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Coming Up: October 21

Council meets on Monday. The agenda includes:

  • Organisational Meeting

  • Council Salary and Remuneration

  • Boards and Committees Review

  • Large Scale Tourism Event Funding Policy

  • Hidden Valley Area Structure Plan

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 work hard to 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.


ORGANISATIONAL MEETING

Monday marks the beginning of a new Council year. The provincial Municipal Government Act requires us to start every year with an Organisational meeting. This is an opportunity for Council to set its meeting schedule, establish who will serve as Deputy Mayor, and appoint Councillors to various boards and committees.

There are two notable parts of this year’s organizational meeting:

  1. Mayor Given will begin it with a Treaty 8 Recognition. He began last year’s Organizational meeting in the same way, which was a Grande Prairie first. I’m glad to see Council start its year with this acknowledgement.

  2. Since we are halfway through our term, Mayor Given is recommending a shuffling of Committee and Board appointments. This shuffle allows Councillors to get a broader perspective of what is happening in and around Grande Prairie. It also allows them to develop new competencies as they take on different roles in the community.

You can click here to see the proposed Council calendar, Deputy Mayor rotation, and appointments roster. I intend to vote in favour of all of these proposals.


COUNCIL REMUNERATION COMMITTEE

At our meeting on Monday, we’ll be initiating the process of setting salaries for the next Council.

Council salaries are an awkward matter, in that City Council is ultimately responsible to decide what the Mayor and Councillors earn.

To minimize conflict of interest, the habit in Grande Prairie is for Council to appoint a Council Remuneration Committee. This Committee is made up entirely of members of the public: City Councillors do not take part in it. This Committee researches Council salaries not only in Grande Prairie, but also in other jurisdictions. It then makes a report to Council with recommendations about what Councillors and the Mayor should receive for salaries and expenses.

Based on Committee recommendations, Council sets salaries for the next Council term. Any salary changes do not take effect until after the election. This allows the public to hold Councillors accountable if it feels salaries were set inappropriately.

On Monday, Council will be approving Terms of Reference for the Council Remuneration Review Committee. This Committee will be directed to prepare its report by September 2020. This will allow Council to set salaries for the upcoming term well in advance of the October, 2021 election.

You can click here to read the Terms of Reference. I currently intend to vote in favour of them.


BOARD AND COMMITTEE REVIEW

Council has established a number of boards and committees to help it undertake governance of the City. In addition, Council appoints its own members to many community based boards.

The process of forming and joining boards has been very ad hoc. Some committees and boards are presenting very good value to Council. And some are not providing as much value as they could. Council has decided to undertake a comprehensive review of how it uses and participates in boards and committees.

Council will be considering a long list of recommendations. You can read them all here. Most notable among them:

  • The creation of a single bylaw to encompass all board and advisory appointments. Going forward, this bylaw would be reviewed annually.

  • The discontinuation of the Arts Development and Pursuit of Excellence Committees. These Committees exist to disburse grant funding to community individuals and groups. Discontinuing the Committees does not mean the grants would need to be discontinued: a process which uses less staff and Council time could be established.

  • The creation of a Community Advisory Board. This Board would be made up of 10 public members plus a chair. It would only meet when asked to do so by the Community Services Committee to provide advice on significant recreation and cultural projects, ongoing engagement activities, beautification, community pride, and events.

  • Re-launch the Youth Council with a mandate to receive youth input on City initiatives.

  • Have City staff rather than Councillors represent the City on a number of external boards and committees. Discontinue formal City involvement in the Disabled Transportation Society, Nitehawk, Regional Archives, and Downtown Business boards.

It is important to note that no actual actions will be take on Monday. Council will be debating which recommendations it views are worthy of further work. However, actually implementing any of the recommendations will require additional debate and voting in the future.

This is an area I’ll be putting a lot of thought into over the weekend. I’ll be going into our meeting with an open mind. I fully support Council’s movement towards a more strategic approach with boards and committees. But I’m open minded as to what this approach should look like.


LARGE SCALE TOURISM EVENT FUNDING POLICY

Council will be debating potential tweaks to the Large Scale Tourism Event Fund Policy. These changes would make it clear that when applications are considered, their financial need and the recognition they will provide the City will both be taken into account. I support these amendments.


HIDDEN VALLEY AREA STRUCTURE PLAN

Council will be debating an application to amend the Area Structure Plan for Hidden Valley.

An Area Structure Plan (ASP) is a bylaw passed by Council to guide subdivision and development of a tract of land. ASPs guide the sequence of development, future land uses, and general locations for infrastructure.

Hidden Valley is an area comprising several quarter sections between the new hospital and 132 Ave. Under the proposed ASP, its future land uses would look like this:

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You can read the proposed ASP here and the accompanying staff report here.

City administration has raised a number of objections to the proposed ASP.

A number of these objections are technical and easily resolved. For example, one map doesn’t reflect current City boundaries.

Many other objections are process oriented. For example, this ASP has details in it which are usually decided at a later stage of land planning. Having these details included in the ASP is likely to complicate that later work.

Administration has also raised a few objections with some of the fundamental concepts put into the proposed ASP. These include:

  • It only requires 10% of Bear Creek’s top-of-bank to be dedicated to roads. Usually the City requires 35% to preserve public access to the creek.

  • The proposed development creates a large residential area in the northeast which does not have park space.

  • The ASP calls for a government funded bridge over Bear Creek. The City has not yet decided if a motor vehicle crossing is needed here, nor has it identified funding sources for a potential bridge.

  • The ASP treats storm ponds in manners contrary to current City standards and plans

At a high level, I like this ASP. The concept it proposes for this part of our community is great.

At the same time, the technical and process objections raised by administration seem very valid to me. These need to be addressed

I have some concerns about park space in the Plan’s northeast corner, public access to Bear Creek, and storm water management. My concerns could be put to rest with more information or minor adjustments to the ASP. But they are significant enough that I cannot support this ASP based on what I know right now.

I do not think that Council should kill this ASP. However, I also think it needs more work. My current view is that Council should send this to a Committee for more conversation and for amendments.


That’s what is on our agenda for Monday. 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