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Coming Up: July 3 Meeting

Council meets on Tuesday night. Following is a brief overview of what we will be discussing. Highlights include changes to the Low-Income Recreation Access Program and outdoor pool rates.

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

Land Use Bylaw: Approval Authorities

In a desire to create more efficient development processes, administration has suggested a few changes to the Land Use Bylaw.

There are development applications that need approval from the City to proceed. Sometimes they are approved by City staff (the Development Officer), other times they are approved by Council's Infrastructure and Protective Services Committee. The proposal is to give the Development Officer wider authority. 

If these amendments pass, City staff will be able to approve variances up to 100% unless a variance deals with signs, floor area ratio, or density. These amendments would also make the Development Officer rather than committee the approval authority for a number of discretionary uses.

If you want further details, click here to download the staff report.

Committee process is time consuming and expensive. By re-directing a single application away from committee, savings of approximately 14 days, 7 staff hours, and $385 will be found.

I support these amendments. In 2016 and 2017, committee followed the Development Officer's recommendation 94% and 97% of the time- committee often just acts as an expensive rubber stamp. Furthermore, if there are contentious or unusual applications, staff always have the ability to refer an application to committee- I trust our administration to do so when appropriate.

I want it to be easier to do business in Grande Prairie- removing 14 days from many development permit applications is a significant step towards that end. I also want the City to find cost savings and staff efficiencies wherever possible. These amendments align with priorities I have for the City.

Arms-Length Housing Corporation

Council will be debating authorizing up to $80,000 being spent on the development of a business case for an "Arm's Length Housing Development Corporation." This funding would come from the Public Housing Reserve which has been set aside for projects of this nature. It would carry no tax implications, nor would it effect other City services.

Creating affordable and supported housing are community priorities which are in Council's strategic plan. However, we may not have the governance tools necessary to move quickly on new opportunities, access capital, and partner with other entities to create housing. An Arm's Length entity could help. Developing a business case is the first step to establishing one.

I think a Development Corporation could be a huge asset to our community- I intend to vote in favour of this expenditure.

To learn more about what a Housing Development Corporation might look like, click here to read the last Community Living Committee agenda package.

Naming Rights & Naming Dedication Policy

Council will debate a policy to govern the naming of City assets. It will include instances where an organisation purchases naming rights as advertising. It will also include instances where the City dedicates something to a notable individual, organisation, or event.

This policy got tweaked significantly by the Community Living Committee. I'm satisfied with the end result and intend to vote in favour.

To see the proposed policy, click here to read the last Community Living Committee agenda package.

Low Income Recreation Access Program

Council will be debating significant changes to the Low Income Recreation Access Program.

As the program currently sits, eligible residents can access up to $300 to be used at City run recreation facilities.

Historically, just over half of the credits issued have been used. A problem with this: the credits still need to be kept on City books. This means that they can't be spent elsewhere in our community.

Administration has proposed changing this program so that instead of credits, eligible individuals will receive 75% off of recreation membership and admission passes. At the same time, a few other changes are proposed. These include:

  • Dropping "Low-Income" from the program name- it would simply be the "Recreation Access Program."
  • Individuals would apply at the Eastlink Centre (they currently need to apply at the Community Social Development office)
  • Improved communication to make sure eligible individuals know about this program

I support the changes and intend to vote "yes" to this proposal. I like the credit approach. It is better in terms of accounting. It also gives people more dignity and choice as they pay for a portion of their service. I think the other proposed changes also provide more dignity, which is important.

At the same time, the Community Living Committee suggested further changes which I hope get built into this program down the road. The most important ones to me: expanding it to kids programs (ex: day camps) and also allowing people to have their intake done at the Ernie Radbourne Pavilion in Muskoseepi Park.  

Outdoor Pool Fees

The Outdoor Pool will be opening up this month. How exciting is that!?

Council needs to set fees for it. The proposal:

  • Children 2 and under: free
  • Children 3 - 12: $4 ($33 for a ten pass)
  • Teens 13 - 17: $6 ($47 for a ten pass)
  • Adults: $8 ($63 for a ten pass)
  • Seniors: $6 ($47 for a ten pass)
  • Families: $20 ($153 for a ten pass)

Additionally, private rentals will be available. Renting half the pool with up to 40 people is $60/hour, renting the full pool ranges from $120 to $280 depending on how many swimmers you bring.

The current proposal is to NOT allow free admission with an Eastlink membership. However, this is a possibility for future years.

These fees seem reasonable to me. I am very open to feedback, but currently intend to vote "yes."

Downtown Rehabilitation Borrowing

Council will be voting on a bylaw to authorize borrowing for Downtown Rehabilitation.

This bylaw would allow for borrowing of up to $12,040,000 with a repayment period of 30 years.

The cost to service this will be approximately $809,000/year. 

I voted in favour of the Downtown Rehabilitation Project knowing that it would entail debt. In my mind, this decision has already been made: passing this bylaw is a housekeeping matter. I will be voting "yes."

To get more information about Downtown Rehabilitation and why I voted in favour of it, click here.

That is the agenda for Tuesday. As always, I welcome any thoughts or feedback you might have.

Thanks for reading!