Coming up at City Council: March 7-11, 2016

Council is back to Committee meetings next week!

Edmonton City Council

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.

Urban Hens Pilot Evaluation

Last year after a successful pilot, Council approved the bylaw changes required to support urban beekeeping. Will they do the same for urban hens?

From the 35 citizens that applied to the urban hens pilot, 19 sites were formally accepted across the city. Each had to register provincially and had to receive consent from adjacent neighbours. They were managed by “both experienced and inexperienced hen owners” and they received support from the River City Chickens Collective. Here’s how the pilot went:

  • Each site was inspected at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the pilot.
  • “The majority” of sites were compliant, but a few follow-up inspections were required.
  • One site had concerns over the requirements and withdrew.
  • There were 12 citizen complaints across six sites, but all were “investigated promptly” and resolved amicably.
  • There were no complaints related to coyotes or other predatory wildlife, but there was “an increase in nuisance birds, roaming cats, and mice” for some sites.

A formal Urban Hen Keeping Program does not require any bylaw changes, so the Committee can essentially give the go-ahead if they support the idea. Property owners would be required to abide by the guidelines and would need to obtain a development permit under the new urban outdoor farming class. The requirement for neighbour consent would be removed, but participants would need to complete a training course or workshop before being issued a license.

Chickenses
Chickenses, photo by Dave Sutherland

“While the results of the pilot lean favourably towards supporting a program, several pilot outcomes cause some concern from an enforcement perspective,” the report says. For that reason, Administration is recommending a phased implementation in which the number of sites would be capped at 50 over the next two years.

The Edmonton Insight Community survey that was conducted along with the pilot found that 51% of respondents somewhat or strongly agree that raising hens in the city is good for neighbourhoods.

Park & Ride

A report from the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board identifies short and medium-term options to address the high demand for Park and Ride stalls. Recall that a previous report on Park & Ride at Century Park found that the lot is 85% full by 7am on weekday mornings and that the average weekday utilization of all park & ride sites is 97% at LRT stations and 60-70% at transit centres. The ETSAB report suggests “there is a clear need for an increase in supply” but it also suggests dealing with the price of stalls too. Roughly 87% of all stalls available are provided free of charge, with reserved stalls priced at $42/month (the same since 2010). The existing Park & Ride policy states that up to 18% of stalls at each location can be reserved for paid parking.

The options identified to deal with this include:

  1. Convert a Greater Proportion of Existing Stalls into Paid Reserved Stalls
  2. Increase the Price to Park in Reserved Stalls
  3. Offer Time-Limited, Unreserved Stalls
  4. Seek Alternatives to Increase the Supply of Park and Ride Stalls

The recommendation is for Administration to prepare a subsequent report on “the feasibility, implications and details of implementing” those options. ETSAB “believes that Park and Ride facilities form a critical part of our transportation system” but they feel customers should pay a greater portion of the costs of parking.

Century Park Station & Park and Ride
Century Park Station & Park and Ride, photo by City of Edmonton

A related report deals with the strategy for Park & Ride locations. The current policy (C554) was approved in 2009 and states that park & ride will be located:

  • at selected LRT stations and transit centres served by LRT, premium bus, or express bus services;
  • in areas along or outside of the Inner Ring Road (Yellowhead Trail, 170 Street, Whitemud Drive, and 75 Street/Wayne Gretzky Drive) and preferably at least eight km from Downtown or University of Alberta North Campus; and
  • at sites where more intensive development is not possible or feasible, such as the Transportation Utility Corridor or other major utility rights of way or where such development is not expected to occur in the immediate future.

Administration feels the policy has limitations and should be updated, just not right away. The new Transit Strategy is slated to be complete in 2017 and “is envisioned to encompass all transit-related issues at a high level, including park and ride.” The recommendation is to revisit the park and ride policy at that time.

Urban Balcony Expropriation

Identified as a part of The Quarters Downtown, the “urban balcony” is a triangular piece of land located between Jasper Avenue, 101 Avenue, and 96 Street atop Grierson Hill. The Quraters plan envisions it “as refuge for public gathering, providing and protecting public access to some of the most beautiful views in the City.” Its inclusion in the plan “recognizes the importance of access to the River Valley both in a physical and visual sense.”

urban balcony

In order to build the urban balcony, the City must acquire four properties. Two of those are vacant and undeveloped, and two contain unoccupied apartment buildings “in poor repair.” One is actually “subject to an Alberta Health Services Health Hazard Notice and is unfit for human habitation.” Administration has been negotiating with the owners the properties, but so far they haven’t been successful. As a result, they are recommending that Council approve the commencement of the expropriation process.

Other interesting items

  • A report on the current tax status of urban farmland identifies that although buildings used for farming operations in Edmonton receive an automatic 50% tax exemption, no such provision exists for urban farmland. Council does have the power to set a differential tax rate for farmland.
  • An update on EPS funding shows that in the latter half of 2015 they spent $266,000 on “component rebuild” for Air 1 and Air 2.
  • About 75% of the funding for the Community Energy Transition Strategy was being withheld pending a report on the provincial climate change strategy. Now that the report is available, there’s a recommendation to release the funds. “The conclusion was that the City’s action plan is consistent with provincial policies and directions.” See also the report on Corporate Environmental Targets.
  • Administration has provided a summary of its engagement to date with stakeholders regarding the Blatchford Project and in particular related to “visitable housing” which is “the concept of designing and building homes with basic accessibility features that provide easy access on the main level for everyone, including persons with limited mobility.” The recommendation is to encourage home builders in Blatchford to incorporate visitability principles.

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.

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