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Council in Focus

March 21, 2023 Edition

Event: Lions Bay Council Meeting

Time: Public meeting: 7:00 pm

Agenda: HERE

Video link: from YouTube HERE


Present at the council table were Mayor Ken Berry, Councillors Neville Abbott, Michael Broughton and Marcus Reuter. Also present were acting Municipal Clerk Karen Jeffrey and acting CAO/CFO Ron Miller.


It was a full house for this meeting, with almost all of the public gallery seats filled by residents and delegation members, and more than 25 residents participating online. The agenda package stretched to a weighty 226 pages this week, so participants settled in for the long haul. The meeting was ultimately extended to 10:30 pm.


Public Participation:


After the adoption of the agenda, 30-year village resident Rose Dudley approached the podium to ask why her letter had not been included in the council package. Rose, a former recipient of the Lions Bay Citizen of the Year Award, was told by Acting CAO/CFO Miller that her letter contained possibly defamatory material and had been forwarded to a lawyer for assessment. Resident Tony Strong stepped forward to vehemently object to the letter being withdrawn.


Residents Tony Greville, Karl Buhr and Brian Ulrich spoke as unelected members of a previous Infrastructure Committee. They were concerned the published terms of reference will not allow for constructive discussion and action.


Tony Greville noted that the makeup of the previous Infrastructure Committee, including four council members, three volunteers, the CAO and the Works Manager, meant that the group became what he called a "glorified non-functioning council", that eventually disbanded. He said that council constraints hampered communication and expertise. He asked that the formation of the new committee have fewer council members and a more and varied group of residents with appropriate levels of expertise.


Brian Ulrich introduced himself as a chemical engineer who has worked in aerospace and robotics fields. With regard to the purpose and mandate of the committee, he said that it is more important the terms of reference look forward to upcoming needs and projects, rather than the current focus on maintenance, which would be, in any case, under the purview of the Works Crew. He concluded that the Infrastructure Master Plan needs to be more strategic and forward-looking.


In response to a question from Mayor Berry regarding the failure of the previous committee, Brian suggested Council and the Works Department may have felt the committee was overstepping their mandate. He proposed that this time, a committee structure be made up of a chair and one or two other people from council, a core group of three or four volunteers, and perhaps a larger group of experts to draw from when needed.


Former Mayor Karl Buhr said that strategic oversight of the Infrastructure Committee is important. He noted that while the village lacks a civic engineer, there are many engineers who live here who can offer the civil, electrical, communications and electronics oversight the village needs. He asked council to consider carefully what they are trying to accomplish, and to recognize that the Infrastructure Committee is apolitical. He exhorted council members to "rise above the fray", and look for long-term strategic ideas for the nearly $1 million dollar grant the village is about to receive. He noted that there currently is a list of about 20 infrastructure issues that are outstanding.


In response, Councillor Abbott lauded the successes of the past committee, while noting that it went "off the rails" near the end. He said that a select committee is allowed to have more community members than a standing committee, and said that might be the way to go for the new Infrastructure Committee. This suggestion was supported by Karl Buhr and Tony Greville, but the mayor insisted the new Infrastructure group would remain a standing committee.


Resident Arlene Halstrom took the podium to say that the new brown dog-waste bags are too thin. She prefers the old green bags, which were sturdy enough to use for her husband's lunch, and worked better for the intended job.


Speaking online, resident Rebecca Caspersen asked about the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) job posting. She noted that while the job posting for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) lists minimum education standards and five years minimum senior and local management experience, the CAO posting asks for none of these things, instead specifying only key responsibilities and 'qualities'.

Rebecca then compared this listing to a job posting for the CAO in Greenwood, Canada's smallest city, and with the previous job description for the CAO in Lions Bay, both of which called for extensive experience in senior management and contracts, an undergraduate degree or higher in business or law, municipal experience and an in-depth knowledge of the Community Charter, among many other expected qualifications.

She said she is concerned because the mayor and most council members have minimal experience within their current roles and the village has lost a number of experienced employees. Given the list of responsibilities of this position, to open the CAO job to someone who has no municipal experience and does not have the required education could negatively impact the village even further. She asked who created the job posting and questioned why it doesn't list any minimum education or municipal qualifications, or years of experience.


Acting CAO Ron Miller replied that he had created the posting, and that in response, the village has received roughly 30 applications with all the required skill sets represented. He added that education is a given, and that no one would apply without extensive experience, management experience and education.


Online, resident Carmon Leeson thanked the Bear Smart Committee for their hard work and education and said he looks forward to the adoption of the bylaw, which will give staff the ability to enforce the necessary actions so that the village can live in harmony with the bears, and with nature at the doorstep.


At least two Zoom participants expressed an interest in asking questions, but were thwarted by technology.


Public Delegation:


Susan Davis and Scott Gordon spoke as a delegation on behalf of the Lions Bay Beach Park Committee.

Susan noted the committee has thrived with the support of council, and that thanks to their group of dedicated volunteers they have completed a detailed grant application review, are up to speed on obligations and commitments, and have renewed the connection with a contact at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. She added that the province is open to reviewing the scope and required modifications of the project since the costs of construction have jumped, but that they are unwilling to offer more funding to cover the increased costs. She said the committee has completed a preliminary schedule and budget. It has consulted with both children and seniors in the village, and has plans to share this information through a web page, currently under construction. They are also planning a story-wall to highlight all that is special about Lions Bay. Susan said the committee is looking forward to a townhall meeting at the end of May, where residents will be taken on a virtual tour of the proposed plans. The committee has benefitted from having architects, engineers, project managers and communications people, all volunteering their time.


Scott Gordon spoke to the work on what he called the 'big three' elements of the upgrade: the playground, the washroom /Lori Beck building, and the water sports storage area and jetty, He noted that the three areas require different timelines, with long procurement and delivery times, but that building briefs are already going out to a number of architectural firms, for design work and building permits. The plan is to start the project in November this year, and be completed by May, 2024. The jetty approvals will be underway in the next week or so. The water sports storage design needs to wait until the playground layout is established, which will require some retaining wall and arborist work. The design for the water sports storage will be dovetailed with the planning for the playground equipment, which means that decommissioning should take place by the end of October.


Some discussion arose from a question by Councillor Reuter about the challenge with the ramp. Scott noted the original design called for an accessible ramp that would have cost almost the entire grant to build. However, with the help of volunteer David Lee, the committee has rewritten the grant to make the washrooms, shelter and hard surfaces accessible, which will meet the intent of the original grant application.


Review and Approval of Minutes of Prior Meetings:

  • Minutes of March 7 were approved with a few wording changes, and with Reuter opposed, based on the existing format of the minutes. There was some discussion about the format of the minutes regarding verbatim vs synopsis style.

  • Minutes of February 15 were also approved, after discussion.


Business Arising from the Minutes:


A few items were moved from both sets of minutes, to be addressed within Unfinished Business. Miller reported that he had received legal advice indicating that he can consult with the Finance Committee to obtain their advice prior to going to council. The committee may not approve anything, but can offer suggestions. Berry handed out copies of the legal opinion, and Reuter asked that such materials be provided in the package. Councillor Broughton asked that minutes be presented less informally, with full names of speakers indicated.


Unfinished Business:


  • With regard to the minutes from February 15, Abbott said that Berry had said the Ministry of Municipal Affairs had offered to provide and pay for assistance with the by-election. Miller indicated that this was incorrect, and in fact the village is required to pay for everything to do with the by-election. Reuter and Abbott disputed that this was said in the meeting. Reuter insisted that Berry claimed the Ministry would pay for the election. Berry replied that he had said the Ministry would pay for the advisor, and appoint people for the election, but that costs would be borne by the village.

  • Reuter's investigation of the Vacancy Tax remains ongoing.

  • Miller said the presentation of the Budget is two or three weeks away. Abbott suggested that it's okay to bring elements of the budget before completion to council. Miller said that he is working toward a good draft, but that it is still too preliminary at the moment. Broughton asked that council find a time to look at the current context of difficult times for residents, and take a closer look at efficiencies and current expenditures. Council agreed to form a Committee of the Whole to address the budget.

  • A letter asking for an extension on the grant for the Klatt building rebuild has been completed. The letter is being sent on and a response is expected. Abbott asked about the Request For Proposal (RFP), and reiterated that the drawings were done, but an RFP has not gone out. The previous builder has withdrawn, so a new RFP must be drafted. Miller agreed to follow up.

  • The position of building inspector has been posted publicly, but of the few applicants responding, none have been qualified for the position. For the short term, Miller has agreed to allow architects or engineers to sign off on projects. Abbott noted that the village needs to fill this position. Miller replied that the work can be sub-contracted out, but he has been unable to find anyone to do the job. Reuter said that architects and engineers can only address a limited number of issues, not including such things as set-backs, framing, vapour barriers, sprinklers, or a final occupancy certificate, among many others. He added that having these sign-offs is inconsistent with village bylaws, and said the biggest issue is insurance liability. Berry handed a legal opinion to council regarding potential liability issues.

  • Miller said the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position has been posted, and is receiving lots of applications. When questioned, Miller confirmed the position is listed as part-time. He said he will not interview applicants for the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) position but will make a decision on the new CFO. Reuter asked that the position not be listed as part-time, but Broughton noted that the CAO has the ability to hire a CFO without direction. Abbott and Reuter both emphasized that if the organizational structure is to change, that needs to be a council discussion. Miller noted that he believes it is good management to find efficiencies, and asked if there is a village organization chart. The existence of the chart was confirmed by Reuter. There followed a discussion on whether changing the position from full to part time represented a change in the organization, and the question was raised whether Miller was looking to hire an assistant or a CFO or both.

  • Bird-friendly /Invasive species interaction is ongoing, facilitated by Penny Nelson.

  • Miller said the village Utility Notices are ready, and will show them to council before distributing.


Reports

Staff:

  • The Cheque Registry for 2022, fourth quarter (Q4), (formerly referred to as the Accounts Payable Cheque Listing) is included in the minutes (beginning on page 24), and was received. Some discussion of projects paid for under this listing ensued, including whether the repair of the Fire Hall door was an insurance claim, and an acknowledgement that the Village spent the same amount on road salt as on Hydro costs. Abbott noted that a few projects have gone off radar, such as the $16,000 rail crossing study, and requested a report to explain the results of the study. For background, Abbott explained that the rail company told the Village to remove the stop sign on Lions Bay Avenue, which local residents disagreed with. In order to keep the sign, the Village was required to undertake the study, which ended up including all three crossings. Broughton suggested that, with over $900,000 paid out, it's important the Finance Committee look through this document to ensure that expenditures such as loans are justified. Reuter remarked that the Works Manager could help answer some of the questions if he was in the room. Miller said that if something is pressing, he supports bringing staff members to the meeting.

  • Municipal grant applications were approved as submitted, and included the Event Committee ($6,000 +in-kind support), Trailblazers ($1,250), Historical Society ($300), Community Gardeners ($100), Senior's Circle ($1,500 + in-kind), Arts Council (38 hours of Hall Rental), Native Plant Garden Association ($500), Craft Group (in-kind only), Caroling Team ($130), Bird-Friendly Society ($300 + in-kind). Abbott said he was impressed with the Event Committee and others who raised a lot of money on their own, taking costs away from taxpayers.

Committees:

  • Tree Committee: Regarding the revised tree application #124-14 Brunswick Road, Reuter and Abbott asked for the opinion of an independent arborist, as this is a public park, and since the resident is not impartial and did not mention the existence of significant trees, the application failed.

  • Curly Steward Memorial Trust Fund Committee: Asking to increase the award from $750 to $1,000. Abbott explained that council originally set the award at $500, have since moved it to $750, and are now asking to move it to $1,000. The money is raised by fundraising, not taxes. The motion passed to adjust the amount and council agreed to discuss points of contact between council, committees and the CAO in the future.

Emergency Services:

The RCMP monthly report for November/December, 2022, was received as read.


Resolutions:

Broughton gave some background to his research with regard to the resolution to adopt a First Nations Land Acknowledgement to be read before every council meeting, and included a list of people he consulted. Reuter noted that the most important contact, the Squamish language and cultural affairs representative Elizabeth Ross, is missing from the list. He added that reading a statement feels rote, and is performative, He asked if council can do more - have a festival? Hire an Indigenous intern? Broughton indicated that he has not pursued those avenues, but doesn't preclude them. The motion carried, with Reuter opposed,


Bylaws:

A Noise Bylaw Exception requested for a Seabrooke Entertainment concert to be held at the Village Hall on the afternoon of April 16 passed.


The Garbage and Recycling bylaw amendment was adopted at last. Broughton supported the motion, but asked that council monitor spending for a year. His request was deferred.


Correspondence:

Correspondence can be found HERE, beginning on page 150.


The general correspondence included letters from Member of Parliament Patrick Weiler on the subjects of a cash benefit to renters (p. 151), and support for the 2SLBGTQI+ community (p. 157), a letter from Susan Jones regarding the environmental threat posed by the Robert's Bank Container facility (p. 152), and a letter from Will Cole-Hamilton with regard to the Help Cities Lead climate initiative (p. 158).


Resident correspondence came from Melissa Byrne (garbage and bear bylaw, p. 163), kc dyer (First Nations Land Acknowledgement, p. 166), Rose Dudley (council meeting, letter suppressed by council), Norm Barmeier (Finance Committee meeting, p. 168), Dave Butler (mayor and council, p. 169), Ben and Ingrid Gauer (Speculation Tax, p. 180), Gail Craig (appointment of CEO and DCEO, p. 182), David Cobban's letter to Ron Miller (building inspector, p. 184), Bruce MacLachlan's letter to Neville Abbott (Finance Committee meeting, p. 185), Arlene Halstrom (behaviour at council table, p. 191), Trudi Luethy (food for thought, p. 192) and Eric Upenieks (building inspector, p. 195).


Broughton briefly reviewed the general correspondence and noted that he will attend the upcoming Howe Sound Community Forum (letter on p. 198), as the Village representative. He noted that he has replied or will reply to residents' correspondence. Several of his replies to previous letters are included in the package, beginning on page 206. He also noted that Rose Dudley's missing letter had been addressed earlier in the meeting by Miller.


Abbott pointed out that as he had replied to Bruce McLaughlan's letter, he would like his reply included in the minutes for the record. There was some discussion with the Municipal Clerk with regard to procedures for communications that are directed to individual councillors, but not to council as a whole.


Reuter asked about Eric Upeniek's letter, which requested verification of council's support of the CAO's decision to allow engineers to sign off on his project until a new building inspector is hired. Reuter stated that he does not support this decision because of the process itself and the possibility of liability. Council decided that they will respond once they have read the legal opinion and discussed the question.


New Business:


There was some discussion of a Volunteer Appreciation event, and the fact that the official week occurs shortly before the upcoming by-election. Abbott gave some background, and noted that he has volunteers lined up who could run the event. He said that timelines would be short for picking Citizen of the Year and Citizen of Distinction, and asked for council opinions. Discussion arose as to whether it might be better scheduled after the official volunteer week so as not to be held before the by-election. The decision was to ask the Chief Elections Officer if there is a conflict or if the event can go forward during Volunteer Appreciation week, ahead of the by-election.


Volunteer Finance Committee member Bruce McLaughlan will review village insurance policies. He has 40 years of experience in the field, and will be asked to look into the policies and report any findings to council.


The establishment of a Parking Committee was deferred in order to seek more information. This was followed by a motion to extend the meeting to 10:30 pm.


Public Discussion:

  • Online, resident Jamie Cunliffe spoke in support of a Volunteer Appreciation event. She said it was an essential tradition, and generally well-attended, and that the byelection should not have bearing on the celebration of village volunteers.

  • Online, Rebecca Caspersen addressed the parking committee issue. She said that in December, residents were told a parking report had to be brought to council before a committee could be formed. She felt that this parking report needs to be made available first, and restated her willingness to volunteer.

  • Rebecca also commented on the posting of council minutes. She said that previous councils posted the approved minutes with separate links, making them easier to find.

  • She also reiterated the importance of employment equity targets when staffing, and asked that council consider hiring people who are members of groups that are not currently represented at the council table.

  • Abbott noted that in last couple of years, the parking plan was reviewed each year as parking needs changed. He said this needs to happen again this year, and Rebecca added that resident input is very important as well.

  • Municipal Clerk Karen Jeffrey addressed Rebecca's question about the minutes, noting that after the minutes are amended and signed, they will then be posted with separate links.


The meeting adjourned more than three hours after it began. The next regular council meeting is scheduled for April 4, 2023 at 6:00 pm. As of this writing, the agenda and associated information package has not yet been posted.





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Unknown member
Mar 27, 2023

It is my understanding, as a responsible dog owner, you purchase your own dog poop bags. It is not up to the Village to supply poop bags to every dog owner in the Village. The bags supplied by the Village are for those times when you have been caught short and are to be used on an emergency basis. To complain to council about the tensile strength of the supplied bags takes things to a new level of entitlement and to declare in public that you actually pilfer Village supplied bags for your husband's lunch defies good sense and understanding.

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The following is a quote from Daphne Bramham's article in today's edition of the Vancouver Sun:


"Earlier this month, the Municipal Affairs Ministry put out a request for quotes for a municipal adviser whose term would end June 30, but with the possibility of a three-month extension, if required. The adviser will help councils resolve “conduct and decision-making” problems, mentor council members and senior staff in “effective communication and decision-making,” provide council(s) with an assessment of practices and priorities, and make periodic progress reports to the ministry.


"No reference was made to which community or communities might need or be seeking help to address “urgent concerns” that are defined as the “significant governance or related challenges.


"But a couple spring…


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Norma Rodgers
Norma Rodgers
Mar 24, 2023

Thank you kc for the summary but one piece of information focussed my attention and outrage.

CAO/CFO Miller has consulted a lawyer to determine whether Rose Dudley's opinion letter to Council is defamatory. He is using our tax dollars to silence a 50 year resident with a long history of volunteering in the Village!

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Thank you for you dedication and reportage. Your unbiased coverage of council meetings is most helpful in achieving some level of transparency in our local affairs.


BTW, do you know when the Village began supplying lunch bags to the Halstroms?

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In these tumultuous Lions Bay times, I really appreciate the precise, painstaking, unbiased reporting of these lengthy, action-packed, and complex council meetings. Thanks so much to the Watershed for capturing and enlightening our community regarding events during these unusually controversial times! An invaluable resource — a calm voice speaking clearly through the din!

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