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City of Powell River introduces north harbour bylaw

Councillors give first reading to proposed draft and provide time for further input
DIFFERENT MOTION: City councillors had a conservative approach to a draft bylaw for the north harbour, voting for first reading rather than the proposed first three readings, to provide more opportunity for community input and for staff to develop the bylaw.

Instead of the planned first three readings, City of Powell River councillors have given only first reading to the draft north harbour rates and regulations bylaw.

At the July 7 city council meeting, when the recommendation to provide first three readings was to be considered, councillor George Doubt said he wanted to make a different motion, that the bylaw be read a first time.

“This is an opportunity to hear from council members about what they think and then we can go back to staff for more discussion,” said Doubt. “If we do the first reading, it will give us time to go to the second and third readings, perhaps get more public input into the bylaw, more discussion, and more ideas circulating about how we do this. We don’t want to rush this.”

Councillor Rob Southcott said his central concern is that the draft bylaw suggests a change from a municipal service to a for-profit model.

“It’s been a civic service for about 50 years, which currently pays for all of the risks and expenses,” said Southcott. “It also pays for the cost of financing the current harbour, the $6 million loan that was required to do that, and has been putting in contributions to reserve for the past 10 years for eventual replacement.

“Does our community want this to be a for-profit business? I’m confident moorage holders won’t want that. It’s operated very well just the way it has.”

Southcott said the suggestion that the proposed moorage increases could be used to enhance city revenues, thereby offsetting taxes, would be attractive to taxpayers, however, he is not comfortable assuming the rest of the community would want this to happen. He said he believes consultation is required.

Southcott said about half of the moorage holders are retirees and lifetime dreams might become unaffordable for a number of them. A business plan is needed if the north harbour is to become a for-profit venture, he added.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said the concern around the three-year transition to a very high increase in moorage rates is probably excessive and is likely to create hardship for some clients.

“I would prefer, as was suggested by some folks who came here and talked to us, maybe to have a bylaw that has increases more in line with our 4.1 per cent tax increase,” said Elliott.

She also said the recommended formation of an advisory committee to look at the long-term aspects is a good suggestion.

“It’s not just about the north harbour,” said Elliott. “It’s about a long-term strategy for how our waterfront benefits our community and how it works with economic development, and what future development on the waterfront looks like. It’s about having consistency in policy for the entire waterfront and how it benefits our community.

“I’d like to see a bylaw that is only for one year so we can get some of the other things in line. I would prefer it to not be as excessive as it is now.”

Referring back to staff supported

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she is in favour of referring the matter back to staff to consider some recommendations that have been brought forward.

“We have heard some good suggestions and thoughtful recommendations,” said Leishman. “I like the idea of a business plan and looking at the business case of all of the different harbours and seeing what opportunities we’re missing.

“I was happy to hear the feedback from the harbour users. There is real value in doing first reading and sending it back to staff to try and incorporate some of that, and do a bit more engagement and see what else we’re missing.”

Doubt said councillors had heard a number of concerns from the public, and if the motion was passed as he proposed, it provides time for more community involvement.

Councillor Jim Palm said he is all for sending the matter back to staff after first reading, getting a committee of users together, and having a moratorium until some concrete plans can be developed.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway, who was serving as acting mayor, said she has a little difficulty creating rates for the north harbour in isolation without looking at the south and Westview harbours.

Councillors voted unanimously for first reading of the north harbour rates and regulations bylaw. Council also unanimously passed a motion to refer the matter back to staff for further information to come back to council at a later date.

The draft bylaw stipulates a minimum 15 per cent increase in moorage rates in 2023, 2024 and 2025, the elimination of the seniors rate, mandatory liability insurance for boaters, and other measures.


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