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Coming Up: Dec 3

Council meets Monday night at 6:30. The agenda includes approval of the 2019 budget, land for a potential Catholic School Board bus maintenance facility, updates to sign bylaws, and a loan for a new Elders Caring Shelter.

Following is more information and my take on agenda items. One matter I am very unsure of: a proposal to increase the allowable size of billboards. I would love to hear your thoughts.

As always, any mistakes or opinions belong to me and me alone, not to Council or City staff.

If you would like to watch the meeting or read any of its supporting material for yourself, you can do so by clicking here.


Delegations

At the beginning of all City Council meetings, the community is invited to address Council. People are welcome to just show up, but we always appreciate a notice that they are coming. Click here for more information about attending meetings.

There are two delgations that told us they are coming:


Budget 2019

Council has created a budget for 2019. However, this was accomplished at a Committee of the Whole meeting. To become official it needs to be approved at a regular City Council meeting.

I’ll be voting “no” to approving the 2019 budget.

Overall, I am very excited about it. It delivers a tax decrease while increasing essential services such as RCMP, road rehabilitation, and accessibility projects. Click here to see my highlights. Click here to see an executive summary of the budget.

The one bug issue I have: the budget assumes Council will refinance a number of loans. Doing so will increase our current cash flow for 11 years. However, it will also incur a stop loss payment of $3.1 million and will lead to $18.7 million in extra interest paid over the next 30 years. It will also mean we carry a larger debt load for longer.

This restructuring might be worth pursuing. But only if it is used to pursue a strategy that will significantly enhance our community. I’m not convinced that Council’s current plan to use the increased cash flow to build reserves and deliver a 1.5% tax decrease is worth the cost.

I’m concerned enough about our current refinancing course that I currently intend to vote “no” on anything that aids it, including approving the 2019 budget.

Click here to find out more about the refinancing and my views on it.

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Catholic School Board Bus Maintenance Facility

The Grande Prairie Catholic School Board has requested land from the City to build a bus maintenance facility.

Management has identified a potential site in the Vision West Business Park. It is a City owned lot which was previously set aside to accommodate potential outdoor recreation facilities. The land is currently designated as Public Service which would not allow for a maintenance facility. Council will debating a bylaw amendment to rezone this lot to General Industrial.

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I have no objections to the re-zoning: a bus maintenance facility is compatible with the surrounding land uses. That being said, I do have two potential concerns about us giving this land to the School Board.

  • I don’t know what other land we own for potential recreation facilities. I don’t want us to sit on so much land that most of it is unlikely to ever get used. At the same time, I do want some opportunities available for future needs.

  • School board facilities cost the City money. If the City does not obtain the land they sit on for public use, it has the right to collect its monetary value from the developer. And after the facility is built the City needs to provide services (road maintenance, police, fire, etc…). In principal I have no problem with the City incurring costs to support school boards. However, a significant portion of Catholic students live outside the City. I don’t know if or how their home municipalities contribute to the municipal costs of these schools. I want to gain confidence that the City isn’t unfairly subsidizing regional residents before I support contributing to more Catholic School Board facilities.

I have a lot of questions to ask about our land inventory and regional relationships with the Catholic School board. I’m also not clear on what the process of transferring this land would look like. I won’t know how I will vote until I’ve received some answers.

That being said, I am likely to vote in favour of rezoning even if I’m not sure I would support a future land transfer.


Sign Bylaw Review

In 2016, the City completed a significant overhaul to Land Use Bylaw sections governing signs. This was a much needed and well done effort. However, as with any complex project, some gaps and missed opportunities have been found as the new rules have been implemented.

Council will be debating a number of amendments. They fall into five categories.

Billboard Size

Proposed amendments would increase the maximum size of billboards by 44% to 26.28m (7.3m x 3.6m or roughly 24’ x 12’).

I honestly do not know how I will vote on this. I’ve got concerns about aesthetics and about the proliferation of advertising in our society. At the same time, I appreciate the need for businesses to have effective marketing avenues. I don’t like the idea of bigger billboards, but I don’t have concrete evidence that they will negatively impact our community. Since decisions like this are largely based on subjective aesthetics, they are difficult for me.

As I decide on my vote for this amendment, I would be thrilled to hear any feedback you might have.

Third Party Advertising on Electronic Freestanding Signs

Third Party Advertising refers to a sign marketing for businesses, events, or services not on the premises of the sign itself. Currently it is only permitted on billboards and temporary event signs. Third Party Advertising is not currently allowed on Freestanding Signs. However, proposed amendments would make it possible with the following restrictions:

  • The sign and the business, organization or event it advertises must be within 300m and on the same side of an arterial roadway

  • Third Party Advertising cannot be located within 100m of another Freestanding Sign with Third Party content

  • Third Party Advertising cannot be located in the Central Commercial District (ie: downtown)

  • Third Party Advertising can only be displayed on the electronic portion of a Freestanding Sign

I currently intend to support this. It is good for industry as it allows advertising to be carried out more efficiently. But it is also good for community aesthetics as it encourages multiple businesses to use a single sign rather than each getting their own.

Electronic Signs

Current rules only allow electronic message displays to use 25% of a freestanding sign’s area. The proposed amendments would allow them to use 50%.

The current rules say that copy must be static and frames must last at least 6 seconds. Amendments will allow City engineers to impose a longer duration based on road speed, sign height, and collision data.

I currently support both these amendments.

Electronic Fascia Signs

Current rules only allow for electronic message displays placed on exterior building walls to be placed on the secondary walls of a building. This was designed to limit the proliferation of electronic fascia signs. However, it created problems for buildings containing multiple primary walls- they did not have anyplace to put electronic fascia signs.

Proposed amendments would allow electronic fascia signs on the primary walls of downtown buildings which occupy a corner lot or which have two primary building walls.

Amendments would also allow for electronic fascia signs on primary building walls within Arterial Commercial and General Industrial districts provided that:

  • It is at least 200m from any billboard, freestanding sign, or fascia sign containing an electronic display

  • There is a non-electronic fascia sign advertising the same business located on the same wall

I currently support both these amendments.

Housekeeping Changes

There are also a number of proposed housekeeping changes which I support. These correct some contradictions and clarify some language. None of them change restrictions or alter the intent of specific passages.


Elders Caring Shelter

The Elders Caring Shelter was opened in 2003 by Metis Local 1990. This is a transitional housing facility for men and women over 55. It houses up to 16 individuals. Metis Local paid to build the shelter, but is it on City owned land..

Last year, Metis Local approached the City asking for help in creating another Caring Shelter. Since then they’ve been in regular contact with management and the Community Living committee.

Last month Council extended the lease for the current Elders Caring Shelter until 2040. It also directed the Mayor to write a letter of support for the new project to assist in obtaining funding. Now it is time for the project to obtain land.

The Metis Local has been negotiating for land located at 9706 and 9708 - 100 Ave. It has been recommended that the City purchase this land on its behalf. This land would be given to the Metis Local, who would enter into a loan agreement to repay the City with interest. Additionally the City owns 880 sq ft of land adjacent to these properties. Since the City has no need of this land, it has been recommended that Council authorize consolidating its land into the Metis Local’s parcel.

I’m supportive of both these recommendations. Additional supportive housing is a big need in our community, and the Elders Caring Shelter does good work.

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That’s what is on our agenda for tonight. I’d love to hear from you, especially regarding billboard sizes.

You can comment below. Or, you can contact me at dbressey@cityofgp.com or 780-402-4166. I'm happy to talk online or over the phone. I'm also always willing to setup a time to meet for coffee.

Thanks for reading!

-Dylan