Coming up at City Council: March 21-25, 2016

Council is back to Committee meetings this week, with a very full agenda and some big ticket items to be discussed.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Program & Service Review

Administration has come forward with a project plan for the program & service review that Council has requested. All City services will be reviewed a high-level and some will be identified for a deeper analysis to determine if the service could be reduced or stopped, provided differently or enhanced, or if new services are recommended. The City anticipates evaluating “approximately 30 programs and 200 services, which could be compared with services in other jurisdictions” using the Municipal Reference Model. The evaluation will focus on relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency:

  • “Relevance is why we are doing things.”
  • “Effectiveness is doing the right things.”
  • “Efficiency is doing things well.”

The review will start this year and will take until December 2018 to complete. Costs associated with the work in 2016 are expected to be $600,000 which “will be funded from existing resources leveraging currently planned service reviews.” The City is proposing three pilots in 2016 to “test the approach and identify improvements in the project methodology.” Additional costs for 2017 and 2018 will be determined after the pilot reviews are complete.

Urban Growth Areas: Integrated Infrastructure Management Planning

Edmonton’s three Urban Growth Areas are Decoteau, Horse Hill, and Riverview. When considering a build-out over a 30-40 year time frame starting this year, the highlight is that the three areas “are anticipated to require approximately $1.4 billion in capital investment by the City.” On top of that, “a developer infrastructure investment of approximately $3.8 billion” is required. But we know that new neighbourhoods do not pay for themselves. “The projected cumulative shortfall over the 50 year analysis period for the build-out of the Urban Growth Areas is anticipated to be in the order of $1.4 billion.”

projections

There’s a lot of detail in the report and a good discussion about the balance of residential and non-residential land in Edmonton. We have about three times more residential land than non-residential land, but non-residential taxes are 2.5 to 3 times more than residential, so they each contribute about 50%. Here are some other highlights:

  • “For the City as a whole to maintain the current ratio, there needs to be approximately $5 billion of non-residential assessment for every $20 billion in residential assessment growth.”
  • “It should be noted that the trend in Edmonton over the last few years has been an increasing burden shifting towards the residential tax payer as the residential class takes on a greater proportion of the total assessment base. The residential share of property taxes has increased from 48.7% in 2005 to 50.8% in 2015.”
  • “Based on the analysis completed, in order to maintain 25% non-residential assessment ratio, the Urban Growth Areas would require an additional $8.3 billion in non-residential assessments throughout the City of Edmonton, over and above the commercial and business employment areas planned within the Urban Growth Areas.”
  • “It is uncertain at this point whether this magnitude of non-residential assessments can be achieved within the City’s existing industrial areas and may be largely dependent on the timing and type of development to be constructed in the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park.”
  • “Should this level of non-residential assessment not be achieved over the build-out of the Urban Growth Areas, the City may need to consider changing the current residential to non-residential tax split from an even split to a higher percentage from the residential area, which would increase residential contributions and better reflect the costs of the City’s current built-form.”

As a result of all of this, “the City will need to continue its efforts to promote greater density, more effective utilization of infrastructure, and grow the industrial and commercial sectors in order to balance the City’s overall assessment base.”

Administration is working on a Growth Modelling Framework that would proceed in four phases through 2019. While it may be a useful tool, that seems awfully late to be available considering development of all three areas is already well underway.

Valley Line LRT Updated Tax Levy Requirement

Apparently the winning bid from TransED Partners to build and operate the Valley Line LRT came in at $2.2 billion, about $500 million less than the City was expecting. As a result, the City is recommending the 0.8% tax levy scheduled to start this year should be dropped to 0.6%, which would translate to savings of $4.25 for the typical homeowner. Another option could be to grow the LRT reserve fund faster.

Instead of a rebate to homeowners, the Amalgamated Transit Union would prefer to see the money spent on transit. “It’s capital money that was intended to flow into transit,” ATU President Steve Bradshaw told Metro. “What we’re saying it was intended for transit and it should stay for transit.”

Traffic Shortcutting Pilot Project

Here’s the background on this one:

“In the fall of 2015, a Traffic Shortcutting Pilot Project was undertaken in the communities of Crestwood, Newton, Ottewell and Ormsby Place to develop a streamlined process to address localized shortcutting and speeding concerns. The traffic management measures of the pilot project included speed humps, speed tables (speed hump with a flat top), driver feedback signs, the review of traffic signal timings and the restriction of vehicle access (Ormsby Place only).”

About a third of respondents to a questionnaire felt the measures benefited their community, while a quarter felt the measures improved traffic safety. The report highlights a number of lessons learned, including:

  • “Project Coordination: Projects should be coordinated with other capital projects to minimize construction costs and more efficiently engage the public.”
  • “Community Awareness: Need to first build broad public involvement and engage communities before addressing traffic concerns.”
  • “Roles and Responsibilities: Establish clear roles and responsibilities for Administration, public stakeholder groups, including decision-making at key points in the process.”
  • “Process Flexibility: Every neighbourhood is unique, thus a flexible process can be tailored to the specific needs of a community.”
  • “Project Timelines: The process needs to be responsive to community needs in a timely manner and adequate time must be allocated to properly engage the public and complete comprehensive before and after traffic studies.”

A separate report provides an update on the Community Traffic Management Plan pilot program in the Prince Charles and Pleasantview Communities. Activities are ongoing in Prince Charles, but the trial in Pleasantview was removed in February. The lessons learned through those two pilots were broadly similar to the others noted above.

“Since the mid-1990s, this is the fourth time Pleasantview has been through a Community Traffic Management Plan. This is the second time Prince Charles has been through a Community Traffic Management Plan since 2000.”

In 2003, Council adopted a set of guidelines for the community traffic management process that “established selection criteria to be used as a means of prioritizing communities for traffic management initiatives.” Only Pleasantview and Prince Charles have met the requirement to demonstrate sufficient community support since that time, but citizens in over 30 neighbourhoods have requested the initiation of a community traffic management plan. The City is now reviewing these guidelines. “Establishing criteria for community support and thresholds for traffic volumes, speeds, and shortcutting in an evidence-based approach, provides a means of addressing the growing city-wide demand for community traffic management initiatives in a more planned, efficient, consistent, and equitable manner.”

All of the lessons learned and other input will be considered in the development of a Policy on Traffic Shortcutting and a Community Traffic Management Policy, currently slated to be ready for Council’s review in June.

Telus Field

It looks like the uncertainty over the immediate future of Telus Field is coming to an end. The Edmonton Prospects Baseball Club has been selected as the preferred proponent to operate and maintain Telus Field and they’re looking to sign a four-year deal with the City to do just that. They would pay an annual license fee of $20,000 per year, in addition to operating and maintenance costs. The City would still be responsible for preventative maintenance, waterproofing, snow removal and parking lot maintenance, and utility costs related to the City’s office space in the building.

The City is still working on a longer-term vision for Telus Field as part of its plan for the River Crossing area, expected to be delivered in 2018. The River Crossing area encompasses land redevelopment in West Rossdale, repurposing of the Rossdale Generating Station, and other items. “This plan will take an integrated approach to advancing change in this unique and complex area,” the report states.

What the Truck?! at Telus Field

In addition to the agreement to operate Telus Field, the Prospects are requesting permission “to secure a new naming sponsor for the facility.” They need Council’s approval to start looking for a new sponsor, and even once they find a willing partner, the Naming Committee and Historical Board must be consulted and Council will have final approval. The Prospects need the sponsorship revenue to help support the operation of the ballpark.

Other interesting items

  • It is recommended that Council approve a funding agreement with the Argyll Velodrome Association and the Society of the Edmonton Triathlon Academy for the Coronation Community Recreation Centre project. Council had previously approved $112.26 million for the project.
  • A majority of partner facilities, festivals, and events would prefer the City is to mandate the establishment of designated smoking areas rather than mandate smoke-free events and facilities.
  • The Dogs in Open Spaces Strategy “will enhance off-leash sites and provide safe and enjoyable experiences for park users.” A new report outlines recommendations made by the strategy and notes that Administration will now develop an implementation plan.
  • The Naming Committee previously approved five neighbourhood names for the Riverview ASP but Stantec is appealing and has suggested the committee “neglected to consider the wishes of the majority landowners in these neighbourhoods.”
  • A report on zoning options for high quality main streets identifies the following as qualifying main streets: Jasper Avenue, Whyte Avenue, 97 Street, 101 Street, 107 Avenue, 109 Street, 118 Avenue, 124 Street, Stony Plain Road.
  • In an effort to better support residential infill, the City is recommending a new Community Standards Infill Compliance Coordinator, amendments to the Community Standards Bylaw 14600 to inroduce weekday construction restrictions, and amendments to the Traffic Bylaw 5590 to improve current development practices and address community concerns about infill construction.
  • A progress report on joint efforts between the City of Edmonton and the City of St. Albert on the possibility of integrating transit systems considers five models and recommends returning in Q3 2016 with more detail.
  • Edmonton currently classifies roadways as “local”, “collector”, and “arterial” and applies Complete Streets Guidelines on top of that. Administration has reviewed this classification scheme, and after comparing with other cities like Ottawa, Calgary, and Toronto, has recommended the status quo. It further noted “that roadway classification is neither used as a tool nor viewed as a solution to shortcutting and speeding issue.”
  • Council is slated to receive a verbal status update on the Metro Line LRT on Wednesday, and will also receive a private contractual update.

Wrap-up

You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

  • Sig

    Perhaps the City of Edmonton would increase its industrial tax base if it LOWERED it’s commercial and industrial property taxes. We’ve been losing large amounts of industry and commerce to Parkland Co, Strathcona Co, Leduc, etc.

  • Sig

    Traffic Planning: If we would properly design our transportation network in the first place we could significantly reduce short-cutting. City Council drew a Metroline LRT extension on the back of a napkin, handed it to their engineers and gave them one month to draw up some plans. Chaos results from idiocy like this.