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Council debates borrowing $95M for Steveston Community Centre

Richmond council this week streamed live on YouTube.
Richmond City Hall

Richmondites can hear about financing the construction of a new Steveston Community Centre, the operating budget and the city’s housing needs at council’s various meetings this week.

At Monday’s 7 p.m. regular meeting, city council will consider whether to raise its 2022 operating budget by 3.86 per cent, whether it should borrow money to rebuild Steveston Community Centre, if mail-in ballots will be allowed for all voters during the 2022 municipal election and how much rental will be built at the Polygon development in Capstan.

The operating budget includes items such as one per cent for capital reserves – to pay for future civic facilities and improvements – as well as increases to city staff, set by union and other contracts.

Three councillors voted against the budget at last week’s finance committee meeting, with Coun. Chak Au saying he’s worried the unionization of the RCMP will cost more than expected.

Coun. Carol Day, who also voted against the budget, suggested moving 0.25 per cent into a reserve in case salary and backpay as a result of the RCMP securing a union contract is more than is currently budgeted. This was voted down by the majority of council.

It’s expected that the RCMP officers’ salaries will add about $7 million to the 2022 budget, but backpay to 2017 – when they started negotiating the contract – could cost the city more than $10 million.

Couns. Au, Day and Michael Wolfe voted against the budget at last week’s finance meeting.

Richmond opposes Surrey business park

On Thursday, there will be a planning meeting which includes a request for comments on the Campbell Heights property in Surrey.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Coun. Harold Steves have both publicly criticized a plan to partially industrialize a greenspace in Surrey, in South Campbell Heights just on the border with Langley.

Their criticism was that there should be densification of existing industrial areas rather than turning two-thirds of the 580-acre greenspace into an employment area.

Furthermore, noted a city staff report, the plan is to turn the property into “mixed employment” which might include offices, not just industrial.

Metro Vancouver has warned the region could run out of industrial space within the next decade.

(Before the property can be developed, the Metro Vancouver “regional context statement” needs to be amended, hence, the request for comments from Richmond city council.)

At a previous council meeting, Steves referred to the lack of higher industrial buildings in other municipalities as a “flat earth policy.”

Other implications of developing this property in South Campbell Heights, city staff noted in their report, include the effect on ecologically valuable land, the loss of rural land, the need to expand roads and impacts on the “fragile” local aquifer.

At the same planning meeting, council members will look at a report on housing needs in Richmond.

The report notes, in 2016, there were 4,500 Richmond households earning less than $70,000 per year and spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent. It’s expected by 2026, there will be 3,200 more households in this category.

Community safety meeting highlights police, fire incidents

There was only one “hate incident” reported to Richmond RCMP in October which was the use of racial slurs.

However, there were 43 hate crimes and incidents between January and October, 2021, compared to 34 in total in 2020.

These statistics are part of the RCMP report at Richmond city council’s community safety meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting at 4 p.m. also includes reports from Richmond’s bylaw department and Richmond Fire-Rescue.

Meetings are streamed live on YouTube.