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Coming Up: July 15

Council meets Tuesday. The agenda includes:

  • A Proposed Economic Development Strategy

  • Community Group Funding: 2020 allocation amount

  • Pickleball: possible courts near Legion Field

  • Rezoning of a Property in Westgate East

  • Paving Securities: a possible change to when they are required

Following is more information and my take on agenda items.

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

While I express my current views below, I always go into meetings ready to listen and with an open mind. I learn new information and participate in debate. This always informs and sometimes changes how I vote on issues.

If you would like to watch the meeting or read any of its supporting material for yourself, you can do so by clicking here. The City will post the highlights of Council’s decisions here.


Economic Development Strategy

Economic Development has been a priority of Council. It wants to ensure our region continues to prosper. Council also wants to grow our tax base so that existing properties are able to pay less for municipal services.

Council recently formed an Economic Development Advisory Committee predominately made up of public members. Under its direction, a Long-Term Economic Development Strategic Plan has been developed. Council will be asked to approve it on Monday night.

You can see the Plan here.

To get a snapshot of what the Plan contains, checkout this table. It lays out the Plan’s objectives and main aspirations

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I support this Plan. It lays out a sensible road map. That being said: just having a plan in place doesn’t do our community any good. It needs to be implemented, and it needs to be updated as circumstances change. After approving the Plan, Council needs to continue putting attention into Economic Development.


Community Group Funding

The City funds many non-profits which contribute to the community. In 2019, Council allocated $2,090,095 to libraries, $615,750 to the Disabled Transportation Society, and $1,494,090 to other community groups.

We are currently re-doing the process of how this funding is allocated.

Prior to 2019, this money was given through many different department budgets, and there was no consistent process for receiving and processing applications. This meant that it was hard to know how much the City was contributing to community groups, and there was no coordinated approach to funding them.

Council wanted to change that. It directed all community group funding to be put into a single pot. The current process is for Council to receive funding recommendations and then debate and vote on disbursements.

While I’m glad Council is changing the way that community group funding works, the current process has some big challenges. Staff are currently working on a new process for budget 2021. This process will provide for a more strategic approach to funding allocations, and it will also consider Gift in Kind contributions the City makes. I look forward to seeing it. However, we still need to make allocations for budget 2021.

On Monday, Council will be debating how much total to allocate to 2020 community group funding. The recommendation before Council is to allocate the same level in 2020 as was allocated in 2019 (that is, $4,199,935).

I’m torn on this. On one hand, I want us to be incredibly disciplined with our spending. If we increase spending in any area, it needs to be with a clear strategic purpose. It makes sense to hold funding steady while we create a better process to target this money. On the other hand, Council recently directed administration to create a City budget that roughly matches inflation. I don’t know if I like us asking our community partners to not receive an inflationary increase if we are giving one to ourselves.

At this point, I am likely to vote in favour of the motion to hold community funding at 2019 levels. However, I’m also considering a motion to raise them by 2.3% to match the current inflation rate in Alberta.

I’m torn on this one. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Worth noting: on Monday, we will be deciding on the total funding amount to budget. Council has a September meeting scheduled to determine specific allocations within that funding.


Pickleball

Pickleball is a sport that has been gaining a lot of traction in Grande Prairie. There are regular drop-in times at Dave Barr, and when I went it was full. A challenge that this group is facing: there are no outdoor courts in Grande Prairie. This means that Pickleball can only be played indoors when appropriate facilities are available. The Pickleball club would like to have an outdoor facility created.

There are tennis courts near Legion Field (just west of the Leisure Centre). These are in reasonable condition, but underutilized by the public. They could be refurbished into Pickleball courts. If that happens, I am confident this space would get heavy use.

The cost to convery these courts is approximately $100,000. There has been $20,000 committed from the Alberta Summer Games Legacy Fund.

There is a recommendation before Council to fund this project with $55,000 from Council’s Strategic Initiatives Funding. This was money set aside for emerging priorities in the community. Spending from it has no tax impact, nor does it take away from other funded projects. I’ll get an updated number before voting on Monday, but I believe that it currently sits at $530,000.

If Council does approved this $55,000 expenditure, the project will still require ~$25,000. It would be left to the Pickleball Club to raise the rest in donations or gifts in kind.

I’ll be supporting this recommendation. I like to see the City expanding recreation options available to residents, and I like to see under utilized spaces get revamped. This is a facility that will be incredibly cost effective to create, and it will serve diverse users. I also like that this funding amount puts some onus on the user group to raise some of its own support.


Disabled Transportation Society Funding

Earlier this summer, the Disabled Transportation Society (DTS) ran into financial difficulties. The City has been working closely with its board to insure current service continues and to find a long-term model for continued accessible transit service.

Last time Council discussed DTS, it authorized funding to continue through to August 1. On Monday, Council will be discussing a motion to extend funding to September 1. I will be supporting this motion.


Westgate East Rezoning

Council will be discussing the re-zoning of a lot in Westgate East. This lot is currently zoned for Combined Residential (RC). The minimum housing density permitted in this district is a duplex or other semi-detached dwelling. However, the lot does not have utility services adequate to accommodate this type of development.

The developer has requested a rezoning to turn this lot into General Residential (RG), which would allow for a single-detached home with a secondary suite.

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I’m likely to support this request. I’m very concerned by the lack of new homes being built in the City, so I want to encourage their development where reasonable. I don’t see reason to believe this re-zoning will adversely effect the neighbourhood.


Non-Residential Paving Securities

For most non-residential developments, the City requires parking lots to be paved. This prevents gravel from getting on (and chewing up roads), limits dust, improves aesthetics, and prevents debris from getting into the storm system.

Generally speaking, paving needs to be completed before a building is occupied. However, sometimes buildings are completed when seasonal conditions do not allow paving to happen. In these cases, the developer is given until Aug 1 of the next year to complete paving.

To ensure developers do their required paving, the City requires securities to cover 100% of the cost of it. If a developer does the necessary paving, it gets that money back. If it fails to pave, the City can spend this security to do the paving work itself.

These securities can be significant: two recent commercial projects required securities of ~$795,000.

Right now, the City requires securities if paving isn’t completed by September 30th of the year a Development Permit is approved. This can be challenging for developers. When they pull a permit too late in the year to pave, or when they are undertaking a multi-year project, their paving security gets tied up for a long time. That is money that they can’t use for other projects, and they are often paying interest on it. This creates a substantial extra cost to development.

Council will be considering a Land Use Bylaw amendment to change this system.

If the amendment passes, developers will no longer be required to pay a paving security if they complete the necessary work prior to occupying a building. However, if they apply for an Occupancy Permit prior to paving being completed, then they will be required to pay a security.

I plan to support this amendment. It is important that the City enforce the paving requirements found in the Land Use Bylaw. I’m confident it will still be able to do this if the amendment passes. This change is unlikely to have any negative impacts while making it more attractive to develop land in Grande Prairie.


That’s what is on our agenda for Tuesday. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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.

We also always have great conversation in the GP Round Table group on Facebook.

After Council meeting, you will be able to find highlights posted by the City here.

Thanks for reading!

-Dylan