This Council meeting had a full house and all Councillors present. I am assuming this was due to two items of particular interest to residents: 1. Urban- farming, and 2. Water. It appears that residents move quickly on issues they care about as many in the audience had copies of the ‘Report to Nanaimo City Council’, Brian Blood’s letter to our Council, and even the anonymous letter posted about the community calling for resignations of the Mayor and Council members. Quite appropriately, Councillor Haime opened the meeting with an amendment to the agenda (to include a discussion of the proposed water agreement).
Getting into Correspondence, it appears concerns continue regarding backyard burning and other issues between neighbours. There was some discussion and, as the ticketing bylaw is now in effect, Council decided to send the concerned resident’s letter to the RDN so they could follow their process relating to enforcement.
For Reports, many of the Councillors discussed the need to re-engage in partnerships with local First Nations. Councilor Dempsey requested staff explore the cost of paving the remaining section of the E&N trail (from Arbutus Crescent to the E&N trail), possibly using Gas Tax funds.
Council then amended a mistake in the second reading of an Official Community Plan (OCP) bylaw update and passed it, sending it to public hearing. Mayor DeJong then exercised his Mayoral privilege and brought back the motion that failed in the previous council meeting. The motion was to adopt the recommendations of the new City Planner in addressing Urban Agriculture. From my understanding this included an analysis of what other communities have done to embrace the concept as well as recommendations regarding public consultation. As expected this spurred much debate with the usual polarized positioning by most Councillors. I could probably insert here the contents of discussions from a year ago without anyone recognizing:
Mayor DeJong identified progress on this issue as “having gone nowhere”, desiring to open it up to the community and proceed with staff recommendations as previous discussions were made ”under duress”. Councilor Millibank identified her preference for public consultation and broad-based community support. Councillor Savage identified his preference of dealing with the issue under home-based business regulations. Councillor Haime presented her view of the historical progression of the issue identifying it as a ‘small issue’ that has been excessively costly. Councillor Mostad identified the City Planners recommendations as more exhaustive and felt Councillors had focused on prosecuting Compassion Farms rather than dealing with it as an important community issue. Councillor Bratkowski identified the issue as now being two years old and suggested we can learn to embrace the issue and capitalize on the new developments as other communities had. Councillor Dempsey expressed his struggle with the definitions used in the report and identified a need for clarification between concepts of “Horticulture” versus “Agriculture”. In the end, debate was fairly limited as Councillors appeared to recognize what could be said has been said; the motion passed.
Councillors then discussed stipulations to be applied to a cell tower application on Metral Drive. Concerns and suggestions were numerous including things like height, colour, and other items like free access for our Fire Department. Council also discussed some upcoming Committee of the Whole meetings that would include information related to downtown revitalization efforts as well as the transportation plan and fire underwriters survey.
Surprisingly the discussion regarding the proposed water deal with Nanaimo was quite anticlimactic. Counsellor Dempsey identified the City of Nanaimo having tabled the discussion with no news to report. Mayor DeJong read out the “Report to [Nanaimo] Council” for those in attendance who were not familiar with it (if any). While Counsellor Haime identified concerns at having not seen the proposal and expressed that it had been drafted by the Mayor and CAO, other Councillors appeared comfortable that the proposal was simply the City of Nanaimo drafting their “offer” to Lantzville and that further consultation and discussion would follow.
Public Participation was also uncharacteristically subdued. The general sentiment by residents concerned Council not communicating effectively regarding issues. Concerns were expressed that Council was spending money dealing with Urban Agriculture, that some homes were struggling with unsafe well water, and that residents were fearful not knowing what is going on. One previous Counsellor offered an interesting proposition regarding water discussions and a resident encouraged anyone on wells to get tested for chemicals like Boron.