Full evening for council

Meeting topics result in controversial evening

Keremeos Village Council dealt with a request from village resident Nathan Goltz requesting a change to the zoning bylaw regarding the use of cargo containers at the regular meeting of council held on July 25.

Councillor Gary Thielmann put forward a motion to allow shipping containers in residential areas, based on Goltz’ request, with Councillor Bauer countering, saying that he could not support the motion, and that Goltz should have checked the village bylaws before positioning a container in his yard.

Mayor Walter Despot agreed that council should not allow containers “carte blanc,” offering a suggestion to allow them on large lots and holding them subject to building inspection. He noted that Goltz’ container had been modified to fit in with existing architecture, and did not present an eyesore, something that was affirmed by Thielmann, who added that many wooden frame storage sheds lacked aesthetic appeal but were still allowed.

Council agreed to request that staff research the feasibility of allowing shipping containers on large lots by finding out what other communities do.

A letter was received from Ida Chong, Federal Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development outlining how arrangements could be made to meet with her at the upcoming UBCM convention in September.

A request was made by members of the Otesha Project requesting free use of Victory Hall when the environmentally – themed actors and actresses pass through the village September 20 to 21. Council elected to support the cost of use of the hall.

A motion to receive a letter from RDOS Manager of Public Works Doug French regarding final consultation of the Solid Waste Management Plan was made. Mayor Despot took the opportunity to speak to the rather well attended gallery about the issues surrounding the village’s solid waste management plan.

Residents of Tumbleweed Terrace – the new low income housing project behind the village office – presented an offer to council to look after the alley way between the parking lot of 320 Veterans Avenue and the Alpine Inn Motel, cleaning up weeds and debris in return to be allowed to put up a temporary moveable fence that would create an area for the residents to run their dogs. Council agreed to a six month trial, under specific conditions.

Recommendations to council from the July 11 Committee of the Whole meeting included requests for removal of four Chinese elms on Earls Crescent, the removal of four Lombardy poplars adjacent to 803 A- Ninth Avenue, and the removal of olive trees on Parsons Crescent, all of which will be carried out.

A  request for approval of the village’s financial support for a farewell party  that took place on July 24 for outgoing CAO Joni Heinrich (the day before the council meeting) was also made to council in the amount of $475. The sum will come out of the donations and gift fund.

The issue of traffic safety on Veterans Avenue was brought up once more, as staff sought to obtain direction from council regarding the solicitation of advice from a traffic professional regarding safety measures in place on Fourth Avenue  – or more specifically, the speed bump located near the intersection of Veterans Avenue.

The hiring of a traffic analyst would add an estimated $1,000 to an issue that staff felt had been dealt with in a 2009 traffic study of Keremeos streets. Council more or less agreed, with Councillor Bauer stating that it was “obvious why the speed bump was there.”

“The speed bump does perform a service there – we are quite comfortable with it,”  Mayor Despot said.

A motion was made to rescind  a motion made  at the October 18 regular meeting – “ That staff be directed to obtain advice from a traffic safety professional regarding the safety measures in place on Fourth Street near Veterans Avenue.” The decision did not sit well with several in the gallery.

Council also dealt with a tax exemption request put forward by the Lower Similkameen Community Services Society.

The society is looking for a partial or full exemption since the construction of their new facilities last year. The new building resulted in a tax increase of almost $5,000  over last year’s assessment.

The Community Charter provides that certain properties within municipalities are exempt form property taxation. In addition to statutory exemptions permitted by the Community Charter, the Charter also outlines where a council may by bylaw, exempt land or improvements from taxation. This type of exemption, known as permissive tax exemptions, has only been granted to the Assisted Living portion of the medical centre, which has been given a permissive tax exemption until 2014.

Council agreed to contact the assessment authority to see what could be done to reclassify the LSCSS, as it is the only not for profit in Keremeos not in the lower tax classification.

Mayor Despot also took the opportunity to speak out about the lack of financial support the village receives from the rural areas of “B” and “G”.

Council also agreed to ask staff to request a donation from the rural areas for LSCS taxes in 2012.

The village will support the website “Our Okanagan” by providing a link to it on the village website.

Council revisited the matter of extended hours for the former Crowbar and Grill, located at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Sixth Street.

The issue came back to council at the discretion of the mayor after a poor response to a village based inquiry of support amongst neighbouring properties brought inconclusive data to council.

Operators of the business, Karl Schorb and Suzanne Wood produced a petition overwhelmingly in favour of their position on the issue for council’s perusal, who subsequently voted in favour of a 12 month trial period for the extended hours of operation.

Question period was active, as many in the gallery had come to witness the discussion regarding the speed bump issue on Fourth Street. They expressed displeasure with council’s decision not to remove the speed bump, complaining that it was difficult to see and did nothing to make traffic flow safer. One member of the gallery insisted that the installation of the speed bump was tied to the awarding of funds for the Spirit Square program, from which the village received funding to make certain park enhancements a couple of years ago.

“Not to my knowledge,” Mayor Despot said in denial of the allegation.

After some discussion over the effectiveness of stop signs, Mayor Despot concluded the discussion by stating that council felt comfortable what they had done.

“We have never had a problem on Fourth  – and we don’t want to have one,” he concluded.

Other confused questions and statements came from an area resident who insisted that the village take responsibility for finances in Area “G,” at the same time reiterating questions and statements that he had made in previous council meetings regarding recycling issues and world conspiracies that Keremeos council was playing into. The resident concluded his thoughts by stating that he would be running for mayor in the fall municipal elections, assuring those present that he would win.