Valemount Council: gas tax money, invasives and parking woes

By Andru McCracken


The Village of Valemount held their regularly scheduled meeting on October 8. Present were Mayor Owen Torgerson, Councillors Sheri Gee, Hollie Blanchette, Donnie MacLean and Pete Pearson, CAO Wayne Robinson, Deputy Corporate Officer Carleena Shepherd and Planner Megan Vicente.

Prior to the regular meeting, council held a public hearing on Zoning Amendment Bylaw 810, 2019. The amendment would change the zoning of 940 Main Street, also known as the Trading Post, from service commercial zone ‘C3’ to ‘C2’, general commercial.

The amendment would allow for two principal buildings and reduces the interior side setback from 6m to 1m.

No concerns were raised at the public hearing.

Planner Megan Vicente said there were no written concerns.

“If no further concerns arise, we recommend giving 3rd and 4th readings to zoning amendment bylaw 810 – 2019,” she said.

Before council adopted the agenda for their meeting they recognized VCTV’s Michael Peters for filming 150 consecutive meetings.

Public comments
Rahsmi Narayan, chair of the council’s housing committee made the case for a multi-stakeholder project.

“I want to add something because our meeting was after the deadline. The housing committee has committed to bring in a facilitator to bring together all the housing stakeholders and see how they can be part of a joint housing project,” said Narayan. “I think this is good news. If council approves the $10,000 to match I think you’ll be also supporting a project that will meet multiple housing needs that has the mandate of all the housing groups in Valemount.”

She said coordination of housing is important because there are so many voices.

Narayan also spoke to a bylaw amendment.

“Parking is much needed infrastructure. On a different agenda item to eliminate parking fees in lieu, it makes sense to have a fund from such fees. Scrapping these fees goes against what other municipalities are doing to address this issue. By saying no to revenue you are actually putting the burden on other taxpayers. All businesses need to develop the infrastructure of Valemount,” she said.

Christmas tidings
Council waived fees for the Valemount Food Bank’s Christmas Dinner to be held on December 25.

Regional governance
Council appointed Mayor Torgerson as representative to the Regional District of Fraser Fort George and appointed Hollie Blanchette as alternate director. Torgerson said the arrangement would allow each councillor to get a ‘taste’ of the regional governance body.

Valemountain Days
The Valemount Sport Days Committee sought permission from council to apply for a grant to obtain a commercial fridge, commercial freezer and commercial ice maker for the (soon to be) upgraded concession on the Valemount Sport Grounds. Council agreed to support their grant writing efforts.

From the Reading file
MacLean made the case for learning more about invasive plants and council’s involvement. She asked if anyone could attend the Northwest Invasive Plant Council’s annual general meeting. “I really feel this is important. The weeds are getting out of hand,” said MacLean. Robinson said staff has requested they present to council in the past. “We’re interested in learning more information from them. I can ask them to come,” said CAO Wayne Robinson.

Torgerson said he learned new information that should be taken into consideration next year regarding Permissive Tax Exemptions for the Valemount and Area Rentals Society, from letters in the reading file.

Staff reports
Council received the Accounts Receivable Report for August and September and the Building Inspector’s report without comment or question.

Rural Dividend cancellation fallout
Council’s work on affordable housing was put in jeopardy when the Province cancelled the Rural Dividend granting stream.

“[The] project sits in limbo and cannot proceed without further funding,” read a staff report. “Staff is requesting that $10,000 be provided from this budget […] to make up for the lack of funding.”

Council had set aside $20,000 for grant opportunities that required matching funds.

Council granted the request.

“I think Ms. Narayan summed it up quite well,” said Blanchette, who sits on the housing committee. “Now is the opportunity to move forward on this. I think Council’s commitment is important.”

Valemount Cafe
On October 29 Council will host a ‘cafe’ to discuss village issues with the public. Mayor Torgerson canvassed councillors about what they would like to discuss. Pearson said he couldn’t make it.

“I have to extend my regrets, I will be performing Legion duties in Mackenzie that night,” said Pearson.

Blanchette said she wanted the public to feel free to hold forth about anything.

“If we don’t have the answers we can get them. It’s a good opportunity to make sure we’re all on the same page,” she said.

Torgerson said that because their income from the gas tax will double he wanted the public’s help in determining what to do with at least half of it.

“I’m looking for Council’s support to have staff research and present eligible projects under the gas tax project,” he said.

Council approved the motion.

Community Initiatives
A staff report said that the CBT Community Initiative granting program has $523,500.

Torgerson introduced the idea of a firewood co-op where members would store wood in seacans until they were dry.

“Those involved would submit to the co-op and draw from the co-op,” said Torgerson.

Blanchette said she couldn’t make a decision on the proposal because she didn’t know enough about it.

“I’m throwing the idea out that the more vulnerable part of the population live on smaller lots and therefore cannot store their wood in a manner that cures over time and are therefore burning a green wetter wood. This program would enable them within reason to get to a spot to store their wood,” explained Torgerson.

Blanchette asked to add it to the agenda of an upcoming clean air task force meeting

Pearson said he wasn’t sure how the cooperative aspect would work.

He pitched a competing proposal: a large shed providing an affordable source of seasoned firewood from the community forest.

“Subsidized for those who need it and market price for those who don’t need a subsidy,” said Pearson.

Council received the staff report.

Comfort Inn amendment
The Comfort Inn has asked for an amendment that would allow them to use gravel instead of grass in their landscaping.

Pearson supported the proposal because it uses less water and would be aesthetically pleasing.

Torgerson also asked that the Inn replace coniferous trees with deciduous.

“To me this is the exact opposite of fire safe,” he said.

Bylaws
Zoning amendment bylaw 806-2019 received first and second reading. Its purpose is to support and create affordable housing opportunities within the Village of Valemount. The permissive tax exemption Bylaw 809 was adopted as presented. Council gave third and fourth reading to Zoning amendment Bylaw 810 which amends the zoning of the Trading Post or 940 Main Street.

Council Remuneration
Council increased their remuneration with Bylaw 811 – 2019

They tied their incomes to the consumer price index.

“Is there anybody who would like to give themselves a raise?” asked Torgerson.

“Because that’s not awkward,” said Blanchette.

Blanchette asked if they would also give staff a raise as well at the same time.

“We’ll be coming to council afterward with that,” said Robinson

“The large ask is on its way,” said Torgerson.

Effective January 1, 2020 the mayor will make $19,503.52 per year and councillors $8,777.10.

Waiving parking cash in lieu
Staff asked council to eliminate the cash in lieu option from Parking and Loading provisions of Bylaw 610, 2007. Staff explained that the cash in lieu had never been collected by the Village since the bylaw was set up in 2007, but a provision in the community charter forbids the village from forgoing cash-in-lieu.

“It’s a tough one,” said Pearson.

“Is there a clarification needed?” asked Torgerson. “Should we test the floor.”

Blanchette moved the controversial item.

“Parking, as we know, is a huge issue, and I don’t have the answer for it. We’re locked in where the downtown core is, sometimes just trying to park your bike is hard enough. We discussed parking several months ago, we need to figure it out if another building is coming,” said Blanchette.

“Can I offer that our OCP will be under review in the next year and it will be part of an overall umbrella review?” asked Torgerson.

“Can we put this on hold for a year?” said Blanchette.

“I agree with that completely,” said Pearson. “Let’s deal with it all at one time, then we get it right.”

Council Reports
Councillors and the Mayor gave extensive reports as it had been 30 days since the last Council meeting, except for councillor Gee who had nothing to report.

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