Saturday, May 29, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Friday, May 28, 2010)

The City prepares to hear from its residents over the new maintenance bylaw, new transitional housing is set for construction and one more chance to save some portion of the Eurocan mill in Kitimat, some of the items of interest for Friday's news files.

Daily News, front page, headline story
CITY GETTING CLOSER TO PROPERTY MAINTENANCE BYLAW -- Details of the city's proposed property maintenance bylaw, recently given second reading at coucnil, public comments on the proposed changes will be heard at the next council meeting on June 7.

A former Prince Rupert resident now attending the University of Victoria prepares her bid for the title of Miss Teen Canada World. The Daily profiles the challenge ahead for Ellysse Lindley.

The debate over whether tankers will ever be allowed to transit the waters of the North coast continues to heat up, with Enbridge pushing forward with it's plans to develop a pipeline and transportation terminal in Kitimat, while at the same time the Federal government is being asked to clarify its position on the prospect of tankers along the west coast.

The Sports section features a look at a group of former Prince Rupert residents who currently are tearing up the hockey scene in Keolowna

(Daily News Archives for Friday May 28, 2010)

Getting closer to a property maintenance bylaw
Local girl sets eyes on Miss Teen Canada World 
Tankers on the coast - to be or not to be?
Annual smoltfest his here
Cost of medical stays may increase

The Northern View
No new items were posted to the Northern View website on Friday

CFTK TV 7 News
New transitional housing will make for smoother transitions -- A report on the construction plans for new transitional housing in the city as the North Coast Transition Society moves forward with their long anticipated project. (see article here) Sahar Nassimdoost provided this report for CFTK TV News.

CFTK TV 7 News 
West Fraser, Eurocan Viability Group to meet Monday -- While the time frame for a solution is running out, union reps in Kitimat are still hopeful that a plan can be put together to save some form of the Eurocan operations in that city (see article here)

CBC News Norther BC, Daybreak North 
Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. 

The most recently posted items can be found on the archive page for Daybreak North click here

City getting closer to property maintenance bylaw
By Monica Lamb-Yorski
Staff Writer
Prince Rupert Daily News
Friday, May 28, 2010

Prince Rupert’s new property maintenance bylaw received its first and second reading at the May 25 council meeting.

Before it’s finalization the public will have an opportunity to make comments at the June 7 Regular City Council meeting. “I think we need to put aside time for people to come in and talk to us during the petitions and delegations portion of our meeting, even though it’s not a public hearing,” suggested Councillor Joy Thorkelson Members of council endorsed Thorkelson’s motion unanimously.

In his report to council, City Manager Gordon Howie said that in February 2010 council instructed staff to update the Nuisance Bylaw to include the appearances of buildings in the downtown core.

The difference between the nuisance bylaw that currently exists and the new one that’s being proposed, Howie explained, is that the new bylaw should allow the City to look at aesthetics as well as structure and general clutter in addition to things that are traditionally considered to be a 

 “The intent of the proposed bylaw is to provide the City with a tool that can be used to encourage and impel property owners to maintain their building facades. This desire to do so has come in response to the deteriorating appearances and maintenance of some buildings and properties in the downtown core and the negative impression this situation is having on visitors and citizens alike,” Howie commented.

If building owners fail to comply, the bylaw will give the City the ability to do work on properties and charge it to the owners or recover it through property taxes.

After Howie’s report, Councillor Joy Thorkelson voiced two concerns about the bylaw.

 “We’ve been operating, if my memory serves me correctly, under the provisions of the community charter when we’ve been declaring nuisances and derelict buildings. Is this going to replace those sections?” she asked.

Howie confirmed the sections under the charter would still be available, but the difference is that the new bylaw would delegate to staff the ability to order cleanups. Anybody has the right to appeal staff decisions and bring those decisions to council, he added.

Secondly, Thorkelson said, when she was envisioning doing something about the state of buildings in the downtown, she wasn’t anticipating a bylaw that was as comprehensive as the one being proposed under the property maintenance bylaw.

“I certainly would be interested in doing something like this as long as it didn’t engender a whole lot of protest about cars parked on boulevards and the like, because I think that we’ve been dealing with people who have not had a lot of money to upkeep their 
houses,” she said.

Council has dealt with houses in a manner that has been respectful of people’s ability to pay and also respectful of the community’s desire to have a decent neighbourhood, and a neighbourhood without hazard, she added.

“This bylaw seems to go a lot further than that. It’s certainly comprehensive and talks about animal droppings and graffiti - which I guess is a downtown issue - emission of dust and snow removal.”

Council has also expressed a desire to develop a permissive tax exemption program for business and building owners and Thorkelson asked whether there is still a plan to present such an incentive alongside the property bylaw.

“If we are just going to be using a stick and not a carrot, then I do have some problems,” she said.

 Mayor Jack Mussallem confirmed that he and staff have met with business owners and prepared additional information about a tax exemption program.

 “We are going to be meeting with business community members again. Staff has phoned property owners and there have been offers made by various community groups on cleanup. There are some property owners who refuse to acknowledge any sort of overtures in regards to cleanup so this bylaw is intended for those in the most severe case,” Mussallem explained.

Howie said the exemption bylaw should be coming to council in June, but didn’t know if it would be in time for the June 7 meeting.

“The two are not maybe as closely linked as they should be, but are at least within six weeks of each other,” he suggested.

Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne said she was glad the bylaw was moving forward sooner than later because there have been some businesses the City has been trying to work with and has received no response.

“I was hoping by the time this comes to us, by the third and fourth reading, that we actually know we have letters ready to send out to those few business that have been brought to our attention,” she said.

 She also wondered who is the judge when it comes to what is considered unsightly.

 “If we’re going to send a letter out and say, “your store front is so unsightly” and I’ll say, “oh my gosh I don’t see anything wrong with that”. Who’s the judge and will we get tied up somehow in court?”

Responding, the mayor said that before any property is acted upon there is a senior staff group that will look at the issue.

 “We wrestled with that a bit,” said Howie. “Beauty and ugly are in the eyes of the beholder and we thought we could get three beholders together to discuss that - because it is a subject of objectivity. That was suggested by us and vetted through our legal advisors and they feel that system would work and would withstand the test of the law. That’s not to say someone might not challenge it.”

 Copies of the proposed property bylaw are available at City Hall or on the City’s website.

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