No doubt the discussion about separating trains and vehicles on the Metro Line will get a lot of attention this week, but Council is also going to be discussing the possible Municipal Development Corporation and the possibility of becoming a United Nations Safe City. There’s also some interesting details on vacant land, heritage buildings, and the neighbourhood renewal program.
Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.
Meetings this week
- April 11 at 9:30am – Community Services Committee Meeting
- April 12 at 9:30am – Executive Committee Meeting
- April 13 at 9:30am – Transportation Committee Meeting
- April 14 at 10:30am – LRT Governance Board Meeting
- April 15 at 9:30am – Audit Committee Meeting
You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.
This report aims to address Council’s questions about establishing a Municipal Development Corporation (MDC) using the “super light” model that was previously presented. Here are the highlights:
- Council does not directly control the City’s corporations but they do sit as representatives for the shareholder. They could control the activities of the MDC by including restrictions in the incorporation documents, by exerting shareholder control, and by including restrictions in any agreements made between the City and the MDC (such as the sale of land).
- An alternative to establishing the MDC is to start a “New Dedicated City Administration program” (DCA) that would try to achieve the same objectives. Such a program could be established over 4 years for $1.7 million less than the MDC and could be setup more quickly. But such a program would lack the flexibility of the MDC.
- The MDC would require $750,000 to startup plus $1.25 million per year in operating costs.
- The DCA would require $473,000 to startup plus $780,000 per year in operating costs.
- “Industry has strongly supported the concept of a business advisory committee struck under authority of the City Manager to help activate the potential of surplus City lands.” Additionally, the local land development industry “has consistently expressed strong opposition to the establishment by the City of a for-profit Municipal Development Corporation.”
The report notes that “economic conditions in 2016 are dramatically different than prevailing conditions in early 2015” when the initial model was developed and that means the City could see a reduced rate of return. Another challenge is that “the distinction between mandates for the proposed for-profit Municipal Development Corporation Superlight and the more recently proposed public-benefit Community Development Corporation is not clear.”
“The mandate for the proposed Municipal Development Corporation…has been complicated by the emergence of several related development ‘questions’ that have yet to be addressed by Council, including dispensation of the Edmonton Research Park and West Rossdale, as well as uncertainty regarding the future of Northlands Park. The Municipal Government Act renewal may also introduce new legislative requirements that could affect the Municipal Development Corporation that are unknown at this time.”
The City plans to create a business advisory committee under the City Manager and recommends that Council postpone any decision about the MDC until a future Executive Committee meeting at which Council will presented with more information.
Council will consider four options for separating trains from vehicles where the Metro Line crosses Princess Elizabeth Avenue and 106 Street. These options range in cost from $35 million to $95 million and could be included in funding for a future extension of the Metro Line.
- Option 1, at a cost of $51 million, would be an elevated LRT crossing with NAIT station moving slightly northwest after being out-of-service for 6-12 months.
- Option 2, at a cost of $95 million, would be an underground LRT crossing with NAIT station moving further northwest after being out-of-service for at least 12 months.
- Option 3, at a cost of $35-67 million, would be an at-grade LRT crossing with a possible lowering of Princess Elizabeth Avenue below the LRT. NAIT station would be out-of-service for 2-3 months and would move further northwest, with a second station added on the Kingsway side of Princess Elizabeth Avenue.
- Option 4, at a cost of $88 million, would be an elevated LRT crossing with NAIT station moving much further northwest after being out-of-service for 6-12 months, plus a second station would be added on the Kingsway side of Princess Elizabeth Avenue.
I like the idea of adding a second station at Kingsway, but it seems silly to be discussing this now considering the line is still not even fully operational. It seems that Kingsway Mall is on board with the idea of adding a new station on their site, however.
Lots of interesting information here. The City owns approximately 9,300 properties, 1,015 of which are categorized as vacant or undeveloped. A little over half of those vacant properties are held for things like parks or drainage. The remaining 454 properties total 335 acres and the estimated total cost to service them is approximately $56,950 per year.
About 75% of the vacant properties are located in residential areas, 17% are in commercial areas, and 8% are in industrial areas. Roughly 90% of the vacant properties are under one acre in size.
According to this report, the City currently owns over 900 facilities (everything from arenas and libraries to parking structures and pedestrian bridges) which as of 2015 are summarized as follows:
- 20% are in good condition
- 74% are in fair condition
- 6% are in poor condition
A total of $153 million was approved for the 2015-2018 Capital Budget for Building and Facility Rehabilitation, which will support approximately 60 facilities.
Rossdale Generating Station, photo by Kurt Bauschardt
Of those 900+ facilities, 57 are considered historically significant (though just 18 are registered and designated as Municipal Historic Resources). Of those, 48 are buildings and 9 are cemeteries and monuments. Here’s the status of 27 of those 48 buildings (the rest lack a recent condition assessment):
- 45% are in good condition
- 30% are in fair condition
- 25% are in poor condition
The City estimates it would cost approximately $27.4 million to rehabilitate those 27 buildings. You can see the full list of heritage assets here.
From the auditor’s report:
“The Transportation Neighbourhood Renewal Program repairs and replaces streets, sidewalks, and other infrastructure in Edmonton neighbourhoods. The Program was initiated in 2009 with a goal of having all Edmonton neighbourhoods in acceptable condition by the end of 2038 – 30 years.”
It wasn’t until 1987 that “significant renewal work” took place in Edmonton’s neighbourhoods. A total of 52 neighbourhoods were renewed between 1987 and 2008, but in 2009 “it was estimated that 174 neighbourhoods were in need of renewal.” The dedicated tax levy was established that year to try to address the problem.
The report finds that overall “the Transportation Neighbourhood Renewal Program has the appropriate structures and supports in place to achieve its long-term objective” and that “residents are reasonably satisfied with the Program.” The auditor made four recommendations to improve the program, all of which the City has accepted.
Other interesting items
- A new white paper on user fees is available for the public to review as part of The Way We Finance.
- If approved by Council, the 2016 Festival Operating Grants will see $1,378,000 distributed to 32 organizations.
- Perhaps hoping to avoid another Kingsway debacle, there’s a report on intersection performance estimates for phase 1 of the Valley Line LRT.
- ETS has a plan to reallocate approximately 50,000 service hours per year from underperforming bus routes. The changes are intended to improve service on higher-use routes and could also “contribute towards the goal of 105 rides per capita by 2018.” The service reductions would affect 900 weekday passengers (4500 per week), 1400 Saturday passengers, and 1100 Sunday passengers.
- If approved by Council, Edmonton will apply to become a United Nations Safe City.
- There are six options for maintaining, moving, preserving, or demolishing the Artery ranging in cost from $430,000 to nearly $7 million. Next steps are to “continue to collaborate with stakeholders” and to prepare a detailed assessment if funds can be found.
- Thursday’s meeting of the LRT Governance Board is the final one for the board, “and accordingly no further meeting dates are scheduled.”
- The Procurement Final Report for the Valley Line LRT includes a letter from the Fairness Monitor which states, “we hereby certify that in our opinion the RFQ, RFP, and Final Close phases in this procurement were open, unbiased, transparent, consistent in approach, and fair.”
- A new report recommends exemptions to the non-market housing pause for mixed-market projects, affordable home ownership projects, seniors’ housing, small-scale non-market housing, and non-market projects with family-appropriate units.
- The City’s 2015 consolidated financial statements and corresponding audit by KPMG are both available.
- At the end of March, there were 28 recommendations from the City Auditor that were outstanding, 4 of which are considered overdue.
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.