Coming up at City Council: March 23-27, 2015

It’s Committee week again and it looks like it’ll be a busy one with lots on the agenda.

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 23, 2015

The week begins on Monday with a Community Services Committee meeting scheduled from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are thirteen reports on the agenda, plus one response to an inquiry from Councillor Knack and one private report. Here’s what caught my eye:

Urban Beekeeping Pilot Project & Bylaw Changes

This report provides an overview of the pilot project on urban beekeeping and also recommends some bylaw changes for Council’s consideration. Here’s how the pilot went:

  • Over 35 inquiries were made, but only 3 residential sites were setup. Timing and strict neighbour permission requirements are blamed for the low numbers.
  • All 3 sites successfully complied with the provisions of the pilot.
  • “The three pilot sites were managed by experienced beekeepers and conversations with enforcement staff were very positive.”
  • Just one complaint was received from a citizen, and it was about a noticeable increase in bees. Research about how to reduce bee hive impacts on neighbours will be “incorporated into an ongoing education and awareness program.”
  • Participants, neighbours, and community members were all surveyed – just one respondent indicated they did not support the idea of urban beekeeping.

A representative from Animal Control & Licensing met with the Edmonton Food Council, a meeting that I attended. We had a great discussion about the pilot and the proposed changes. The report says, “the Food Council supports the City to enabling implementation of urban beekeeping in a way that enhances the positives of beekeeping while minimizing the exposure of citizens to undue risk.”

Currently, the Animal Control & Licensing Bylaw prohibits citizens from keeping large animals (like Stampy I guess), poultry, bees, or poisonous snakes, reptiles, or insects, unless they have permission from the City Manager. The proposed amendments would allow those things if a citizen successfully obtains a license issue by the City Manager. This is not unlike needing to get a pet license for your dog or cat. The City could place terms and conditions on a license, such as the term, or the maximum number of animals that may be kept. They can investigate complaints and they can perform inspections. And of course, the license can be revoked at any time. The requirements are pretty straightforward:

  • You need to be 18 years of age or older
  • You need to pay any applicable fees
  • You need to provide all required information

A license to keep bees is proposed to be free. To get a license, you’ll need to comply with the City’s Bee Site guidelines, you’ll need to register with the Province Apiculturist and comply with the Alberta Bee Act, and you’ll need to complete a recognized beekeeping course. Guidelines include:

  • Hives can only be in the backyard, and must be at least 3 meters from a neighbouring fence line.
  • You can only have one active hive in your yard, consisting of a bottom board and hive cover with no more than four supers.
  • A fresh water source is required to minimize bees going to neighbouring properties.

This is really great to see – the guidelines are reasonable and approachable, the proposed process allows the City to take action when necessary, and the City is encouraging education and community around beekeeping.

I’m excited to see urban beekeeping moving ahead in Edmonton!

Electronic Cigarettes

Councillor Knack made an inquiry back in December about electronic cigarettes, seeking information about whether the current smoking bylaw is applicable or not. The report is very clear:

“The current City of Edmonton Smoking Bylaw does not apply to electronic cigarettes. This product does not contain tobacco and is not currently regulated under the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act or Public Places Bylaw 14614.”

There are no specific restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes. Because they are relatively new, Health Canada has not fully evaluated them and generally advises Canadians against purchasing or using them. Because of that, e-cigarettes cannot be used in AHS facilities nor inside City facilities.

Fire Pit Enforcement Options

This one is a follow-up to the discussion that took place back in November. As directed, Administration has identified “mechanisms to protect citizens from extreme nuisance impacts of neighbourhood fire pits”. They came up with three:

  • Existing Mechanisms – Rather than issue a $250 fine, officers could require a mandatory court appearance.
  • Create a Subjective Nuisance Bylaw Provision within the Community Standards Bylaw
  • Enhanced Responsive Services – This would require additional staff, and therefore, budget.

The first two would have no cost implications.

Other

Here are some of the other reports on the agenda:

Additionally, a bunch of reports have been given revised due dates, so get your calendar out and pencil in these dates if they’re of interest:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Tuesday, the next Executive Committee meeting is scheduled to take place from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are twelve reports on the agenda, plus one response to an inquiry from Councillor Esslinger. Here’s what caught my eye:

City Council Policy on Open City Initiative

The recommendation here is that Council approve City Policy C581, the Open City Policy. “An open city is a connected city,” the report says. “Philosophically, an open city is connected and responsive to the goals and objectives of an informed and engaged public, who in turn are partners consulted in setting the goals and objectives of the city.”

The included draft policy incorporates the five most frequently occurring suggestions from respondents to an Edmonton Insight Community survey:

  • Emphasis on citizen and community involvement in decision-making
  • Embrace openness in all City employees’ and election officals’ actions
  • Clarify how privacy will be protected
  • Specify how the City will ensure all practices and processes will adhere to Open City Principles
  • Use understandable language

The draft policy says that as an open city, “Edmonton will create opportunity for diverse input and participation, inviting Edmontonians to play a larger role in shaping the community and enabling social and economic growth.” The core commitments in the policy would have the City:

  • Manage information and data assets as a strategic resource
  • Ensure information and data are open by default and private where appropriate
  • Expand opportunities to foster a collaborative environment and engage Edmontonians to ensure municipal activities reflect community values, priorities and standards
  • Embrace technology and new business models to deliver services to Edmontonians
  • Remove barriers to access and open up new possibilities for collaboration between Edmontonians and the City
  • Work with other public and private sector organizations for the advancement of Open City principles

I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the second point (I’d rather see a separate point on privacy and not diminish the “open by default” commitment), but overall, I think this is a big step in the right direction. I expect Council will be happy with it too.

Update on Infill Progress

This report provides an update on the 23 actions identified in Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap. Here are the highlights:

  • Three of the five communications actions have been completed, including work on the website and the development of the Good Neighbour Construction Guide.
  • Three of the five collaboration actions have also been completed, including the Infill Tour and the Infill Planning Academy Course.
  • One of the three knowledge actions has been completed – the creation of a document that provides a basic understanding of drainage services in Edmonton.
  • Twp of the five rules actions have been completed (these deal with zoning changes).
  • Two of the five process actions have been completed.

Northern/Circumpolar Initiatives Secretariat

Council is considering the formation of a Northern/Circumpolar Initiatives Secretariat that could help Edmonton “achieve significant progress in the Northern/Circumpolar region through supporting and building partnerships with northern communities.” EEDC was directed to develop a business plan for the initiative, which this report includes and summarizes.

The area of influence would be the Edmonton region, but also Whitehorse and Yellowknife. The hope is that Edmonton can form partnerships with northern communities around issues like health care, education, commerce, innovation, and community development.

The idea would be to formally create the Secretariat by the end of Q2 2015. The City, EEDC, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Alberta would provide funding and in-kind resources as partners in the initiative. Council has already approved a one-time package of $90,000 for 2015.

Other

Here are a few notes on some of the other reports:

The following reports have been given revised due dates:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The next Transportation Committee meeting takes place on Wednesday from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are five reports on the agenda, as well as one response to an inquiry made by Mayor Iveson.

Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Coverage in LRT Stations and Tunnels

I don’t think there’s much new here, but the report provides an update on the inquiry that Mayor Iveson made about getting connected when you ride the LRT. The City is targeting Q4 2015 for service in the tunnels. They are currently discussing the implementation of “a single co-location solution” that would allow any service provider to “connect to a common carrier supported infrastructure”. So instead of every company installing hardware, one set of gear will be installed that all will share. Can’t wait to see this roll out!

Valley Line Stage 1 Environmental Impact Screening Assessment Update

This is a pretty big report with four attachments. The recommendation to Council is to approve the Environmental Impact Screening Assessment, to approve the list and locations of Major Facilities, and to approve the upgrades for the construction access route through the west side of Louise McKinney Park.

311 Calls – Snow & Ice Complaints

This report summarizes the process for managing 311 calls received for snow and ice control operations. Improvements for managing these calls have been made and more are planned. For instance, revised scripts reduced the ratio of calls being referred to Roadway Maintenance from 63% to 49%.

For the 2013-2014 season there was a total of 47,779 calls, and that decreased to just 22,186 in the 2014-2015 season. The report says that 82.7% of notifications are closed within 5 business days, which is an improvement from 53.8% last time.

You can see snow & ice maintenance calls into 311 using the 311 Data Explorer.

NAIT Line Transit Security

Since 2011, ETS says it has seen a 17% increase in security-related files due to rapid ridership growth “without a proportionate increase in Transit Peace Officer staffing levels.” In order to “maintain the reputation of Edmonton Transit as a safe, secure and welcoming system” with the activation of the Metro Line to NAIT another six Transit Peace Officers will be required.

The report also notes than the Metro Line presents “unique security challenges” due to its proximity to the downtown arena and entertainment district. And though the Transit and Police Partnership Team pilot project has been positive, it also demonstrated the need for more security as a total of 140 arrests, 450 warrant executions, and 329 ticket violations were generated in a five month period.

Alternatives to adding new Transit Peace Officers include sticking with the status quo, engaging police, or hiring private security. The cost for wages, benefits, equipment, and training for six Transit Peace Officers from June to December 2015 is $354,000 and $607,000 for 2016.

Other

The other reports include:

And a bunch of reports have been given revised due dates:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Executive Committee is meeting again on Thursday afternoon. There’s just one item on the agenda, and it’s a private, verbal report: Civic Agencies Recruitment – Applicant Interviews. This is a continuation of an ongoing item.

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.