Coming up at City Council: March 2-6, 2015

Agendas for upcoming City Council meetings are generally released on Thursday afternoons. I like to take a look to see what Council will be discussing, and I figured I should share that here. Below you’ll find links to the meetings taking place next week, as well as links to and thoughts on some agenda items that caught my eye.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Monday, March 2, 2015

The week begins on Monday with a Public Hearing scheduled to last all day. There are 9 bylaws on the agenda:

  • Bylaw 17098 – To allow for business, service, and light industrial uses, Wilson Industrial
  • Bylaw 17152 – To allow for the development of business employment uses, Ambleside
  • Bylaws 17085, 17086, 17087 – Amendments to The Orchards NSP and Ellerslie ASP to allow for more housing
  • Bylaws 17093, 17094 – Amendment to the Oliver ARP to allow for a 14 storey building on Jasper Avenue west of 123 Street
  • Bylaws 17096, 17097 – Amendment to the Strathcona ARP to restrict the size of select uses in Strathcona, Queen Alexandra, and Strathcona Junction

The one I’m most interested in is 17094, which is to rezone the property at 12302 and 12308 Jasper Avenue from CB1 to CB3. The proposed opportunity is a mixed-use development up to 14 storeys in height. Currently at that location you’ll find the Peter Robertson, Agnes Bugera, and Front art galleries.

Also on March 2 is the City Manager and City Auditor Performance Evaluation Committee meeting. There are two private items on the agenda – 2014 Evaluation Results and 2015 Evaluation Process Update. The meeting is scheduled to take place over the lunch break.

There’s also an LRT Governance Board meeting taking place on Monday in the River Valley Room. The board will be receiving a verbal update on the Valley Line LRT Project, and the board’s Semi Annual Report will be discussed (it’ll need Council approval). There’s also a report outlining the results of the Public Input on Request for Proposals for Stage 1 of the Valley Line LRT.

Tuesday & Wednesday, March 3/4, 2015

Next up for Council is a regular City Council Meeting that starts Tuesday and may run into Wednesday. There are 19 reports on the agenda, 13 of which are committee reports. There are also 18 bylaws on the agenda for consideration.

Edmonton’s Economic Forecast Update

This item is all about dealing with the price of oil. “To better understand the implications of lower oil prices on the economic prospects for the City of Edmonton and the surrounding region, a series of simulations were run in late January using the City’s economic forecasting models.” Based on those simulations, the City has updated its forecasted economic indicators as follows:

Indicator 2014 2015
(Spring 2014 Forecast)
2015
(Current Forecast)
Real GDP 3.3% 3.7% 2.8%
Inflation (CPI) 2.1% 1.5% 1.8%
Population 3.6% 2.1% 1.9%
Unemployment Rate 5.0% 4.2% 5.2%
Housing Starts 9,798 10,175 10,600

The highlight? “Economic growth will continue in Edmonton and out perform the rest of the province due to its relatively low direct dependence of the energy sector.” Longer term, Edmonton’s economic growth should recover to levels slightly above 3%, which will still be higher than most of the Province and Canada as a whole.

Another round of forecasting is being planned for mid-April to take the Provincial budget into account, among other data updates.

December 2014 Preliminary Year End Financial Results

There’s a lot of information available with this report, including a dozen attachments. A few highlights:

  • Preliminary results for 2014 tax-supported operations identify a net favourable year-end variance of $9.9 million or 0.5% of the overall expenditure budget.
  • Based on borrowing and repayments to December 31, 2014, the City has $2.823 billion in total debt, which is 61.1% of the MGA allowed debt limit.
  • Based on that amount, the City utilized 39.5% of the maximum debt service limit for 2014 as defined by the MGA. “Debt servicing will increase significantly in 2016 and 2018 due to the repayment of $60 million of short-term borrowing in each of the years.”
  • The Quarters CRL ended 2014 with a deficit of $3.6 million and a cumulative deficit balance since inception of $9 million.
  • The Belvedere CRL ended 2014 with a deficit of $1.6 million and a cumulative deficit balance since inception of $5.4 million.
  • The Downtown CRL has incurred $3.6 million in debt servicing costs for 2014, the first year of operation. “From 2019 onwards this program is projected to have an annual positive net position, which will be transferred to the CRL reserve.”

There’s also a recommendation for Council to approve three things:

  • An increase of $3.6 million to the 2015 Operating Budget, with the funds to come from the Financial Stabilization Reserve.
  • An increase of $5.1 million to the 2015 Operating Budget, offset by an equivalent transfer from amounts currently appropriated in the Financial Stabilization Reserve.
  • An increase of $39.5 million to the 2015 Operating Budget, offset by an equivalent amount in revenue, to address the cash flow of expenditures for the 41st Avenue/QEII interchange.

The financial results outlined in the report are based on information available to February 23, 2015 and are unaudited and subject to change.

Capital Finance Update

Last year was the final year of the 2012-2014 Capital Budget that was approved back on December 8, 2011. “As of December 31, 2014, the three year spend was $3,151.4.4 million against the 2012 to 2014 adjusted capital budget of $4,280.4 million representing 73.6% of the total budget.” Some of the things we spent money on include:

  • The Downtown Arena
  • The Clareview & Meadows Recreation Centres
  • The Walterdale Bridge
  • The Southeast to West LRT/Valley Line
  • Neighbourhood Renewal Program

The unused capital budget will be carried forward, a process that is expected to be finalized in the spring.

Implementation Plan for the Way Ahead (2015-2018)

This report, along with the associated Department and Branch 3-Year Business Plan Process report, outlines the Implementation Project for The Way Ahead. Last year Council reaffirmed the strategic plan with 12 revised corporate outcomes and 26 outcome measures. The scope of the project is to identify and prioritize actions and tactics to achieve or make substantial progress toward the outcomes by December 31, 2018.

Branches are currently developing their 2016-2018 business plans now, which will include actions that contribute to the Implementation Project. By April, the public will have been consulted through the Edmonton Insight Community, and by May the Corporate Leadership Team will have reviewed the Branch business plans and approved the Implementation Plan document. We can expect a public release of everything on November 3, in time for the 2016 budget cycle.

Appointments to Civic Agencies for 2015-2016

Council needs to appoint members to a few different civic agencies for the 2015-2016 term. The appointments are as follows:

  • Councillor Caterina to the Edmonton Northlands Board and Edmonton Northlands Executive Committee
  • Councillor Oshry to the Edmonton Northlands Board
  • Councillor Henderson & Councillor Walters to the River Valley Alliance Board
  • Councillor Esslinger to the Trans Canada Yellowhead Highway Association Board

This item will likely be just a rubber stamping exercise.

Committee Reports

The Committee reports were all recently discussed at one of the four committees and have been referred to Council with a recommendation for approval. A few that I wanted to highlight include:

  • Designation, Preservation and Restoration of McDougall United Church – A recommendation that the Mayor, on behalf of City Council, approach the relevant provincial ministers to explore partnership opportunities around heritage, arts and post-secondary uses as part of a repair and long-term operational sustainability strategy for McDougall United Church as a public building.
  • Online Voting – That the Mayor, on behalf of City Council, write a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs requesting that consideration be given to amending the Local Authorities Election Act, to permit alternative forms of voting.
  • ParkPlus Software Licensing & Maintenance Agreement – That the name “EPark” and the EPark design contained in the February 25 Transportation Services report be approved for use to distinguish parking solutions provided by the City of Edmonton.
  • Funding Strategies for Future LRT Expansion – That Administration work with the Mayor, to develop a communication plan to inform citizens about the impact of other orders of government on funding the City’s future LRT Network Plan, in light of the upcoming Provincial and Federal elections, and return to City Council.

Bylaws

As mentioned, there are 18 bylaws on the agenda. Here are a few that I wanted to highlight:

  • Bylaw 17003 would designate the Mountfield House, built in 1905, as a Municipal Historic Resource. This is ready for third reading.
  • Bylaw 17092 will amend the Quarters CRL bylaw to increase borrowing by $44,345,000, to pay for the phase II projects. That’ll bring the total for projects in the Quarters CRL to $95,345,000. This is ready for second and third readings.
  • Bylaw 17075 will increase borrowing authorization for the Great Neighbourhoods Initiative by $60 million. This is ready for second and third readings.
  • Bylaw 17102 will authorize the City to borrow $304,186,000 to undertake, construct, and finance Sanitary and Stormwater Drainage projects. This is ready for first reading only.
  • Bylaw 17100 will authorize the City to undertake, construct, and finance the Downtown CRL projects by increasing borrowing authorization by $78,178,839. This is ready for first reading only.
  • Bylaw 17004 will amend the Public Places Bylaw to provide the necessary legislative authority to prohibit smoking in Churchill Square. This is ready for third reading.

Other

There is one notice of motion pending which is Councillor Henderson’s motion regarding the planned elimination of the use of herbicides on public land. There will also be one private verbal update, on the purchase and sale of land in The Quarters.

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.

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