Snow removal concerns and third party impacts
What Happened at Invermere Council This Week?
By Anne Jardine
Mayor Gerry Taft and Councillors Greg Anderson, Justin Atterbury Paul Denchuk, and Al Miller, as well as Chief Administrative Officer Chris Prosser, Corporate Officer Kindry Luyendyk, Director of Finance Karen Cote, and Director of Development Services Rory Hromadnik attended the meeting.
The gallery included two guest presenters and 12 members of the public.
Snow removal concerns and third party impacts
Once council had adopted the agenda and minutes of the previous meeting, Mayor Taft invited local business owner Doug Kipp to come forward and make his presentation. Kipp addressed his concerns to Bylaw No. 1142, a lengthy document regarding control of traffic and use of the district highways. The part pertaining to snow removal is in sections 11 and 12: “Owners or occupiers of real property shall remove snow, ice or rubbish from the sidewalk and footpaths on a road right of way adjacent to the real property owned or occupied by them within 24 hours of the accumulation of such snow, ice or rubbish on such sidewalk.
“Owners or occupiers of real property shall immediately remove any snow, ice or rubbish from the roof or other part of any structure situated adjacent to or abutting on any portion of any highway if it constitutes a danger to persons using the highway by imposing a threat of falling upon the highway.”
Kipp observed that the bylaw wording is very simple to understand. Snow must be removed within 24 hours. As a business owner for many years, he views this as a matter of safety. He has always cleared the snow to keep his customers safe. It’s not hard to understand, and it’s not hard to do. He asked, “Do you have to have a certificate from the government called Shovel It Right? Everyone knows that Canadians are experienced from the age of six and up on shovelling snow.”
Moving to his main point, Kipp said, “What the bylaw doesn’t state is that if a citizen falls on the District of Invermere’s sidewalk property in the downtown area, the district will not be held liable for any personal injury. The liability falls to the business adjoining the district property. This is confirmed by a recent third party bodily injury claimant payout by my insurer. This injury occurred in January 2017 about seven or eight feet from my property line on a district sidewalk that I pay to have maintained from October to April.
“Imagine my surprise when I found out the District of Invermere had absolutely no liability even though the event occurred on their property! They, the district, with three lines regarding snow removal in their 27 pages of Bylaw (1142) transfer legal liability to the property owner adjacent to their property. I believe the district should notify all businesses that they will be held liable in the event that a claim is made regarding District of Invermere sidewalks in the winter.
“I have never heard of a business owner complaining about being responsible for snow removal. They incur the cost of cleaning the district’s sidewalks to insure the safety of citizens shopping in the downtown area. In my case, I hire a contractor to do that sidewalk cleaning.”
Kipp’s snow removal contractor spoke up at this point to verify that snow removal was done with due diligence, and that the winter of 2017 had been particularly icy and snowy with frequent temperature fluctuations, but that maintenance was continually and conscientiously done.
First, many curbs have chunks of cement missing and could cause tripping hazards when hidden under the snow (pictured right). Second, the lamppost bases have exposed bolts that jut upwards from the concrete and could cause serious injury should a pedestrian slip and fall on them. He presented pictures of some examples. He recommended that public works crews should attend to these matters and repair the most dangerous places before winter sets in.
Council discussed Kipp’s points, thanked him for bringing the concerns, and promised to follow up on the needed repairs.
A member of the public asked: “Should business owners be held liable for injuries that do not occur on their property?”
Chief Administrative Officer Chris Prosser replied on behalf of the district. “All municipalities have a similar policy protecting them from injury lawsuits. This kind of policy is required by the Municipal Insurance Association of BC in order for us to have any insurance coverage at all. I think the district and the business owners are acting with due diligence. They are not at fault. It’s the general public. It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life that everything has become so litigious. The district has been lucky so far. Each year we have five to 10 falls reported. So far this is the only lawsuit we have heard about.”
Permissive Tax Bylaw No. 1548, 2018
Such properties include those that are owned by the district such as Pynelogs Cultural Centre, and others not owned by the District such as the Curling Club, the Fitness Centre, Lakeview Manor, the Seniors’ Hall, The Legion, Family Resource Centre, the Churches, and other facilities that provide direct public benefit. This policy is reviewed, adjusted, and reenacted every year.
District Director of Finance Karen Cote reported that the loss of tax revenue for 2019 will be $50,229, but the benefits and services provided to the public by the exempted facilities are well in excess of $90,000.
Council Remuneration Bylaw No. 154, 2018
Finance Director Cote reported that a committee of citizens was set up earlier in September to examine the effects of new Revenue Canada taxation laws that would tax a portion of council compensation and make a recommendation on how to remedy the loss. The committee recommended that the 12% that would be lost due to tax regulation changes should be restored, split into four 3% increments over the elected term of the councillor.
After lengthy discussion, Mayor Taft proposed an amendment to not have the 12% be distributed in annual increments, but to be set from the beginning of the term. This would take effect in January of 2019. The base rate would thus be increased by 12%. Council is not setting its own rate, but rather the rate for the incoming council. The mayor’s amendment was seconded by Coun. Atterbury, and approved unanimously. The amended bylaw proposal was tabled to next meeting (October 9) for final readings.
A further proposal moved by Coun. Miller and seconded by Coun. Anderson was adopted. It calls for future councils to annually review the concept of a cost of living increase based on CPI.
Council voted to approve a Development Variance Permit for TXN Installations on Lot 3, District Lot 375 located at 117 Industrial Road #2. The project will move on to the public consultation phase.
Council accepted another Variance Permit for Westleaf Retail BC Inc. which seeks to vary Section 5.15(4)(f)(i) of the C-1, Downtown Commercial Zone which restricts the retail sale of recreational cannabis on 7th Avenue from 9th Street to 13th Street in order to accommodate a business at Lot 11, Block M, District Lot 216, Kootenay District Plan 1013 located at 1006 7th Avenue.
Council also voted to approve a resolution that public notification of the proposed variance be given in accordance with the Local Government Act. This would enable the applicant to proceed with the cannabis license application. If that application is approved by the province, then a local public consultation period would begin.
In response to a question from the gallery, CAO Prosser commented that this is the second application for a recreational cannabis business that the district has received.
Council authorized the special event ‘Invermere Haunted House’ to be held on October 26 and 27, subject to written consent of all adjacent businesses.
Affordable Rental Housing
Council unanimously adopted a resolution to approve the Family Dynamix proposal to expand the affordable rental housing by adding 16 new units on land the district already owns located adjacent to the Carriage Court apartment complex at 218 Tenth Avenue.
All-Candidates Election Forum on October 11
Coun. Denchuk reported that Imagine Invermere will be hosting an All-Candidates Election Forum on October 11 at Invermere Community Centre. This would be in addition to the Election Forum sponsored by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Coun. Anderson stated, “I believe it would be a conflict of interest for the group to hold such an event because the Imagine Invermere Committee is a creation of the council, the members are appointed by the council, and Coun. Denchuk and myself serve on that committee on behalf of the council.”
Denchuk responded that he did not believe himself to be in conflict because he will not be running for re-election. Coun. Anderson will be running for re-election, but will not be available to attend the forum because it conflicts with a meeting he must attend in Victoria. Council and mayoral candidates in the gallery all commented that they are in favour of the Imagine Invermere election forum. None of those candidates felt they would be in conflict of interest.
Two residents who have applied for a recreational cannabis business license for a store in Invermere were concerned that the Westleaf application for bylaw variance was unfair to their business plan, which was in full compliance of the zoning passed by the council in August.
Prosser advised, “This Westleaf group will still have to apply for their provincial license and then stand up to public consultation process. It’s not a done deal by any means.”
Council candidate Kaja Becker asked if Imagine Invermere had considered live-streaming or video recording the Election Forum so that citizens who are unable to attend would be able to watch the meeting. Denchuk said he would take that suggestion to the committee.
Buzz Harmsworth expressed thanks to the retiring councillors and best wishes to those standing for re-election. Coun. Denchuk thanked Mr. Harmsworth for showing up to council meetings all the time.
Mr. Harmsworth quipped that he reckoned he had been at more meetings than many of the councillors.