Muni Morsels: composting facility inches forward, traffic calming & what's said behind closed doors

Briefs from the Oct. 26 regular council meeting

The following are briefs from the Oct. 26 Bowen Island Municipal Council meeting.

Decaying barriers

It’s taken years to break down the barriers to an on-island composting facility, not the least of which was cost.

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Monday, at its regular meeting, council directed staff to apply for an $800,000 provincial CleanBC grant and $100,000 Knick Knack Nook grant for the project. The remainder of the nearly $1.2 million project would come from a Municipal Finance Authority of BC equipment loan, said a staff report.

An on-island composting facility would mean cutting out the increasing Metro Vancouver tipping fees and trucking costs of hauling green waste off the rock. As well, BIM would sell the compost product of the HotRot system wholesale (an estimated $10 a yard). Bowen Island FoodResilience Society has voiced interest in purchasing some of the compost, improving its quality by allowing it to mature (as BIM doesn’t have the space to store the compost long enough for this process to take place) and reselling it to recoup costs.

The staff report estimates costs of $10,600 for the first five years of the facility and then savings of $51,700 for the four years following that.

On-island composting is at least a couple of years out given regulations and other hoops to jump through, said Bonny Brokenshire, Parks and Environment Planning manager, at the meeting.

Moving composting on-island would see a 24 to 29 tonne decrease in annual carbon emissions, estimates the report. “While this amount does not represent a significant percentage of Bowen Island emissions it is not insignificant,” it says. “Climate action involves decreasing emissions from a variety of sources.”

On-island composting would also cut down backyard burning as much of that waste is needed for the closed-system composting.

HotRot, built out of New Zealand, there’s a steel tunnel with a bladed auger, mixing and aerating the compost and then beds where the compost is cured. It doesn’t produce leachate and is almost if not completely odourless (odour is a big factor––it’s the reason the Richmond composting location shut down). It has a life of 35 to 40 years and can also process compostable plastics.

Moving composting on-island would see a 24 to 29 tonne decrease in annual carbon emissions, estimates the report. “While this amount does not represent a significant percentage of Bowen Island emissions it is not insignificant,” it says. “Climate action involves decreasing emissions from a variety of sources.”

On-island composting would also cut down backyard burning as much of that waste is needed for the closed-system composting.

HotRot, built out of New Zealand, there’s a steel tunnel with a bladed auger, mixing and aerating the compost and then beds where the compost is cured. It doesn’t produce leachate and is almost if not completely odourless (odour is a big factor––it’s the reason the Richmond composting location shut down). It has a life of 35 to 40 years and can also process compostable plastics.

The grant decisions would likely come down in summer 2021, said Environment and Parks Planning coordinator Carla Skuce at the meeting.

 

Policy-ing speed 

The municipality is hoping to slow some of the island’s speed fiends with a new traffic calming policy. The policy outlines a six-step process whereby neighbourhoods could request traffic calming in their area.

Speeding and road user conflicts are concerns on Bowen due to low traffic volumes, lack of curbs, and lack of active transportation facilities, says the policy. It notes that when a car travelling 30 km per hour strikes a pedestrian, there’s a 90 per cent chance of survival. This decreases to 70 per cent at 40 km per hour and 15 per cent at 50 km per hour speed.

Under the policy, an affected property owner or resident (properties accessed through the road in question or within 100 metres) could submit a request for traffic calming. This would need to come with the support of at least five affected properties or 60 per cent of the affected properties. Staff would then review the request to see if the area warrants calming (judged by volume of cars and percentage exceeding the speed limit), consult on the appropriate traffic calming measure, fund, implement and monitor it. 

Interestingly, the policy notes that the much-desired speed bumps aren’t good on Bowen as they’re not for grades over eight per cent or emergency or transit routes and make snow clearing difficult. Speed tables (longer raised area) are more desirable on-island.

While council had been set to consider the policy, it was deferred to a future council meeting as councillors were concerned there hadn’t been enough public engagement. The previous engagement had garnered just seven public responses.

 

What do we get to know? 

Some of council’s major spending and project decisions happen in closed council sessions, where councillors and staff can’t share proceedings unless council votes to release some aspect to the public. This was the case with the fire hall project, awarded (rather council agreed to issue a notice of intent) to a contractor in a closed meeting two weeks ago.

Coun. Rob Wynen said he had voted against moving into that closed meeting. “I was not comfortable not having had more robust public discussions on some of the issues that have been raised by different councillors at different times outside of council meetings, and not having that discussion prior to us moving into the private meeting and having those private conversations about issues that we can’t discuss publicly,” said Wynen.

Council must follow the Community Charter, provincial legislation that governs all B.C. municipalities (except City of Vancouver) and lays out what council meetings may or must be closed to the public.

“My intention is to try to find a bit of a balance between what we can discuss in a public meeting and what absolutely has to be discussed in the closed meeting,” Wynen told council. He recounted being at a preschool program over the weekend and having parents asking him about the fire hall and he was unsure what he could say and what he was bound by law to keep private.

Wynen also wanted the public to be able to see how councillors voted on released resolutions (such as approving the fire hall project at $3.6 million).  “We’re in a COVID situation where the budget’s going to look really rough. We’ve got all these new capital projects come forward,” said Wynen. “Things have changed and I did not feel that we had that full discussion in public, for the public to know what’s going on.”

CAO Liam Edwards said they try to structure meetings so that discussions that should be in open council happen in open council and discussions that should be in closed happen in closed, but discussions sometimes veer in other directions. Corporate officer Hope Dallas said that when releasing future closed council motions, she can include the vote distribution. Coun. Alison Morse suggested a refresher workshop for councillors on what should be in open and closed meetings.

 

Watch the full meeting below: 

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