Nakusp council, February 12: COTW discusses airport master plan, capital budget, and food trucks

Nakusp council gathered for its first of four dedicated Committee of the Whole (COTW) meetings. COTWs are informal, discussion-based meetings. Conversation certainly flourished on Monday night with a meeting run time of almost four hours, and two items on the agenda even had to be tabled since it was past bedtime.

Airport master plan

The evening began with a presentation from Ben Crooks regarding the Nakusp Airport Master Plan. Crooks is the senior airport planning consultant with HM Aero, the company that’s worked on the master plan for the last six months. The plan focuses on asset management and the airport’s potential for economic growth in Nakusp.

Currently, there are three primary users: emergency management (BC Emergency Health Services and BC Wildfire Services), commercial users (CMH Heli-Skiing and High Terrain Helicopters), and private operators (five hangar tenants and intercommunity access by private pilots). Through land leases from tenants, the airport generates a small operating surplus of $5,000 per year. It is maintained by the Village’s Public Works department.

To guide the planning process, HM Aero interviewed ten stakeholders and 48 residents. The following four key priorities emerged, creating the master plan.

Rehabilitating airfield infrastructure: This includes extending the runway to 3,400 feet, and fixing up the taxi way and apron. It is estimated to cost between $2.5 and $6.3 million. Costs would be finalized after geotechnical studies are completed to get a better sense of conditions. Improving operations, primarily for medevac (medical evacuation) and wildfire fighting services. Over the last two years, the airport has turned away 10 air ambulance missions due to its declining condition. Improvements include the aforementioned runway extension and reactivating the weather station to increase safety for landing planes. Parking for rotary-wings (helicopters) would also be increased to accommodate more aircraft during wildfire season. This would cost about $1.8 million. Safety and security improvements such as tree clearing, fencing, and airside signage, costing almost $500,000. Supporting private hangar development to increase tourism access, Air Force mountain operations training, and non-aviation industrial growth. This is expected to cost $557,000.

Community complex

Council took a deep dive into the capital budget thanks to a presentation prepared by staff. A big focus of discussion was the recreation complex and the cost of running the facility, especially in light of low usage statistics.

“I’ve been hearing it repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly that people want more [from the complex],” said Councillor Tina Knooihuizen. “I would love to hear from the rest of the community how they feel about it and how they’d like to see it used.”

CAO Robinson said different associations have expressed interest in the facility, such as the Nakusp and Area Youth Society, Arrow and Slocan Lakes Community Services, and seniors groups.

“There really is a large group of people in the community that want to use the space more,” he said. “But no one’s ever pulled them together in the past few years to ask ‘how do you want to use this space, and how do you want to fund it?’”

Councillor Knooihuizen has been a champion of the complex, and will be bringing forward a motion at the next council meeting.

“It’s always going to cost us money,” she said. “But if that’s the case, it should at least be used, and it should be used heavily.”

Councillor Aidan McLaren-Caux offered up an interesting idea.

“What if we moved our Village office? Sold that building and the land, and built an office attached to the arena facility?” he said.

McLaren-Caux went on to say that the Village office property could be freed up for residential development, which the Village “sorely needs.”

Sidewalks and sandwich boards

Next council discussed the Use of Public Property Bylaw, established in May of last year. After almost a year with it, staff wonders if it needs to be amended.

“A lot of people are just not following the rules in some cases, and nobody’s complaining,” said CAO Wayne Robinson. “So the question is, how important is it for that rule to be there?”

This bylaw includes use of Village sidewalks, sandwich board signs, food trucks, seasonal patio expansion, and not-for-profit organizations use of park area.

Businesses located within C1 and LD1 zones are able to use a portion of the sidewalk for chairs, tables, or racks of merchandise, as long as pedestrian passage is not obstructed. But staff has found that businesses are not sticking to the rules and just putting out “whatever they want.”

“Do you want us to even stipulate what they can put on the sidewalk?” CAO Robinson asked council.

Council agreed that the most important part is maintaining pedestrian passageway.

Sandwich boards were next. How many can a business have? Where on the sidewalk? Should a maximum size be specified? Council agreed only one sandwich board on Broadway would be suitable, restricted to the grey pavers, again to ensure pedestrian passage. Businesses located off of Broadway may have two: one on Broadway to direct to the business, and one outside of the business itself.

For all sidewalk items, council emphasized a “state of good repair.”

Food trucks, patios, and parks

As for food trucks, currently a maximum of three seasonal food trucks can operate under permit at one time on public property at select locations: two at the public beach, and one at the hot springs.

Last season, three wanted to operate, but none wanted to be at the hot springs. To solve the problem, the operators began taking turns with the spots at the beach.

Councillor Knooihuizen suggested the bylaw could be amended to say where a food truck can’t be, rather than where it can. That would make it less limiting and open up more possibilities, she said. Council entertained the idea of a food truck at the marina, as well.

Seasonal patio expansion was next. Council and staff are looking for input from the community on the topic. As it stands, businesses can only have a seasonal patio on a street adjacent to the business that is not Broadway. Should it be expanded to include Broadway?

Councillors liked the idea, conjuring images of towns like Kelowna that shut down their main streets to vehicle traffic in the summer.

Council did note that Nakusp has fewer businesses that might be interested in seasonal patios, so shutting down all of Broadway just for patios likely wouldn’t be necessary.

Finally, council discussed the use of park areas. The Village allows not-for-profit organizations to use park spaces for events, provided that the events are for the community and that programming is free of charge. However, sometimes citizens who are not part of a not-for-profit put on free events in parks.

“Does council want to open up the option to more than not-for-profits, for people who want to put on something for the good of the people?” said CAO Robinson.

Council thought this was a great idea. When the bylaw is amended, it will include details on booking on a first come, first served basis.

Late items

Three resolutions were brought forward that merited their own special meeting on Friday, February 16. All three resolutions were asking the Union of BC Municipalities to bring issues to the attention of the provincial government.

The first was to ask the Province to expand the Rental Protection Fund. Council voted to support this resolution. Currently, non-profits can access this fund to purchase rental buildings with a minimum of four units in rural communities (five in urban). The resolution asks that the parameters be expanded to include the purchase of individual units, since rural communities often do not have properties for sale with the minimum of four units.

The second resolution is to ask the BC government to extend the Speculation and Vacancy Tax across the province. Council voted in opposition to this, although Councillor McLaren-Caux was in favour. The tax is designed to turn vacant homes into housing for people in BC. Foreign owners are taxed 2%, and Canadians are taxed at 0.5% for their secondary homes. This tax does not currently apply to any municipalities in the Kootenay Boundary region.

The final resolution had to do with uncivil and unruly behaviour. Council voted in support of urging the Province to create a task force to investigate the recent trend of unruly behaviour, and recommend legislation to address it before the next local government elections.

Rachael Lesosky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice