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Coming Up: Feb 12

This Monday is our next City Council meeting. We'll be talking about billboards, downtown incentives, The Cairn, and much more. Following is what we will be discussing and my take on it. Click here to see the agenda and background material.

Any opinions and errors belong to me, not to Council as a whole or City staff. I also go into meetings with an open mind, so I may change my take prior to voting.


Arbour Hills Area Structure Plan

Council will be discussing a developer’s request to rezone undeveloped lots to allow for single detached houses.

Arbour Hills is a neighbourhood under development on the north edge of the City.

The developer is asking to re-zone some properties which are currently Combined Residential (RC) to Small Lot Residential (RS) and General Residential (RG). If you really want to dig into what this means, click here to read the Land Use Bylaw. The biggest change this rezoning makes: single detached homes would become permitted uses where they currently are not allowed.

This is in response to a change Council made last year. Previously, 25% of potential units in new developments had to be zoned for multi-family housing. Developers were not finding a market for many of these lots, so they were sitting empty. Council removed this requirement from new neighbourhoods and instead set a target of 25% multi-family housing City wide (which is a policy that needs work- click here for more information).

I currently support this re-zoning as it will not create conflicting uses with other properties, it will allow the developer to better meet market demand, and it was the clear intent of Council when it changed the bylaw governing multi-family housing.


Super Size Billboards

Council will be discussing a request to install a super sized billboard on Wapiti Road.

A local company has asked to install a superboard- a 14’ x 48’ advertising billboard. This would replace an existing billboard at 8707 108 st: Wapiti Road in front of the Canfor co-gen plant.

To allow this, the Land Use Bylaw needs to be updated. Proposed updates would add a definition for “Super-size Billboard Signs” and create regulations for them. It would allow this billboard to be built, but would not allow others to be built in the City without approval of administration.

I am torn on this one. On one hand, I'm concerned about increased advertising in our society. On the other hand, I just put up 150 signs for six weeks, so I get its importance. I don’t like the idea of bigger billboards in town. But I need more than a feeling to vote against development. I don’t see how this will impact motorist safety. It will also be arguably better to look at than what is behind it. Additionally, this week I went out of my way to drive past a few superboards in Edmonton and didn’t find them objectionable. So I currently support this board being allowed.

I am considering moving an amendment to the proposed Land Use Bylaw changes. They call for future superboards to be approved by City administration. I think it might be best to designate the Infrastructure & Protective Services Committee (made up of three Councillors and the Mayor) as the authority over superboards.

In general, I am supportive of Council disbursing authority to staff. When decisions happen at the staff level they consume less City resources, are made quicker, and free Council to spend more time on higher level strategic discussions. However, I don’t know how quickly other superboards will be requested, what public opinion of them will be, or administration’s attitude towards them. Additionally, these primarily impact aesthetics which means their approval or disapproval is a very subjective decision. It might be worth Council retaining authority over these until a few precedents have been set.


Arms-Length Housing Development Corporation

Council will discuss the next possible step towards forming a Housing Development Corporation to assist with developing affordable and social housing.

Council will vote on whether or not to approve up to $80,000 to be spent building a business case for a Housing Development Corporation. I don’t know if I will support this money being spent. However, if approved the motion we are looking at on Monday night will just authorize staff to do further work determining what a business case might look like. Council would need to vote on this one more time before any money got spent. I intend to vote “yes” to this on Monday because I want to see the results of staff’s preliminary work. However, I do not know if I will vote in favour of actually spending the money. You can find more information about this by clicking here to read my previous blog post.


 Subdivision Approval Time Extensions

Council will vote on several requests to extend the time needed to get final endorsement on subdivisions. This is a standard request when a piece of land’s development has been stalled due to market conditions. Since no stakeholders have raised objections, I intend to vote “yes” to all these requests.


 Downtown Incentives Program Update

Council will discuss some proposed tweaks to programs designed to incentivize development downtown.

We have a number of grants meant to encourage development downtown. They are an Urban Residential Development Grant, Façade Improvement Grant, and Patio Grant. Administration proposed a number of housekeeping changes meant to make the policies governing these grants more clear. Through its discussion, the Infrastructure and Protective Services Committee then recommended one bigger change. The Demolition Grant used to be a subsection of the Urban Residential Grant- it could only be used if a building was being demolished to build residential units. The committee suggests that this should be separated out to create a stand alone Demolition Grant that could go towards any structure in the downtown. This matches the intent of the Council when the Downtown Incentives Program was created- apparently this was always meant to be a stand alone grant. It also makes sense to me, so I intend to vote “yes.”


 Traffic Signals Projects

Council will discuss whether or not a number of intersections will receive traffic lights. The one likely to generate the most discussion is on 108 St & 132 Ave.

We are at the end of a four year budget cycle. This budget called for installing traffic signals at 92 St & 72 Ave, 108 St & 132 Ave, and 92 St & 132 Ave this summer. Four years ago, administration thought that development would justify these lights at this time. Each set of lights costs about $500,000 to install.

Development is not completely predictable. Before installing planned lights, engineering monitors intersections and gives them “Warrant Result.” This is a score generated through an algorithm that was created by the Transportaion Association of Canada based on international methodologies. It takes into account how many cars cross the intersection from all directions, how fast they are travelling, what traffic looks like at peak times, the number of pedestrians, reported accidents, and other data. A light is considered justified if the Warrant Result comes back as 100 or higher.

None of these lights received a high score. However, the intersection at 132 Ave & 97 B St received a score of 147 and the intersection at 89 Ave & 116 St received a score of 100.

Administration is suggesting that we remove funding from the 3 unwarranted intersections, fund the two intersections that are now warranted, and return the remaining money to the Transportation System Levy Reserve. This reserve is funded by levies paid on new development- they can only be used for certain transportation projects.

Below is a map with the intersections in question- blue icons are the ones recommended for defunding, red icons are the ones recommended for new funding.

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I expect most of this fund shuffling to create little conversation. The exception: 108 St & 132 Ave. This only received a warrant score of 49. However, it is near the new Catholic High School which is opening up and some feel that this means we should build a light.

In December, Council received a letter from the schoolboard requesting traffic safety measures around the new school. It requested a controlled crosswalk at 132 Ave & 108 St (the intersection we are discussing) and a traffic signal at 132 Ave and Arbour Hills Blvd. The schoolboard only requested lights at 132 Ave and 108 St if these other requests were denied. Since the letter was sent, the Infrastructure and Protective Services committee has initiated the early phases of getting the requested crosswalk and traffic signal in place.

Since we are pursuing their recommended upgrades, at this time a $500,000 traffic light is not needed to accommodate what the School Board feels is needed for safety. Additionally, our engineering department feels there is no need at this time. At the committee level, I asked what the next steps for this intersection would be if no lights are installed. I was told that our engineers would continue to monitor the intersection and [depending on time of year] lights can be installed in a few months if the warrant results justify them.

For these reasons, I currently support the recommended changes.


 Police Service Fees and Charges

The Federal government has increased the price it charges for fingerprinting associated with background checks. Council will discuss how to recover this revenue.

Many people require Police Background Checks. This is free for those needing a check for a volunteer position. There is a $40 fee for people needing a check for employment reasons.

If someone has the same birthday and gender as certain criminals, they require fingerprinting as a part of their check. For volunteers, this fingerprinting is also free. However, the City has been charging $50 for employment checks.

The City used to forward $25 to the Government of Canada to cover their costs in running finger prints, and keep $25 dollars to cover our costs. However, recently the government of Canada increased their service price to $50. If we keep our prices the same, this will cost the City over $17,000 per year. It has been recommended to Council that we increase our fingerprinting fee to $75. This would mean that people who require fingerprinting would pay $115 total while people who do not need fingerprints would pay $40.

I do not agree with this recommendation. Fingerprinting some people is a part of the overall program. It should be shared by everyone who accesses the record check program, not just by those with an unlucky birthday/gender combination. I don’t think it is right to charge some people more than everyone else due to the criminal actions of someone they have never met. I also think it is better to charge everyone a slightly higher but very predictable fee than to unexpectedly charge some people much more for fingerprinting.

We cannot change how the federal government structures its fees. But we can control our own. I intend to suggest that we keep the fingerprinting price at $50. To recoup our costs, I will suggest that we increase all employment checks to $45.

My job with Young Life requires a paid record check every two years. [Knock on wood] I never have to pay for fingerprinting. I would rather my cost go up by $5 than see some unlucky people have their cost go up by $25. (NOTE: I do not get my police checks through our local RCMP detachment, so this bill has no impact on my finances- I would not be allowed to vote on it or discuss it in Council if it did)


 Cairn Development

Council will be discussing a proposed $250 fine for The Cairn due to not meeting conditions in its development permit. Other issues relating to this development will be discussed at a future meeting.

The Cairn is back up for discussion. For the full background, click here to see what I wrote when it was last before Council.

Last week, Council Committee of the Whole (CCW) met to discuss this issue. Even though it is made up of all of Council, CCW cannot make any decisions- it can only make recommendations to Council. One recommendation it made was to issue a fine of $250 for not meeting development permit conditions. This is the maximum fine the Land Use Bylaw allows for a first offence.

I intend to vote in favour of this fine. I am open to discussions about changing requirements. But whether we change them or not, the developer missed a deadline. There needs to be consequences. Additionally, issuing this fine to acknowledging a first offence will allow us to charge larger amounts for a second offence- it keeps our enforcement options open.

CCW also directed administration to make a number of amendments to the development permit. Council will then vote on whether or not to accept the amended permit. Administration needs time to do their work, so we will not be voting on those amendments this Monday. But for those wanting to know about them, they are:

  • Require landscaping and protective poured curbing by July 31, 2018. The intent of this is to make the property more aesthetically pleasing and to increase safety by creating defined entrances and exits.
  • Require paving and line-painting for 37 stalls by July 31, 2019. This would bring the total on-site stalls up to 69.
  • Include a condition for submission of landscaping securities. Paving after landscaping introduces some risk to the trees. Having a security would give the City recourse to make sure any damage was rectified.

CCW also directed administration to collect more information on Enforcement Orders. Earlier, the two options we were giving for forcing compliance were issuing stop orders and levying fines. An Enforcement Order is a third option where the City performs the required work itself and bills the developer.

Currently I intend to vote in favour of the above amendments. Additionally, from what I know now, an Enforcement Order is my favoured way to go if we need to force compliance.

The developer disagrees with the number of parking stalls required- it would like to reduce them. However, all Council can do at this time is amend a permit, not create a new one. Administration advised that dramatically changing the number of stalls is too big a change for an amendment- to make that change, the developer would need to apply for a whole new permit. One reason I intend to vote in favour of extending the paving time to 2019 is to give the developer time to apply for a new permit if it so chooses.

I’m still not convinced this site needs 69 stalls. I want to ensure that there is adequate onsite parking. But I’m not sure that this parking lot will ever be full and an empty parking lot doesn’t enhance the neighbourhood. If the developer applies for a new permit with reduced parking, I don’t know where I will land. But I am certainly open to the discussion. At the same time, if we whether or not we approve a smaller parking lot, I intend to advocate for a 2019 completion date and strong penalties if it is not met. 


Bonus Committee Business: Large Scale Tourism Event Funding

On Tuesday, the Community Living Committee will discuss proposed changes to Large Scale Tourism Event Funding. To see the context of these proposals, click here. They are:

  1. Setting a maximum grant amount of 25% of the total fund (the fund has previously been $200,000)
  2. Setting application deadlines of April 1st and September 1st (there are no existing deadlines)
  3. Adding the Crosslink County Sportsplex and Teepee Creek as locations eligible for funding (currently eligible locations are anywhere in the City and Evergreen Park)
  4. Changing the funding criteria to annual funding
  5. Changing the financial approval authority to the Community Living Committee (currently this is City Council)
  6. Cleanup of overall language and context throughout the Procedure

The Committee cannot make any decisions about this- it will make recommendations which will be considered by Council at a later date. I do sit on this committee and will be voting on recommendations. However, at this point I have no position on any of them- I intend to go into the meeting with a very open mind.


We have some interesting discussions ahead of us. Thanks for taking the time to read about them. As always, I welcome any questions or feedback.

-Dylan