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Coming Up: May 7

Council meets on Monday night. We'll be discussing amendments to planning process bylaws, procurement procedures, and storm ponds in the Richmond Industrial area.

You can click here to read the agenda material for yourself. Below is a summary of our upcoming discussions. Any mistakes or opinions belong to me, not to the rest of Council or to City staff.


DELEGATIONS

At the beginning of every Council meeting, any member of the public is welcome to address us. You are always welcome to just show up, but we appreciate when you let us know you are coming. Representatives of the following organisations have told us they plan to present to Council:

  • The Grande Prairie Stompede
  • The Water North Coalition

RURAL SUBDIVISION GUIDELINES

When a landowner wishes to develop property, they are required to undertake planning work. This includes creating and getting approval for Area Structure Plans (ASP) and Outline Plans (OP). These are documents which layout future development details including the location of roads, subdivision lines, public reserve land, and infrastructure. 

These documents are important to ensure that we have orderly and quality development. However, they are also expensive and time consuming (both for developers and for the City). This has created problems in newly annexed land. Some areas are not ready for the extensive, urban style development current processes were created to govern. However, they are ready for smaller scale development. The requirements for an ASP and OP are overly burdensome in these cases.

Council is considering amendments to the Municipal Development Plan to address this.

One ammendment would allow for some development to happen prior to the creation of an ASP or OP. With the creation of a "Conceptual Shadow Plan" which highlights potential future planning decisions, limited development would be allowed to happen on rural land. This development would be limited to 4 parcels of no more than 10 acres per quarter section. It would also only be allowed for commercial, institutional, or industrial uses- residential development would need to go through existing processes.

The other amendment being considered addresses pieces of land whose proximity to municipal boundaries or other already-planned areas make it unfeasible to incorporate more than two quarter sections in new plans. In these cases, the amendment would allow for a single planning document to be submitted instead of a separate Area Structure Plan and Outline Plan.

I currently support these amendments. While having rigor in our planning is important, so is having efficiency and nimbleness. I think these amendments strike a good balance.


ROAD SETBACK OVERLAY

Some sections of road in Grande Prairie have larger setbacks than is standard in order to accommodate future widening of roads or the addition of sidewalks. These additional setbacks are laid out in a table within the Land Use Bylaw. It is easy for property owners to miss.

Council is discussing a proposed amendment which will make these setbacks more clear. It will add a map into the Land Use Bylaw, and will add mention of this map into sections addressing effected districts.

In addition, Engineering Services has decided that two additional setbacks are no longer appropriate. The following changes are recommended:

  • On 100 St between 102 Ave and 108 Ave, change the additional setback from 10m to 5.5m
  • On the south side of 108 Ave between 96 St and 100 St, eliminate the 12.2m additional setback all together

I currently support these ammendments.


PROCUREMENT PROCESSES

Right now, City Council needs to directly approve any purchase for goods or services worth $250,000 or more.

This is very unusual. For example, Airdrie, Lethbidge, Medicine Hat, Wood Buffalo, and many other municipalities have delegated this duty.

This is also expensive and time consuming. Anytime Council touches something, a public report is made. Writing a report takes hours of staff time, and moving it through appropriate channels before it hits a Council agenda often takes 4-6 weeks.

Administration is recommending a policy change. This would allow City staff to authorize purchases that fit within Council approved budgets, policies, and plans. The only purchases coming to Council would be those that exceed an approved budget by more than 15% or $250,000.

I certainly support the intent of this change. However, I may or may not end up supporting the specifics of what is recommended. I have a few questions I intend to ask and think about:

  • Is 15% or $250,000 over budget an acceptable threshold before a purchase comes to Council, or should it be lowered?
  • How should administration inform Council about what is purchased? While I am comfortable delegating this decision making, we need to have the information necessary to provide accountability to decisions.
  • The old policy said that cost criteria should account for 25 - 40% of the scoring in Request For Proposals. The suggested policy loses the minimum threshold, just saying "cost criteria should be no more than 40%." I want to know what this change was made- I'm not sure I am comfortable with it.

I look forward to this discussion on Monday night. The City's procurement policies clearly need cleaning up. I am confident we have the right staff in place to lead the necessary change. However, Council needs to be involved, too. So I am glad we are formally discussing procurement.


RICHMOND STORM PONDS

Council will be voting on the construction of storm ponds in the Richmond Industrial Area. It is recommended that a contract of $3,194,401.50 be awarded to Green Acre Ventures.

To see more information about this project, click here.

This is a routine purchase of a needed piece of infrastructure that is called for by existing plans. The funding for it is already present in existing budgets. I support it. This is also a great example of why our procurement processes need updating- I see no reason for the delay and money involved in bringing this forward for discussion to City Council. Our staff should be trusted to make purchases like this.


That is the agenda for Monday. As always, I am open to questions, comments, and having my mind changed. So, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

-Dylan