax impacts will be created if new services are added.

Reserves:  Approximately $9,000,000 in reserves;  most reserves are slated for certain things
Over $500,000 put into general reserves each year

Mr. Buchan:  Reserves are used for things like parkland acquisition, infrastructure replacement.  Staff will report at the end of the month on needs into the future for replacing infrastructure.

Coun. Orr:  Statutory and non-statutory – what the difference?

Ms. Flynn:  Statutory reserve – there’s a bylaw:  we must have the reserves in place, tells what we’re collecting it for, from where, how much collecting each year
Non-statutory reserves – not as structured, it is not a separate item in the budget
Surplus:  If expenses are less or revenue is more, there is a surplus that can be set aside (eg. For an OCP review, we might use prior surpluses so we don’t need to increase taxes).  Surpluses that aren’t used are put into accumulated reserves
Debt:  $9,000,000 in debt
            Most is sewer debt from SEQ
            Pat Bay/Deep Cove sewer debt – spread over 32 years
Interest rates quite low
2014: more debt for the firehall improvement (10 – 15 years to pay off)
Debt servicing can not go over a certain amount (25%?) – mandated by province

Parcel taxes pay off sewer debt
User rates pay off sewer plant debt

Council then decided to go through the existing strategic plan to hear an update from staff on the status of each item (total 56 items).


Marine issues – Working with two adjacent municipalities re:  sea level rise

District Hall upgrades – assessing where the issues are

Support of local business:  NS class 6 (commercial) tax rate ratio compared to class 1 (residential) tax rate is the highest in province because we have a very low tax rate for residential.
            The tax rate for class 6 (commercial) in NS is very comparable to other class 6 rates in the region (about average).  Staff indicated that they have worked on getting the commercial rate down over the last few years.  Last year, we saw the most movement down in the commercial rate, because of the growth in that class.  The ratio will change if we see residential development grow.  Commercial development on Sandown will also affect this.

Mayor Finall pointed out that reducing class 6 commercial tax rates requires shifting more of the tax burden to residential.

Secondary suites policy:  work nearly complete on this.  Need a decision from Council.

Affordable housing:  Staff reported that the CRD is putting together a very comprehensive assessment of the region to determine what housing gaps may exist.  Should be completed this year.  Staff suggested Council consider where our gaps are, to possibly develop an affordable housing strategy.  We have limited lands for housing, so Council may want to be more strategic about where housing occurs.

Mayor Finall pointed out that there’s a lot of overlap in local affordable housing study efforts.  The CRD is bringing forward a model of affordable housing to municipalities. Gary Holman is working on a housing needs assessment for the Peninsula.
NS was one of the first to begin contributing to an affordable housing “fund” in 2005.  CRD has administration in place to determine the need.
Most of the earlier reports are anecdotal, but the reports commissioned by NS Councils over the years were looked at and assessed by the councils that followed, and the workable recommendations were implemented.
Director of Planning advocated looking at all the information (previous reports, CRD and Holman’s assessment), then determine how to move forward.

Meeting ended for the day.

January 8, 2015  8:30 a.m.

Ms. Habkirk asked Council to articulate what they actually want to get done over the next term:

Coun. McClintock (citing his “campaign promises”):  residential neighbourhood improvement
            Encourage involvement of community in emergency preparedness
            Timely response to applications to Council
            Balanced approach to building our community (one priority shouldn’t override another – eg. business shouldn’t take precedence over agriculture, agriculture shouldn’t take precedence over business)
            Working cooperatively with other jurisdictions in areas of common interest
            Fiscal responsibility and fresh energy

Coun. Stock:  secondary suites policy – finish
            Affordable housing policy
            Jubilee year celebration
            Study of waterfront property issues (review of policy?), including through the lens of sea level rise
            Review of Bylaw 1352
Coun. Gartshore:  Sandown
            Secondary suite policy
            Improve public confidence in building and planning
            Join CRD arts development fund – formalize that arrangement
            Affordable and workforce housing policy
            Bylaw 1352 – look at that, consult with residents of those areas and look at Local Area Planning

Coun. Thornburgh:  secondary suites
            Planning procedure review
            Local Area Planning
            Urban Containment Boundaries – look at that, make it more official, guide it to non-agricultural land
            Arts development fund
Mr. Buchan:  we don’t have UCB’s but we have service areas instead – unique to district
            They’re in our OCP, recognized by CRD – we can’t change them without CRD approval

Coun. Weisenberger:  Look at an OCP review (partial?) – review or rewrite?
            Strategy to deal with amalgamation study
Coun. Orr:  we need to think about the timeline of these as well – changes the priorities
            Short term:  Initiate area plans including Bylaw 1352 area
            Determine to what extent an OCP review is required
            How do we exercise community building?  Believe community wants to be involved

            Midterm ideas:  taxation strategy on a longterm basis
            Bylaw review
            Implementation of Ag. task force
            Boat ramp on west side of peninsula
            Housing dialogue – don’t lose momentum, particularly in this next year

Mayor Finall:  Amending Bylaw 1352 is the first priority
I believe election results indicate that we don’t need an OCP review – the community has responded as to how they want their community
Waterfront review has begun – Marine Task force made recommendations, let’s bring those recommendations back and have a dialogue with waterfront property owners about those
Needs of agriculture are a priority for me
Arts funding
Secondary suites
Amalgamation – wording of the question does not mean we are asking province to carry out the study itself

Coun. Weisenberger:  I would suggest we fund our own study on amalgamation with Sidney and Central Saanich

Staff Strategic priorities suggestions:

Strengthen district’s emergency planning by addressing Royal Roads report
            Director of Emergency Services Gary Wilton is working on that
Revisit the wildfire interface
Develop a policy regarding section 57 notices – reduce our scope of interest.  We don’t need to be looking at every little building, or ones that have been there for a long time
Work on energy efficient development permit area
Review implementation of communication strategy and suggest priorities
Review advisory commission framework
Complete a policy manual review –separate council and administrative policy      manuals (?)
Complete a municipal hall review
Engage in and complete a library service review with regional library
Continue advocacy with prov. Gov’t. re NavCan and ferries
Continue with infrastructure funding gap review

Motion to include letter from Springfield Harrison and other residents, regarding concerns about Bylaw 1352 and CTQ report, and accompanying documents, in agenda.  Carried.  Mr. Buchan pointed out that he has a binder of all the supporting documents, which he will put in the reading room.

Existing plan Strategies – Highlights only

Climate change, sea level rise, storm surge etc. -- Staff indicated that 240 to 250 properties are anticipated to be impacted by this;  there are properties in the district which are development candidates that are impacted by sea level rise, so this is more urgent
Mayor:  Not just Waterfront owners affected, these affect whole municipality.   We may have these effects much sooner than previously anticipated.  Municipality will have liability, and then we will be told we should have known, and this liability will be borne by the whole municipality. 
Mr. Buchan:  every report is indicating that sea level rise is happening a whole lot quicker than originally anticipated;  we might need to develop policies to mitigate climate change
Coun. Orr:  if we don’t consider wave effects, we still have storm surge issues re:  liability.  People want to be part of that dialogue.
Mr. Broderick:  we’ve been meeting weekly to discuss this.  We need to understand the baseline map, do we agree with the assumptions that went into it? Can we communicate that?  The map brings us from conceptual thinking to reality.  I’m looking at it from a systems approach, the overall impact to the shoreline.  Some thinking that these are natural systems and we should let them play out.  CRD tells staff to have a “climate change lens”.

Council agreed that preparing an emergency planning training policy for staff and Council is a high priority, as well as educating public.

NS has just renewed a contract with the RCMP for 20 years.

Commercial and residential tax rates:
Staff:  We have reduced the ratio significantly from about 12% in 2005 to 4.8% in 2012(?)  Still highest in province, as a ratio, but within average range for other municipalities

Council wishes to continue to:   support the Flavour Trail
            Engage in frequent and early public consultation
Affordable housing:
Ms. Habkirk suggested:  looking at background reports, receiving CRD gap analysis, having a special council meeting to discuss this issue, move toward policy development
Mr. Buchan:  staff could give you a comprehensive listing of what options are available to you for affordable housing
Council can issue a statement of intent of policy going forward (regarding Bylaw 1352)
Council can’t establish a moratorium, but can establish an (interim) policy to deal with applications that may come forward.  Council can say yes to development or no.
Mayor Finall:  One of the issues that faces staff and council is that the changes are quite obscure.  Staff needs to start from scratch in developing policies.
Mr. Buchan:  this is not dissimilar to the creation of neighbourhood plans.  What I believe council is saying is that we need these plans
Council did resolve that there would be neighbourhood plans.

[Lunch break]

Resident Spring Harrison gave a brief presentation of resident group’s concerns re:  the CTQ report and Bylaw 1352

Mayor Finall:  while in my opinion it would be clean and easy to rescind bylaw 1352, it also includes Sandown, so amending rather than rescinding would make more sense.
Director of Corporate Services Curt Kingsley:  the latest cases that we’ve been advised of by municipal solicitors is that municipalities have some latitude to reconsider bylaws
Mr. Buchan:  Council can do a resolution of intent to head down that path now

Councillors were asked to share their positions (at the moment) on Bylaw 1352, which they did.  Of note:

Mayor Finall:  I’m in favour of immediate amendment of 1352 for many reasons:
n  no planning went into this bylaw
n  council doesn’t even have the basis for decision on any individual application
n  traffic, parking (traffic issues are already a problem in that area)
n  on the day council adopted its first draft strategic plan, they brought forward a high density development without any draft plan
n  I believe these changes were necessary to allow two more higher density housing projects to proceed
n  The seven bylaw changes were brought forward in one bundle to the public meeting – difficult for residents to address
n  No public consultation – resident-organized meetings were what informed people
n  Level of votes made it very clear that what was done by previous council was not acceptable to the voters
n  The basis for what was done, and the changes that were made, were based on wrong information.  Housing projections are current and have not been reached yet.  When bylaw was proposed, projections were completely unrealistic, and deliberately inflated by including adjacent First Nations populations
n  A complete change to the identity of NS
n  There was a suggestion that it provided for a need, but that simply wasn’t supported by NS residents.

Most Councillors indicated that they were generally in favour of amending, or possibly rescinding, Bylaw 1352.
Ms. Habkirk:  one option would be to go back to the previous OCP policy, and previous RCS (have to ask CRD to amend)
Mr. Buchan:  re:  RCS:  if a total rescind is possible, and collateral damage of Sandown, then go back to previous context statement that allows Sandown.
We can provide recommendations re that.

OCP review:
Mr. Buchan:  An OCP review may cost 200,000 to 300,000, as well as take 2-3 years
Ms. Habkirk:  if you really want to engage the community, it takes at least a year of public engagement to do a good job.  Then six months of referrals (to First Nations, the province, etc.)
Mr. Buchan:  if you take out 1352 altogether and JUST look at OCP, the question to ask is:  is the current vision serving us well.  How often are we back doing amendments to facilitate applications, etc.?  How relevant do we think the OCP is?
Coun. Orr:  think we need to be careful not to bind the OCP to the idea of 2-3 year process.
We got here because we didn’t want to do a whole OCP review, so we did the other process.
Mr. Broderick:  If thinking of amending bylaw 1352, some applications have gone through, and can’t be overturned (eg. Going development on McDonald Park Rd. and Canora/Rideau/Reay Creek).  Through my contributions to the RSS, I recommended CRD include areas 1 and 2 in the new Growth containment boundary.  Council needs to give direction to staff if we need to give CRD different directions.
Mr. Buchan:  to tell us to come up with report is enough for us to express policy intent to applicants who come forward.
Ms. Habkirk:  it sounds like there is lots of agreement on changes to 1352, not as much agreement on how and when, need information from staff on options, and addressing concerns.  I suggest you ask for suggestions on potential interim options.

Back to HOUSING:

Staff:  Review of potential 520 units proposal indicated there was enough treatment plant capacity, but some sewer upgrades may be required.  Pump upgrade is sufficient for Canora Mews and Reay Creek Meadows, but not enough for all of 520 new units.

Strategic Priority #55.  Central Saanich First Nations are within municipal boundaries, so they can vote.  For some unclear reason:  Not so with Pauquachin and Tsaykum – not within municipal boundaries, so they can’t vote in municipal elections.

Ms. Habkirk:  Haven’t heard an overwhelming desire to review OCP.  Perhaps better to look at particular areas of OCP and talk about them. 

Coun. Weisenberger:  I’d like us to look at housing, not take more than a year, not cost too much

Council agreed on looking at:
            Interface fire hazard
            Waterfront regulations and bylaws
            Housing issues
Assigned them all a medium priority

            District will look into getting some money from province to perform study, and Council will take this to the Tri-Municipal meeting on Feb. 11, perhaps to collaborate on it with the two adjoining municipalities.
Under staff advice, council agreed to send correspondence to the province to request funding for own study – CARRIED   Priority:  High

Staff recommendations were discussed and assigned priority levels.

End of meeting

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