A look ahead at 2016 for City Council and the City of Edmonton

This year is going to be a difficult one. “While technically it won’t be a recession, for many people it’s going to feel like one,” said City of Edmonton chief economist John Rose. Our economy is expected to grow by just 1% with unemployment rising, perhaps as high as 7%. We’re less energy-dependent than the rest of the Province, but low oil prices are still going to hurt many.

Angles on Clouds
Angles on Clouds, photo by Dave Sutherland

While the economy seems certain to dominate the headlines this year, there are plenty of other topics that will come up throughout the year. Here are some key things that City Council and the City of Edmonton are going to have to deal with in 2016 that we should keep an eye on:

New City Manager

With the firing of City Manager Simon Farbrother back in September, City Council will need to select a replacement this year.

I think this will be the single most impactful decision that Council will make in 2016 – who is the right person to lead the City in the years ahead? Council has already indicated they are looking for someone who is more involved in the day-to-day, “someone who can meet the aspirations of this city head-on.” The job posting further specifies that the successful candidate will be “a community-minded relationship builder and a consummate communicator who can advance an effective culture through accountability and ingenuity.” I think interim City Manager Linda Cochrane is doing a fine job, and she certainly has the knowledge, experience, abilities, and relationships that are critical to succeed in the role. But I don’t think Council will go with an insider. I think they’re looking for a fresh perspective.

A new City Manager will no doubt want to make changes to the organization, so expect more dominoes to fall this year.

Ward 12 By-Election

With Amarjeet Sohi being elected as MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods in October’s federal election, residents in Ward 12 are currently without a representative on Council. The by-election to fill his seat will take place on Monday, February 22 and there are already 29 declared candidates. That’s an incredible number of candidates, and it means voters in Ward 12 are going to have quite a difficult job deciding who should succeed Sohi. During the 2013 municipal election, Amarjeet Sohi raised more than $130,000 and spent more than $85,000 to win his seat. On average, the winning councillors spent $73,000. I don’t think we’ll see sums that large this time, however.

This is City Council’s first by-election in more than two decades. The new Councillor will need to get up-to-speed quickly, and won’t have much time to have an impact before we find ourselves in another municipal election.

With Amarjeet Sohi being named Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, I think Edmonton is very well-represented in the current federal government. Furthermore, we have a minister responsible for infrastructure in this country who knows first-hand the challenges faced by big cities like Edmonton. That bodes well for our city’s relationship with the federal government and for our interests.

LRT (Metro Line, Valley Line, Future Expansion) & Transit Strategy

Last year was not a great year for LRT in Edmonton, so I’m sure the City and Council will be hoping for a much-more train-friendly 2016.

The Metro Line LRT still has issues, of course. The City still hasn’t accepted the safety certification of Thales, and the line continues to run more slowly than planned (and seems to break down awfully frequently). The City says it wants to reach “Plan A”, which would be full operation using the computer-based train control system, but is currently at “Plan B-” (seriously? this is Plan C guys), which is reduced speeds and “line of sight” operations. The middle step, “Plan B”, is full speeds but using the new system only between Churchill and NAIT. It seems there’s still a long way to go.

Brad Smid, who “managed the planning, design and construction of the $700 Million Metro Line Stage 1 (North LRT Extension) from Downtown to NAIT” was just this month named Director of the Valley Line LRT Design & Construction. That could be good or bad, depending on your point-of-view. Some argue that Smid is a very capable manager who spotted issues with the Metro Line LRT early on and was instrumental in getting the project constructed under budget. But he didn’t do himself any favors this summer when he downplayed the issues with the Metro Line LRT. Saying that the project was completed “on time and on budget” from a design & construction point-of-view doesn’t mean much to taxpayers who ultimately ended up with less than they were promised. Maybe Smid is the right guy to lead the Valley Line LRT project, but he’ll have to earn the trust of Council and the public.

On the Valley Line LRT, things are looking better though. The City selected TransEd Partners late last year to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance the first stage of the project. The first task in 2016 will be to finalize the contract, which is expected to be complete in February. Construction will begin shortly thereafter (preparations have already been underway, of course). We’re promised that this line will be different, because it’s a P3. We’ll see about that.

A couple of reports on future LRT expansion were postponed from 2015 to this year, so we should see Council consider a long term funding plan for the LRT, a communications plan on LRT funding, and an “interdepartmental approach” for investing in transit and LRT, among other things. There’s also the ongoing work to create a new Transit Strategy that kicked off over the summer. The strategy won’t be complete until early 2017, but the bulk of the work will take place this year, and is an opportunity for Edmontonians to provide input on “how transit can best support the city we want to live in ten years from now.”

City Charter, MGA Review, Edmonton Region

Discussions about the City Charter will continue this year. Mayor Iveson was careful to set expectations last month that he doesn’t anticipate a charter being in place until the end of the current Council term, but we may see elements of it move forward in the year ahead. Both Mayor Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi see the charter as a critical step forward for Alberta’s big cities, bringing fewer restrictions, a new relationship with the Province, and long-term sustainable funding.

Also ongoing this year is the effort to modernize the Municipal Government Act (MGA), the legislation that guides how municipalities in Alberta operate. The MGA review began in 2014 and made progress last year with Bill 20 being approved by the Legislature. Additional changes will now be considered, with a goal of competing everything in time for the next municipal election in 2017. The City of Edmonton has put forward some key principles and considerations that it would like to see reflected in the new MGA. I expect a new set of recommendations will come to Council for approval this year.

Council will also need to continue pushing ahead with its regional partners. The focus for the Capital Region Board this year is to finalize its Growth Plan 2.0. It is a 30-year strategy for managing growth in the region that was originally developed in 2010 and is now getting its first major update. The current plan is for the CRB to approve the final plan in September so that it can be submitted to the Province in October (roughly a year behind schedule). Also, while a decision likely won’t be made this year, the City’s annexation plans will continue to be a focal point for regional discussion.

Last year saw the launch of the Metro Mayors Alliance and “a blue ribbon panel on improving the competitiveness of the Edmonton Metro region.” I expect we’ll hear much more from that group in 2016.

Northlands & Rexall Place

Back in April, the Northlands Arena Strategy Committee (which I was a member of) released its final report and recommendations, which were accepted by the Northlands Board in May. Since then, Northlands has been hard at work on completing its Strategic Plan. That work is now complete, and it will be presented to Council in the next month or two. A report on enhancing the Coliseum LRT Station and perhaps building a pedway to the Edmonton Expo Centre was put on hold in 2015 while Northlands worked to sort out its strategy, so that could all come up this year too.

Some aspects of the plan have already begun to leak out, including repurposing the entire 160 acres of land, the oft-discussed possibility of joining Northlands and EEDC, and perhaps even the end of horse racing at Northlands Park. I understand we’ll also learn more about a potential agreement between Northlands and the Oilers Entertainment Group (outright competition would be detrimental to both).

This could prove to be one of the most difficult issues for Council in 2016. The fallout of previous decisions – to build Rogers Place, to keep Northlands out of the discussion about the new arena, to build the expensive Edmonton Expo Centre – all of that will need to be dealt with this year. In a worst case scenario, Northlands goes away and the City is left with debt and expensive, problematic assets on its hands. In a best case scenario, a new vision for that area of the city is agreed upon and led by Northlands. Either way, the City is going to have to contibute taxpayer dollars, so Council will need to determine how it wants to spend its limited money.

Blatchford

Blatchford is a long-term project, but this will be a critical year for the development of the future community. Late last year Council decided to cut the large lake from the vision, the latest in a number of features that have been cancelled. On the plus side for Blatchford, the cost of environmental remediation has been far lower than anticipated.

A report is expected in the first quarter addressing the District Energy Sharing System that has been proposed for Blatchford. Administration will be preparing “a comprehensive business case” for the implementation of such a system, plus a “detailed rate setting analysis”. Council will need to determine if the district energy system is critical or if it too will be cut. There are some other big decisions coming up as well, so it should be an interesting year.

The City is still planning to sell fully serviced lots at Blatchford to builders this year, if all goes well.

Walterdale Bridge, 102 Avenue Bridge over Groat Road

Both the Walterdale Bridge and the 102 Avenue Bridge experienced major setbacks in 2015.

The $155 million Walterdale Bridge remains on budget according to the City, even with the year-long delay. The completed bridge will span 206 metres and will be 54 metres tall. All of the arch steel is now on site, the heaviest piece of which weighs 125 tonnes. The current plan is for the new bridge to open by the end of the year, with the old bridge slated to be removed in 2017.

The best date we have for the completion of the new 102 Avenue Bridge over Groat Road is “fall 2016” but for a project that has already faced a number of delays, that’s not very reassuring. The installation of steel girders in March was a disaster, with three of them buckling (#girdergate). It was determined that “the spacing braces failed upon crane release of the second last girder, resulting in the buckling of three girders.” They were repaired off-site and have since been reinstalled.

The City can’t afford anymore delays with these two important projects. Apparently a new integrated infrastructure services department has been created to try to avoid issues like the ones faced by the bridge projects. Let’s hope it helps and that they’re completed successfully this year.

Affordable Housing

This is an issue that Mayor Iveson has made clear on numerous occasions he’d like to make progress on. But as he wrote back in December, while “City Council remains strongly committed to supporting affordable housing projects in Edmonton” they believe funding needs to come from other orders of government. “There has to be a better way, one that is fairer to city taxpayers,” the mayor said.

Affordable housing was most recently discussed by Council at the October 27 Executive Committee Meeting. In addition to having Mayor Iveson approach the other orders of government to help advance the Londonderry Regeneration Project, Council asked for a report to come back in April outlining “how a Community Development Corporation could be established” and to address “the role of current housing provides in the Edmonton Metro and the possibility for better integrating and coordinating their work.” Council is also expecting a report to come back in March addressing affordable housing at Blatchford.

Municipal Development Corporation

Over the last year or so Council has been investigating the creation of an arms-length development company. The idea is that a Municipal Development Corporation (MDC) could be used for city building and could even pay a dividend to the City. UDI Edmonton sent a letter to Council back in June offering support for Council’s desire to develop City-owned land assets more efficiently, but expressing “serious concerns” with doing so through an MDC. They don’t want to compete against the City, understandably.

Despite that opposition, Council seems keen to move forward. They approved a motion at the November 26 Executive Committee meeting to have Administration return with a report on April 12 that outlines how to get a Municipal Development Corporation up and running with the preferred “super light” model, and that includes identifying which lands “would be more suitable for primarily profit-motivated development” that the MDC could activate.

An alternative to creating an MDC could be to establish an advisory board made up of existing developers, but I think they’re likely going to go ahead with the corporation this year.

Infill

Last year wasn’t a great year for infill. We’re nowhere close to meeting the 25% target for infill development, and there was a lot of frustration shared by communities as some projects started to move ahead. Still, Council and the City have committed to infill as a critical component of building a sustainable city, so they need to find a way to keep it moving forward.

Infill was most recently discussed at the October 5/6/7 Executive Committee meeting. Council is expecting a report by March that addresses how to deal with infill sites in mature neighbourhoods. Among other things, Council is looking for “options to create an integrated inspection and enforcement team” and “options to implement a performance bond/letter of credit and/or liability insurance, and/or warranty programs to provide security for the adjacent City and private property.” Hopefully some of those options will provide a way past the negative headlines that seemed to dominate the last year.

Following that meeting, Mayor Iveson wrote that infill “is about creating more housing options for Edmontonians and their families, which is important for the social sustainability of our community over the short and long term.” He promised to “assist the communities where this important development will occur.”

Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap identified 23 actions, and roughly half of those have been completed so far. The remaining actions will be completed this year, but it’s not quite clear what will come next. The Mature Neighbourhood Reinvestment Report is to be released in the spring with numbers on the infill taking place around the city.

The Quarters, Rossdale

The Quarters project suffered a setback in 2015 when the deal between the City and BCM Homes to develop a 28-storey residential tower at Five Corners fell through. I went by the giant hole in the ground the other day and discovered it has become home to dozens of pigeons. Apparently just one interested party came forward to look at taking over the site, but no announcements have been made yet. With $56 million in infrastructure upgrades and new construction going into The Quarters, the City desperately needs private partners to come on board to help build out the area. Not to mention the City’s first CRL project at Fort Road has not been very successful, and it would be a shame to see The Quarters follow in its footsteps.

In December, Council voted to sell some land in West Rossdale to the Province for $13 million. Mayor Iveson said there will be plenty of discussion about the impact of this decision on the West Rossdale project in the year ahead. “I think we have signalled an intent we want to work with them and just want to work out some of the details,” he said. The West Rossdale Urban Design Plan was first approved in 2011, so it would be great to see some progress in the year head.

Uber, Taxis, Bike Lanes

After a year of illegal operation and some very heated debates, we should finally get a resolution on the Uber issue in 2016. Proposed changes to the Vehicle for Hire Bylaw were discussed by Council in November, but they deferred a decision until later this month. I remain a fan and happy Uber customer, and I have no doubt that Council will provide a way for Uber to operate legally in Edmonton and I’m confident they will remain here.

The other aspect of the Uber debate is what to do with taxis, if anything. Back in March Council asked for an independent study on Edmonton’s taxi service levels, and that is expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2016. The taxi companies won’t be happy about Uber, but additional changes could be on the way for their operations too.

The other contentious transportation issue that Council will need to deal with this year is bike lanes. They voted over the summer to remove bike lanes on both 95 Avenue and 40 Avenue, with an argument that doing so would pave the way for better bike infrastructure going forward. Well, now they need to prove that. As Mayor Iveson wrote in July, “Council’s statements about implementing the next generation of spaces must be quickly followed with action.”

New Civic Tower

Rogers Place isn’t the only major downtown project expected to open this year. The City of Edmonton’s new office tower is also slated wrap up construction later this year. Featuring 29 storeys the tower will stand 129.8 m tall, putting it in the top five (until the other towers in the arena district are built). The City has signed a 20 year lease for roughly 60% of the tower and has an option on naming rights too. The currently approved name is simply “Edmonton Tower”.

Council will remain at City Hall of course, but the new tower will no doubt have a large positive impact on the culture of the City, putting thousands of colleagues under one roof for the first time. With two-thirds of the City’s downtown employees moving to the tower, it will also have a potentially negative impact on other downtown buildings, creating a lot of vacant space very quickly. The City of Edmonton’s leases at the CN Tower, HSBC Building, and Scotia Place all expire in March.

And that’s just scratching the surface

There’s no shortage of issues for Council to consider throughout the year, as the list above demonstrates. But those are just the big items. Some of the other issues that will come up this year include:

  • Proposed changes to the Public Hearing process
  • An update on efforts to protect & preserve the McDougall United Church
  • An update on the City’s Image, Brand and Reputation Strategy
  • Managing the availability of Park & Ride facilities and a Gorman Park & Ride Strategy
  • Options for Alley Rehabilitation and Renewal
  • An update on the Traffic Management Pilot in Prince Charles and Pleasantview
  • An Electrical Bus Pilot
  • EFCL’s 100th Anniversary Project
  • The proposed Lewis Farms Recreation Centre
  • Funding for the Milner Library Renewal & Upgrades
  • An update on the Urban Beekeeping Program
  • An update on the Urban Hens Pilot Project
  • Plenty of Zoning Bylaw Changes (including reduced parking requirements in three pilot areas and around eating & drinking establishments)
  • An update on the proposed Galleria project
  • The 2016 Municipal Census

This is going to be a busy, difficult year. Get ready!

Mayor Iveson on Budget 2016-2018

As he did last year, Mayor Don Iveson hosted a lunchtime “editorial board” for some local bloggers at City Hall last week. We covered a range of issues during the lunch hour, including his proposal to cut the 1.5% neighbourhood renewal levy, the need for affordable housing, the latest on the City Charter and his alignment with Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, and the ballooning Edmonton Police budget.

Mayor Don Iveson
Mayor Don Iveson discusses the budget with local bloggers

Communicating about the budget

It was suggested that public sentiment is that the City announces a high percentage tax increase and then Council works to bring it down throughout the budget process, looking like heroes in the process. Mayor Iveson rejected this notion. “It’s not a game, it’s us showing all the cards,” he said. The City is “the most transparent order of government” according to Mayor Iveson.

“If decisions were made in private, there’d be no cynicism,” he continued. “But there’s no cure for cynicism like participation!” He called the entire budget process a “good example of local democracy” in action.

Neighbourhood Renewal

The economic situation has changed and property owners’ ability to pay is different, is how Mayor Iveson explained his proposal to suspend the 1.5% neighbourhood renewal for three years. “For a while we were the only order of government raising taxes,” he said. “Now the other two orders of government are raising taxes.”

He wanted to be clear that cutting the levy does not mean slowing down, however. “The discussion is just how to pay for it,” he said. So if we’re cutting the levy, where will the money come from? First, Mayor Iveson suggested that the tough economy means that costs for the work could actually come down. Second, he’s counting on transfers from the Province and the Feds. “I’m quite confident we will get predictable, sustainable transfers from the Feds starting next year, potentially closing in on nine figures in transfers to Edmonton,” he said. On top of that, the mayor said it’s “a reasonable assumption” that there will be a successor to MSI. That program is getting a $20 million bump next year, but its future beyond 2018 is uncertain.

Mayor Iveson indicated the levy could be reviewed annually and brought back if necessary, though some of his Council colleagues have questioned whether it would really be that easy.

Housing

We talked a little about affordable and social housing. “It sounds like there may be funding for affordable housing in the new Federal budget,” Mayor Iveson said. He told us the City is working to influence how that money will flow. “There’s lots of opportunities to redevelop old sites where the land is the most valuable asset,” he said.

Building housing isn’t enough though. Mayor Iveson talked about the need for an ongoing funding source and said that could come from social enterprise. He mentioned the proposed Londonderry project and said that social housing with wraparound services could be very viable. “Cities are the places where creativity can occur,” he said.

Edmonton Police Service

I’ve written in the past that I think the Edmonton Police Service budget has grown too large and needs to be reigned in. It seems that Council finally agrees, as on Friday they agreed to cap budget increases for the police to the rate of inflation plus population growth. Mayor Iveson blogged about his proposal today.

Mayor Iveson didn’t give any indication he would introduce such a motion when we spoke on Wednesday, though he did say “it’s true that EPS has gotten almost everything they’ve asked for in the last eight or nine budgets.” He also suggested that the Edmonton Police Commission needs to play a role in scrutinizing the budget.

Mostly though he defended police spending and suggested the Province needs to do more to help. The mayor said Edmonton’s police budget is perhaps larger than other cities because of demographics, the boom/bust cycle, and the number of prison spaces in the region. As with health care, demand for policing is growing faster than population, said Mayor Iveson.

“The cost drivers are real,” he said, noting the impact of homelessness and poverty. “But we need to fund a response in the meantime.”

City Charter

Mayor Iveson acknowledged that the timeline for the Charter that was agreed with former Premier Jim Prentice will not be met, but said that everyone is still committed to getting it done with this Council term (the next municipal election is October 2017). He noted that kind of timetable also aligns nicely with the proclamation of the new Municipal Government Act.

Mayor Iveson outlined three phases for the City Charter discussions:

  1. Phase 1 has been about legislative changes. The goal is to have fewer restrictions on Edmonton and Calgary, and maybe over time that can trickle down to other municipalities like Red Deer. It’s really about the Province having trust in Edmonton and Caglary.
  2. Phase 2 is “an earnest discussion about roles and responsibilities.” The prime example is policing. Mayor Iveson noted that smaller communities in Alberta have their policing expenses paid for, but the big cities do not. On top of that, Edmonton picks up the tab for the region. He said “there’s a busines case here,” for example by better aligning the justice system and police to “work together more efficiently.”
  3. Phase 3 would be about financial changes. The term used most often is “long-term sustainable funding” for the big cities.

He also told us that both he and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi have aligned around four key priorities:

  1. Policing & Community Safety
  2. Housing
  3. Transit
  4. Poverty

They feel that “implementation is best done municipally” but that there’s a lot of opportunity to work together. Both Edmonton and Calgary have community plans around ending poverty, and they want to see the Province align its efforts with those plans. He noted the Province has not abandoned its Social Policy Framework and that Edmonton’s strategy is consistent with it. When it comes to funding for the plan however, “that remains to be seen.”

Budget deliberations continue

Council will continue discussing the budget right through December 10 if needed. You can dig into the budget here or you can check out the interactive budget simulator.

Coming up at City Council: November 9-13, 2015

This coming week Council is back to Committee meetings. I think because of the budget, a lot of reports have been postponed or rerouted. Below are a few highlights from the week’s agendas with links to the reports and more information.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Meetings this week

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

First Responders Memoriam

Councillor Anderson made an inquiry back in June about how Edmonton Police, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, Emergency Medical Services, and other first responders who have died on duty are honoured. Some highlights from the response:

  • “There is no one existing record or public location that identifies the names of all first responders who have died in the line of duty.”
  • EPS and EFS both have programs that honour their fallen members.
  • The City has both the Civic Employee Memorial and the Naming Committee does honour people and places in the City.
  • “The Edmonton Police Service recognize members by adding the names of fallen officers to their flag (or colours), which is on permanent public display at City of Edmonton Police Headquarters. The names of ten fallen officers, dating back to 1918, are recorded on the flag.”
  • For Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, “there is a bell tower that contains the ceremonial bell and the honour roll which names all of Edmonton’s fallen firefighters.”

The City holds a memorial event every two to three years, the next of which will take place in September 2017. “The program includes an Honour Guard procession provided by Edmonton Police Service and Fire Rescue Services, and the laying of the wreaths in honour of the deceased.”

The response also says it could be possible to identify a permanent location for a “First Responders Memorial” within City Hall.

Current Status of the Film Commission

There’s some interesting background in this report on Edmonton’s film industry. The role of Edmonton Film Commissioner was created in 2001 and since then two people have filled the position. But it has been vacant since March 2015 as EEDC “has been evaluating a new strategy which encompasses other forms of media and technology.”

There are also two recommendations, based on public engagement and other evaluation:

  • “That the Edmonton Film Commission and the role of the Edmonton Film Commissioner continue to reside with Edmonton Economic Development Corporation.”
  • “That Administration work with the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, Alberta Media Productions Industries Association and representatives of the film, music and digital media industries, to develop an industry collaboration and development framework, and provide a report to Executive Committee with the results of these discussions.”

EEDC’s new strategy is called “Intersect – a collision of artists and geeks”.

“Intersect offers a multi-disciplinary environment for content creators, interactive designers, hardware engineers, and data scientists, working to transform the way we visualize and analyze data, tell and share stories, and interact with technology.”

The strategy notes that although the digital/interactive media industry generates $7.5 billion of revenue in Canada, just 14% of digital media production takes place in Alberta, and 80% of that is in Calgary. That means there’s a big opportunity for Edmonton to take a bigger piece of the pie.

A separate strategy from AMPIA proposes the creation of an Edmonton Screen Industries Office that would support the local industry. But: “Ultimately, there needs to be collaboration with municipal and provincial organizations and government departments to align goals and resources where appropriate to grow Edmonton screen and cultural industries.”

There’s also a report on the Film Funding Agreement between the City and EEDC. “Administration sees a continued economic benefit in supporting the previously established agreement.”

Distributed Energy in Edmonton’s Downtown

The report begins:

“The City of Edmonton has long understood the benefits of a district energy system and has been monitoring district energy opportunities for several decades. Feasibility studies were done in 1980 and 1992 to explore implementation of district energy in the central core. Since that early work, the technology has evolved considerably and the infrastructure needed takes less space and is more cost-effective than traditional boiler installations.”

The business case for a district energy system in downtown Edmonton is now ready for Council’s review. The City would need to provide a few things in order for it to work: commit City-owned building connections, provide a central located building site for the energy hub, and encourage other organizations to use it. It would also need to contribute $9 million over three years to “help to offset ENMAX’s financial investment and risk” in developing the system.

The benefits of the district energy system for downtown include:

  • “A reduction of 18,100 tonnes (3,800 cars) of greenhouse gas emissions per year in the initial build out of the district energy system.”
  • “Reduced environmental footprint for municipally owned and operated buildings.”
  • “Increased power grid resiliency for the urban core.”

Administration will likely bring forward an unfunded service package for the system for Council to review during the 2016-2018 budget process.

Low Income Transit Pass

This report is a follow-up to Council’s request from April on options for implementation and distribution of the Low Income Transit Pass for 2016. The pass is to have an initial discount of 60%, funded by property taxes. Administration is recommending a $35 pass for eligible customers.

“The most significant challenge for implementing a low income pass program is ensuring that there are enough distribution points so that qualified individuals and families can purchase the pass with relative ease, while still ensuring that only those intended to benefit from the tax levy funded subsidy do so.”

There are more than 100,000 individuals in Edmonton with incomes below the Low Income Cut Off (LICO). ETS expects that an average of 20,000 Low Income Transit Passes will be sold each month (which includes the roughly 5,000 people who already qualify for the AISH Pass). The report recommends four sales locations: Clareview Recreation Centre, Mill Woods Recreation Centre, St. Francis Xavier Sports Centre, and City Hall.

In terms of budget implications:

“The net impact for the recommended $35 Low Income Transit Pass, for all transit services, is $3.1 million in 2016, $6.3 million in 2017 and $8.4 million in 2018.”

Administration is also providing a couple of enhancement options and alternatives:

  • One enhancement would mean that qualifying families only pay for adults and all children under 18 would get a transit pass at no cost. This would further reduce ETS revenue by $2.3 million.
  • A separate enhancement could be to provide the pass at no cost to all eligible Edmontonians. A further reduction in ETS revenue of approximately $8 million would anticipated.
  • An alternative would be a $1 pay-as-you-go cash fare. The cost to ETS of such a program would be “significantly reduced compared to the monthly pass” but the cost to Edmontonians could be more or less, depending on how many rides they take each month.

The City is also recommending that 500 transit passes be distributed monthly to homeless citizens.

Another interesting item from the report is that the “new Low Income Transit Pass operational program should be considered as an interim process” because the regional Smart Fare system will incorporate all fare products, including low income. The report says the new Smart Fare system is expected to be operational in 2018.

Neighbourhood Renewal Program Status Update

There’s lots of really interesting information in this report! From 2009 to 2014, Neighbourhood Renewal Program investment has totaled $660 million. That includes:

  • 22 Neighbourhood Reconstruction Projects
  • 44 Neighbourhood Overlay Projects
  • Total of 1651 lane kilometres of Local/Collector Roads renewed

The Capital Budget for 2015-2018 would total $615 million in Neighbourhood Renewal. That’s 1.5% annually and will fund:

  • 20 Neighbourhood Reconstruction Projects
  • 24 Neighbourhood Overlay Projects
  • Total of 1122 lane kilometres of Local/Collector Roads renewed

The report includes a possible reduction to just 1.4% for 2016, 2017, and 2018, which would reduce the funding by $41.6 million.

Other interesting items

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.

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

The City released its proposed 2016-2018 Operating Budget today, something that Council will start discussing in the days ahead.

“The City of Edmonton’s proposed 2016-2018 Operating Budget recommends a 4.9 per cent general property tax increase in 2016 for all civic operations. Similar increases are proposed for the budgets in the second and third years. The proposed budget holds the tax increase for all civic operations to 2.5 per cent.”

For the typical household (a single-family dwelling with an assessed value of $401,000), that would mean an increase of $109 in 2016, $114 in 2017 and $120 in 2018.

Untitled
Photo by City of Edmonton

The City says it has “restrained base operating costs” and has found some savings as part of Council’s 2%:

“The City’s efforts to find efficiencies and innovation has identified $29.9 million in operating savings or cost avoidance for 2016. Of that, $10.1 million is being made available for Council to reallocate to areas of greater priority.”

You can learn more about the budget here, and you can fill out the online survey to provide your input by November 14.

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.

2016-2018 Operating Budget

The public release of the proposed budget is a big step forward toward approval, but it’s only a step. A non-statutory public hearing will be held on November 23, offering the public a chance to speak to the budget. Council deliberations will take place from November 27 to December 10, after which Council will have approved the budget and all amendments.

This is the first time the City is planning its Operating Budget on a three-year basis. The City provides these three reasons for the change:

  • Stability: Planning a budget over multiple years allows Council and Administration to take a ‘longer view’ of Edmonton’s needs, and build out stable program and service delivery. This allows Edmonton to better plan stable revenues and expenditures, providing consistent funding levels for the programs and services Edmontonians expect.
  • Flexibility: Multi-year budget planning allows the City to be more flexible in how it finances operations, allowing Council and Administration to reallocate funding priorities across the different years of the longer budget cycle. This enables the City to bring in programs and services when they are most needed, and to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our city.
  • Future Planning: As one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities, Edmonton needs to be able to plan for its future vision while also meeting its present day demands. Multi-year budgeting permits Council and Administration to implement or revise programs and services over a longer time frame, rather than being limited to yes/no decisions on a yearly basis. This means, for example, if a new program or service doesn’t fit into this year’s budget cycle, it can still be planned for a later year.

I think another benefit of a three-year budget is that Administration should be able to save much of the time, money, and stress that goes into preparing the budget every year. The budget dominates much of the City’s work through November and December.

Stay tuned, there will be much more budget discussion to come in the weeks ahead!

Augustana Redevelopment

Bylaw 17423 will rezone the property at 9901 107 Street downtown from CMU to DC2, to make way for Pangman Development’s planned Augustana Redevelopment (which you can learn more about here on SkysraperPage). The residential building will be a maximum of 96 metres high with up to 235 units, and it’s likely to be a rental property.

augustana redevelopment

The Edmonton Design Committee approved the application with conditions back in September. The current site is home to the former Augustana Lutheran Church, which closed its doors last December after 85 years.

Committee Recommendations

Recommendations that have come forward from Committee include:

There are also two Executive Committee reports that have been referred without a recommendation:

Other interesting items

  • Bylaw 17396 will rename “Horse Hill Neighbourhood 2” to the “Marquis Neighbourhood”.
  • Now that a judicial recount has confirmed that Amarjeet Sohi won his seat in Edmonton-Mill Woods, Council will receive a verbal report on the Ward 12 by-election.
  • Council will consider participation in the Leadership in Asset Management Program which will allow the City to receive grant funding from FCM’s Green Municipal Fund.
  • Bylaw 17289 is ready for three readings and will amend the Speed Zones Bylaw to change various maximum speed limits throughout the city.
  • There are motions pending from Councillor Henderson (on food waste), Councillor Oshry (on public engagement stats), and Mayor Iveson (on procedures and committees).
  • Council is slated to hear from the City Manager Recruitment Committee as well, though that update will be kept private.

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.

Coming up at City Council: October 26-30, 2015

This coming week Council is back to Committee meetings. Below are a few highlights from the week’s agendas with links to the reports and more information.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Meetings this week

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

Affordable Housing

Executive Committee will be discussing three related reports on Tuesday:

Here is the Edmonton context, according to the first report:

“In Edmonton, an estimated 11,600 social housing units will be affected by expiring operating agreements representing approximately $22 million in federal funding. These units are scattered throughout the city and include seniors self-contained housing, nonprofit housing, continuing co-operative housing, urban native housing, rent supplement housing and community housing. Of the community housing portfolio, the City of Edmonton is the whole or beneficial owner of approximately 3,400 units. The operating agreements for these units will begin to expire in 2022 with the majority ended by 2034.”

The ongoing City Charter negotiations with the Province are expected to address the issue of affordable housing, specifically when it comes to money. On the issue of the budget:

“Assuming that the City continues to participate in funding social housing at the current level, Administration estimates the need for an additional $4.6 million per year for the next 13 years (total of $59.8 million) in order to regenerate all 13 wholly City-owned social housing projects.”

The proposed Affordable Housing Strategy would replace the existing Building Together strategy, and would guide the City’s role in affordable housing for the next ten years (2016-2025). The strategy establishes four goals:

  1. Increase the supply of affordable housing in all areas of the city.
  2. Maintain the supply of affordable and market rental housing.
  3. Enable stable residential tenancies and transition people out of homelessness.
  4. Anticipate, recognize and coordinate action to respond to housing and homeless needs.

While stating that “municipal governments are best positioned to understand local housing needs,” the report says that “increasing the supply of affordable housing requires dedicated, sustained sources of funding, which must be provided by the other orders of government.”

Once the Affordable Housing Strategy is approved, the City will develop an implementation plan with specific initiatives that would begin early next year.

Council has previously directed that 20% of the housing units in Blatchford be affordable. The report linked above outlines the Principles for Development of Affordable Housing at Blatchford, details the Affordable Housing Allocation, and notes that “the $10 million earmarked for affordable housing from the proceeds of future land sales at Blatchford be used to offset the market value of land to be used for permanent supportive housing in Blatchford.”

River Access Guiding Principles Policy

Recognizing how important the North Saskatchewan River is Edmontonians quality of life, these guiding principles are being developed as “the backbone of a comprehensive river access strategy that will inform future programming, operations and infrastructure improvements that support access to the river and activities associated with the river.”

Edmonton Fall Season
Edmonton Fall Season, photo by IQRemix

Work began back in 2013 and consultation has identified strong support for the guiding principles. Over the next year, the River Access Strategy and implementation plan will be developed.

“Approval of Policy C586 will ensure that the provision, development and management of river access and river-based activities in the City of Edmonton is responsible, orderly, equitable and environmentally appropriate, while providing opportunities for recreation, education and learning.”

The seven guiding principles are as follows:

  1. Ensure public access to the river and riverside infrastructure as public domain.
  2. Value and protect the unique character and environment in the river valley by stewarding, protecting, conserving and restoring the integrity of the river.
  3. Educate and engage Edmontonians to build lifelong skills, as well as awareness and appreciation of the river and its natural surroundings in order to nurture stewardship of a valued resource.
  4. Foster collaboration and partnerships so that infrastructure and facilities are shared and programming is coordinated.
  5. Promote public safety and responsible use to communicate safe water recreation behaviors, emergency response and bylaw enforcement.
  6. Provide and support a range of river recreation opportunities to enhance Edmonton’s unique quality of life.
  7. Celebrate the cultural, historical and social role of the river in the city to build awareness and appreciation of the river.

You can read the full strategy here.

Process for New Libraries

This report outlines EPL’s prioritization process for new libraries and its rationale for advancing the preliminary design for the Penny McKee – Abbottsfield Branch. There’s a lot of information here, but I wanted to highlight a few things I learned:

  • “The need for a new full service library branch is determined through an analysis of current and projected population in a particular area of the city, along with proximity to other full service library sites.”
  • “Planning for a new location generally begins once an area’s population has reached 20,000 and is projected to grow to 30,000 to 35,000 within the next five years, and where there is not another library branch within four to five kilometres.”
  • Selected sites must be highly visible, close to or on premium transit routes and roadways, close to current or planned LRT, and be readily accessible to pedestrians.
  • EPL “seeks opportunities for co-location of library service points with other municipal services” like recreation centres.
  • EPL branches are classified into three sizes: Small (10,000 square feet and under), Medium (over 10,000 up to 18,000 square feet), and Large (25,000 square feet).

The key unfunded capital project priorities over the next 10 years identified in Edmonton Public Library’s 2015-2024 Capital Plan are the following, in descending order of priority:

  • Riverbend (existing branch)
  • Lewis Estates (will replace West Henday Promenade eplGO)
  • Heritage Valley (new branch)
  • Woodcroft (existing branch)
  • Pilot Sound (new branch)
  • Whitemud Crossing (existing branch)
  • Castledowns (existing branch)
  • Abbottsfield (existing branch)
  • Ellerslie (new branch)

There’s a lot of information on the rationale for moving the Abbottsfield branch “to an owned facility in 2022-2024 (design and build timeline).” The current branch is serving the public well and the existing lease doesn’t expire until 2020, but “the importance of a library accessible to a community, particularly one that faces higher than average social issues, is a factor for consideration.”

Transit Fares 2016-2018

Earlier this year, Council decided that transit fares would be set within the multi-year budgeting process. Administration is suggesting that the increase be set at an average of 3% per year. Adult cash fares would therefore be:

  • 2015: $3.20
  • 2016: $3.25
  • 2017: $3.50
  • 2018: $3.50

Thankfully they are rounding fares to the nearest 0.25 now to make it easier to pay. Adult monthly pass fares would be:

  • 2015: $89.00
  • 2016: $91.50
  • 2017: $94.25
  • 2018: $97.00

You can see the full fee schedule here. There has been no public engagement on these fares yet, not even an online survey.

With the new fares, ETS cost recovery would remain fairly constant between 41% and 42%. Ridership is slated to increase slightly, but rides per capita will decline.

Air Conditioning on ETS Vehicles

Councillor Sohi made a request for information on this topic back in July. The report says that 57 of 94 LRT cars have air conditioning and just two hybrid-buses have air conditioning – the remaining 884 buses have none. In Calgary, they have 150 buses with air conditioning that engages at 24 degrees Celsius. And surprisingly, Winnipeg has 256 buses with air conditioning!

ETS Platinum (6002)
ETS Platinum (6002), photo by Kurt Bauschardt

I don’t think this is worth pursuing, given that we have an average of just 42 days per year with temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius or above, but the report does provide pricing information. The cost to add air conditioning to new buses is $22,500 per bus, and the cost to retrofit is $43,000 per bus. On top of that, if the entire ETS fleet were to be outfitted with air conditioning, it would cost an additional $457,000 per year to operate.

2016-2018 Waste Management & Drainage Services Utility Operating Budgets

The 2016-2018 Waste Management Utility Operating Budget is now ready for Council review:

  • 2016: Revenues of $187,952,000 and Expenditures of $189,998,000.
  • 2017: Revenues of $199,290,000 and Expenditures of $197,327,000.
  • 2018: Revenues of $207,332,000 and Expenditures of $206,461,000.

The 2016-2018 Drainage Services Utility Operating Budget is also ready for Council review:

  • 2016: Revenues of $172,890,000 and Expenditures of $133,896,000.
  • 2017: Revenues of $181,059,000 and Expenditures of $143,471,000.
  • 2018: Revenues of $187,142,000 and Expenditures of $149,920,000.

Council has until October 26 to submit written questions, which Administration will respond to by October 28. Budget deliberations will take place in late November.

Other interesting items

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.

Coming up at City Council: October 19-23, 2015

Monday is the federal election, so that will be the focus for most Edmontonians and I’m sure Council will be paying close attention also. Mayor Iveson joined other big city Canadian mayors in calling for cities to be a key factor in determining who to vote for. FCM has setup a website to provide information on all of the promises the parties have made related to cities.

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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.

Zoning Bylaw Amendments on Urban Agriculture

Bylaw 17403 is a text amendment to the Zoning Bylaw 12800 that will add several urban agriculture uses and associated regulations. There are three new uses:

  • Urban Gardens “is for personal, community, or institutional food production and will be allowed in most zones.”
  • Urban Outdoor Farms “is for commercial food production on private property, primarily intended for vacant and underutilized lots in Edmonton.”
  • Urban Indoor Farms “is for commercial and industrial operations that take advantage of new technologies and processes to increase yield and operate year round.”

Additionally, “Farms” will be renamed to “Rural Farms” and “Greenhouses, Plant Nurseries and Market Gardens” is renamed to “Greenhouses, Plant Nurseries and Garden Centres” and will be updated to better align with the products those businesses sell.

The goal of these amendments is to more closely align the Zoning Bylaw with the policies identified in Fresh, Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy. Importantly, the three new uses “are proposed to assert that primary food production is legal and encouraged in Edmonton.”

Anthony Henday Drive & 135 Street Interchange and Manning/Meridian Interchange

The City is recommending an interchange at Anthony Henday Drive and 135 Street, which could cost in the order of $125 million, “as one of the three top candidates for the Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component of the New Building Canada Fund.” They say the return of investment would come from further development of Heritage Valley.

Also up for Council’s consideration is a project bundle for the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park. The planned 4800 ha area envisioned as “a world-class eco-industrial park” is off to a slow start.

“Development in the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park to date has been limited. It is unlikely that development will occur as desired without infrastructure investment. A significant impediment to development taking place in the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park currently is the lack of existing infrastructure and its associated cost.”

The infrastructure investment in both transportation and stormwater drainage could cost in the order of $230 million. However, Administration advises that “it would be appropriate for Council to first provide direction with respect to the degree to which, and where, public funds should contribute to infrastructure servicing that is otherwise provided by developers.”

Meeting Schedule & Council Appointments

It’s that time of year again – Council needs to approve its meeting schedule for the year ahead. There’s nothing too surprising in the proposed schedule. Council would resume after the Christmas break on January 11 and would meet through March 24, right before the Easter break. The summer break would begin on July 15, with Council resuming on August 15.

“The draft January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016, Council and Committee Meeting Schedule has 19 Council and Standing Committee meeting rotations, 19 Statutory Public Hearings, 18 Non-regular City Council meetings, along with three half-day Council meetings and eight Committee meetings for civic agency recruitment and selection matters.”

The report helpfully includes some statistics from 2013 – 2015 to compare the proposed schedule with previous years. Council must also set the Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor schedules for the coming year. Each Councillor gets a turn.

As of December 31, a number of Council appointments to civic agencies will expire. The following appointments are being proposed:

  • Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Exchange Agreement Coordinating Committee – Councillor Anderson and Councillor Walters
  • Canadian Urban Transit Association Transit Board Members Committee – Councillor Sohi
  • Capital Region Board – Councillor Gibbons
  • Capital Region Waste Minimization Advisory Committee – Councillor Anderson
  • Edmonton Police Commission – Councillor McKeen
  • Edmonton Public Library Board – Councillor Henderson
  • Edmonton Salutes – Councillor Loken
  • Inter-City Forum on Social Policy – Councillor Esslinger
  • REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities – Councillor Loken (as advisor/liaison)

If Councillor Sohi is successful in Monday’s election, then a future report will be brought forward to replace his existing appointments. There is also a list of appointments not yet up for renewal if you’d like to see which Councillors are representing us where.

Northern Circumpolar Secretariat Memorandum of Understanding

The Northern Circumpolar Secretariat is a collaborative effort between the City, EEDC, Chamber of Commerce, U of A, and the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority. It was established earlier this year and the report on the table presents the Memorandum of Understanding for approval. It is “a policy tool to ensure the long-term stability of the Secretariat as it executes its mandate in support of the Northern Relations Council Initiative.” The MOU is 10 pages long and also attached is a 22-page business plan which outlines the budget, governance model, goals, vision, and timeline and deliverables for the Secretariat. The City is providing $90,000 this year, $35,750 in 2016, and $62,000 in 2017.

Adoption of the Aster NSP

Aster is the 7th and final neighbourhood in The Meadows ASP. Larkspur, Wild Rose, and Silverberry are considered 100& complete in terms of low density residential units while Laurel, Tamarack, and Maple are considered 45% complete.

meadows asp

Aster will accommodate approximately 3,499 dwelling units and 8,755 people, which is a density of 33.3 upnrha, barely meeting the CRB target for the region. It will account for approximately 15% of The Meadows ASP’s gross area and population.

The neighbourhood will include:

  • one school/park site, with two K-9 schools located in the centre of the area, and three pocket parks throughout the neighbourhood
  • approximately 22 hectares of preserved existing natural areas
  • approximately 13 hectares of stormwater management facilities
  • a system of shared use paths and a bicycle network

The initial neighbourhood infrastructure costs are being largely funded by developers – $104.7 million compared to the City’s $14.8 million – but as usual “there will also be associated operating and life cycle costs that would require City funding allocations in Operating, Utilities and Capital Budgets.” City funding could be required as early as 2017 if the planned construction begins in 2016.

Bylaw 17366 will be considered along with Bylaw 17365 to amend the Meadows ASP and Bylaw 17367 to amend the boundary of the North Saskatchewan River Valley ARP.

Committee Recommendations

Recommendations that have come forward from Committee include:

There are also two Executive Committee reports that have been referred without a recommendation:

Bylaws

There are a number of bylaws on the agenda. Here are a few highlights:

  • Bylaw 17352 will allow for digital signs to be erected in South Edmonton Common, between Gateway Boulevard and Parsons Road and 23 Avenue and Anthony Henday.
  • Bylaw 17373 and Bylaw 17374 together will “ensure the continued operation and preservation of the Oblats Maison Provinciale building, a Designated Municipal and Provincial Historic Resource.”
  • Bylaw 17297 would amend the Public Places Bylaw to include the prohibition of e-cigarettes in the same manner as tobacco products.
  • Bylaw 17432 authorizes borrowing of up to $250 million for the Valley Line LRT project.
  • Bylaw 17390 will increase the borrowing authority to finance construction costs for the Valley Line LRT from $152 million to $1.1 billion.

Other interesting items

  • Council will once again be discussing the Youth Council recommendation of vegetarian eating, in the name of sustainability.
  • There is a small change being proposed to the 2016-2018 Budget Process, to allow for an early release of the Utility Budget. Council must now submit written questions regarding the budget by October 28.
  • The City Manager Recruitment Committee, made up of Mayor Iveson and Councillors Esslinger, Loken, and Walters, met for the first time on September 30. Pretty much all of their activities will be carried out in private.
  • Tuesday’s agenda includes six private reports, including an update on the Valley Line LRT Funding Plan, an update on City Infrastructure Priorities for the Provincial Budget, and a status update from the Acting City Manager.
  • Wednesday’s agenda includes just two private reports: verbal shortlistings for both the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority and the Edmonton Police Commission.

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.

Coming up at City Council: September 14-18, 2015

The big news this past week was of course the decision by Council to fire City Manager Simon Farbrother. “This decision is not the result of any one project,” Mayor Don Iveson wrote. “Instead, this is about setting our administration on a new path to manage the next chapter in this city’s growth.” The search for a new City Manager is expected to last into 2016. In the meantime, Community Services GM Linda Cochrane will be the interim City Manager.

This coming week Council is back to Committee meetings. Below are a few highlights from the week’s agendas with links to the reports and more information.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Meetings this week

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

Vehicle for Hire Bylaw 17400

Wednesday afternoon will be focused on Uber and the City’s proposed new Vehicle for Hire Bylaw that aims to give “transportation network companies” a legal way to operate within Edmonton. The City seems quite proud of the fact that “no other Canadian jurisdiction has passed new bylaw provisions to accommodate “ride sharing” providers within a vehicle for hire framework.”

The current bylaw was passed on March 1, 2008 and regulations have remained “substantially similar” ever since the mid-1990s. It was in 1995 that the City capped the number of taxi vehicle licenses. Since then however, technology has changed significantly giving rise to services like Uber. Now the laws need to change in order to catch up.


Photo by Moments in Digital

The proposed new bylaw would:

  • Allow technology-based companies like Uber that use mobile app dispatch services to operate.
  • Standardize all vehicle for hire class requirements to include mandatory criminal record checks, proper class of provincial license, proper insurance, and yearly mechanical inspections.
  • Make fees for all classes of vehicles for hire the same.

The five classes would include taxi, accessible taxi, limousine, shuttle, and private transportation provider. The latter is where Uber drivers would fall. Intentionally, the bylaw does not attempt to regulate “matters that are more appropriately governed by the market or the industry itself” like driver training.

Calling the proposed bylaw “an important step forward” Uber was nonetheless unimpressed and said the company would be “unable to continue operating in Edmonton” if it is passed. Considering they are already operating illegally, I’m not really sure that’s a viable threat. Unsurprisingly, the United Cabbies Association of Edmonton is also opposed to the proposed bylaw changes, saying “there will be a flooding of taxis in the city.”

Uber is holding a rally at Churchill Square on Wednesday at 11:30am and I would not be surprised to see the taxi drivers make a scene as well. It should be an interesting week!

Impact of Bad Construction Practices on Mature Neighbourhoods

There has been a lot of discussion this summer about infill development and the potential negative impacts of that construction on neighbours. This includes noise and cleanliness, but also potential damage to surrounding property caused as a result of the construction. We know that infill makes up only a tiny piece of Edmonton’s growth, but it should increase in the years ahead which means tackling this problem now is a good idea:

“Over the last five years (2010-2014) 8,475 new infill housing units have been added to Edmonton’s mature and established communities. In 2014 alone, the City approved over 12,000 new housing units city-wide, and over 2,000 of these were new infill homes (a combination of low, medium and higher density forms).”

Currently when conflicts arise from infill, complaints are forwarded to the appropriate department and investigated to determine what steps are to be taken. Before the City will take any enforcement action, contact is made to encourage best construction practices and voluntary compliance. If that doesn’t work, they can issue a warning or a violation ticket. This is how it works in greenfield, suburban development too but as you might expect complaints in those areas are much less common.

Can you tell the difference?
Photo by David Dodge

To address this issue, the City has made a number of changes to the process:

  • Visible and easy to understand signs about approved development permits are being developed and are scheduled to be in place for Q2 2016.
  • The penalty for offences is incredibly low compared to other municipalities at just $400. Calgary has a penalty schedule that ranges from $1,500/day to $3,000 per day, for instance. A proposed change will be brought forward in November.
  • A new development completion permit is being added as a requirement for new construction projects, starting in Q2 2016.
  • An acknowledgment form that development permit applicants will sign to ensure they are aware of regulations and best construction practices is being developed.
  • Beginning in 2016, the City will request business license reviews for builders that do not conform to approved development permits or that continually disregard other bylaw requirements.
  • Pre-application meetings will be expanded to residential development applications in mature and established neighbourhoods.
  • In response to requests for a point of contact, the City is going to establish a Mature Area Development team that will act as conduits into all City processes regarding infill.
  • Action 5 of Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap was the publication of a Good Neighbour Guide, which happened in the spring. This fall, a public engagement process will take place to help improve the guide’s content. The City will also continue with other communication & engagement activities, such as a local Infill Tour.

Additionally, these potential changes are currently being evaluated:

  • Requiring an agreement between neighbours and/or neighbours and the builder, even though the City would have no ability to enforce such an agreement.
  • Implementing a letter of credit or performance bond to guarantee the completion of a builder’s work and to repair any damage caused as a result.
  • The certification of specific builders, though this may be considered an endorsement by the City.

Hopefully these changes will help to smooth the issues with infill development so that it continues to be an attractive, viable option. We need growth to occur in mature and established neighbourhoods too, so removing any potential barriers is critical.

There’s a separate report that provides more information on the Mature Area Development Team. I gather it is meant to be kind of like Civic Events – a one-stop shop for everything City-related, in this case for development rather than events. It’s a great concept, and I support trying it. But care needs to be taken to ensure authority is still clearly understood and that the team does not just add yet another step to already cumbersome processes. In a lot of cases Civic Events is just the middleman, and everything goes more slowly as a result.

Autonomous Vehicles

At the Transportation Committee meeting this week, Council will receive a report on autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, something Uber has been working on also.

“In preparing for autonomous and connected vehicle technology, the most prudent action that the City can take is to continue to focus on enhancing the transportation system as defined through the corporate outcomes.”

The report acknowledges that autonomous vehicles will provide an alternative to driving, but notes “they do not remove the urgent case for mode shift to transit and active transportation.” The City is seeking additional perspectives from researchers, other governments, and industry, and the report highlights the ACTIVE-AURORA research project as one learning opportunity.

The report concludes that “adoption of driver-less vehicles will likely require changes in provincial legislation” and that cities will need to work with the other levels of government on liability and safety issues. The City is currently undertaking “a future-oriented assessment of the implications of automated vehicles.”

Joint Road Traffic Safety Strategy

If Council decides to approve the 2016-2020 Road Safety Strategy, Edmonton would become the first Canadian city to adopt Vision Zero – zero fatalities and major injuries from motor vehicle collisions. The strategy is expected to cost at least $11 million annually on top of all currently approved operating and capital programs, and the City proposes funding it through the Traffic Safety & Automated Enforcement Reserve and cost recovery.

“The City of Edmonton will become the first major Canadian city to adopt Vision Zero, a global initiative to save lives and eliminate major injuries from motor vehicle collisions. A key component of this strategy will be the adoption of the Safe Systems Approach. Central to this approach is a shared accountability between road users and those who design maintain and operate all parts of the road transportation system. The safe system depends on understanding and implementing guiding principles.”

The strategy highlights a number of metrics and measurement criteria for collision reduction from 2016 to 2020. These will relate to four proposed road safety priority categories: Community Traffic Safety (neighbourhood shortcutting and school safety), Roadway Engineering Countermeasures (right-turn re-designs and protected left-turn controls), Speed Management (automated and manned enforcement), and Pedestrian Safety (pedestrian controls). Specific targets are still under development. The strategy also talks about “the fundamental road safety pillars of the five E’s”: Engineering, Enforcement, Education, Evaluation, and Engagement.

Heads Up Edmonton! Pedestrian Safety Campaign Launches
Photo by City of Edmonton

You can read the nicely-designed strategy in PDF here.

Design Guidelines & Regulations for Signage in the Civic Precinct

With the new arena and surrounding district, the City is anticipating increased demand for digital signs downtown but the current regulations “are not sufficient to ensure that digital signs are sensitive and sympathetic in design” to the arts and culture of the Civic Precinct area. Digital signs are fine around the arena, but need to be restricted around City Hall, for instance.

The Civic Precinct is the the area between 99 Street and 100 Street from 102 Avenue to 103A Avenue. It includes City Hall and Churchill Square. The area is “to be developed as the urban heart of Edmonton with a unique mix of cultural, commercial, and civic developments” all connected to the Square.

The proposed amendments to the Capital City Downtown Plan and Zoning Bylaw would effectively prohibit digital signs within the Civic Precinct. Admin is also going to complete a city-wide review of digital sign regulations and will present any potential amendments to Executive Committee sometime next year.

Other interesting items

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.

Coming up at City Council: September 7-11, 2015

Monday is a holiday so the public hearing will take place on Tuesday and the Council meeting has been pushed to Wednesday. It looks like it’s going to be a finance-heavy week!

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On Friday the City announced a new proposed Vehicle for Hire Bylaw, intended to give companies like Uber a way to operate legally. You can download the PDF to read here and be sure to fill out this survey by September 10 with your feedback. The results will be presented along with the bylaw at Executive Committee on September 16.

And tomorrow, Sunday, September 6, the Metro Line LRT will finally open to the public. It’s not going to be operating as expected, with slower trains, manual signals, and big delays, but it’s a start.

Meetings this week

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

Projected Year-End Operating Financial Results

As of June 30, 2015, the City is projecting a loss of $10.6 million for the year, or 0.4% of the overall expense budget. This is being blamed on higher than expected costs for snow removal, pothole repair, and vehicle maintenance, plus greater than expected losses on tax appeals and other tax adjustments. It could have been worse though, as the City has saved a lot on fuel costs across the board and also on personnel due to the delay of the Metro Line LRT which delayed hirings.

Under the heading “potential impacts to be monitored”, the report highlights the following:

  • Police Association and Senior Police Officers Association contracts expired last year and are currently under negotiation.
  • Snow and ice control costs are weather-dependent and difficult to predict.
  • Fluctuating fuel costs have historically impacted results, even though the City buys half its annual fuel at a fixed price.
  • The exchange rate could make parts for vehicle maintenance more expensive.
  • The general economic downturn could have an impact.

Here are the Municipal and Consumer Price Index projections:

price index updates

For an update on inflation, employment, and other economic indicators in Edmonton, check out this report.

Reserves

As required by City Policy C217B, Administration is currently reviewing the City’s reserve and equity accounts, with a report to be presented to Council in October. The last review was completed in October 2012. Our current or year-end projected reserve balances are as follows:

  • Financial Stabilization Reserve – $90.9 million
  • Current Planning Reserve – $28 million
  • Traffic Safety & Automated Enforcement Reserve – $25.3 million

CRL Updates

From the report: “Community Revitalization Levy revenue and/or expense variances may change throughout the year as work progresses and financial impacts become more certain.” Here’s the status of our three CRLs:

  • The Belvedere CRL is projected to end 2015 with a deficit of $0.4 million and a cumulative deficit balance, since inception, of $5.8 million. It’s not expected to have an annual positive net position until 2023.
  • The Downtown CRL is projected to end 2015 with a deficit of $4.6 million and a cumulative deficit balance, since inception, of $8.2 million. The Downtown CRL is expected to have an annual positive net position from 2019 onward, but we’ll still be playing catchup until 2022.
  • The Quarters CRL is projected to end 2015 with a surplus of $3 million and a cumulative deficit balance, since inception, of $5.9 million. The report says the Quarters CRL is “performing better than forecast” in the original plan, and should be in a positive position as of 2024.

You can learn more about CRLs here.

Debt Update

There was a lot of discussion about Edmonton’s municipal debt during the municipal election back in 2013, which I wrote about here. At the time, our debt stood at about $2.2 billion or 53.4% of the MGA-allowed debt limit.

According to the latest figures, Edmonton’s debt currently sits at just over $2.9 billion and is expected to top $3 billion by the end of the year, which would be 59.3% of the MGA-allowed debt limit. Our debt servicing, which includes annual principal and interest repayments, is expected to reach 33% of the allowed limit for the year. The City has set more conservative limits than the MGA does:

“For 2015, debt servicing is projected to be 53.6% of the debt service limit for all borrowing and 70.6% of the limit for tax-supported operations, as defined under the City’s policy.”

The report notes that “the percentage of the debt servicing limit utilized increased significantly in 2015 and will increase again in 2017 due to the repayment of $60 million of short-term borrowing in each of 2015 and 2017.” Those repayments are for $120 million that was borrowed to fast-track capital expenditures for projects that were ultimately funded through MSI or the provincial fuel tax.

Capital Finance Update

This report provides an update on financial results for the first six months of the 2015-2018 Capital Budget. Because we’re so early still in the four-year plan, most projects should be on-time and on-budget. The approved budget value is $7.9 billion, which includes carry-forward from 2014 and approved expenditures beyond 2018. The City has 448 active profiles with planned expenditures in this budget cycle.

As of June 30, 2015, the six month spend was $321.6 million. Of the 85 significant capital projects identified (meaning they have costs greater than $20 million), 77 have been classified as green, two are categorized as yellow and 6 are flagged as red.

You can see the complete breakdown of project status here, but I’ve summarized the high profile ones as follows, sorted by size of budget:

Project Status Planned Completion Projected Completion Approved Budget
Valley Line LRT Green December 2020 December 2020 $1.8 billion
Metro Line LRT Red April 2014 September 20151 $665.8 million
Blatchford Redevelopment Green December 2038 December 2038 $631.9 million
Downtown Arena Green December 2017 September 2016 $605 million
Neighbourhood Renewal Green Annually Annually ~$452 million
Westwood Transit Garage Yellow December 2017 March 2018 $201.5 million
Walterdale Bridge Red December 2015 December 2017 $154.8 million
Northwest Police Campus Yellow December 2017 March 2018 $106.9 million
River Valley Alliance Projects Red December 2014 December 2017 $76.1 million
41 Avenue/QEII Interchange Green Fall 2015 Fall 2015 $72.5 million (City)
$205 million (total)
Milner Library Renewal Green December 2018 December 2018 $62.5 million
Great Neighbourhoods Red December 2018 March 2020 $60.4 million
The Quarters Phase 1 Green December 2015 September 2015 $52.1 million
The Quarters Phase 2 Green December 2018 September 2018 $43.2 million
102 Avenue Bridge Red December 2015 October 2016 $32.0 million

1 – Yes the Metro Line technically opens tomorrow, but it’s not what we were expecting.

Committee Recommendations

Recommendations that have come forward from Committee include:

Bylaws

There are a number of bylaws on both agendas. Here are a few highlights:

  • Bylaw 17298 makes amendments to the Community Standards Bylaw regarding backyard fire pit use, and is ready for three readings.
  • Bylaw 17297 makes amendments to the Public Places Bylaw to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes, and is ready for three readings.
  • Bylaw 17353 makes amendments to the Procedures and Committees Bylaw to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision prohibiting prayer at Council meetings.
  • Bylaw 17361 would rezone the property at 10349 122 Street NW in Oliver from RA7 to DC2, to allow for high density, mixed-use development. Plans call for an 11 storey residential building. I hope they don’t interfere with the beautiful boulevard trees on that street.
  • Bylaw 17347 would allow for the development of a grocery store at 403 McConachie Way NW.
  • Bylaw 17359 would rezone the property at 13218 102 Avenue NW in Glenora from RF1 to RF2, to allow for the existing house to be replaced with three new single detached homes. A notice was sent to surrounding property owners and the Glenora Community League, and in response the City received 8 letters and 23 emails of concerns and opposition. Such is the state of infill in Edmonton.

Other interesting items

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.

Coming up at City Council: August 31 – September 4, 2015

Council is back to Committee meetings this week. Below are a few highlights from the week’s agendas with links to the reports and more information.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Meetings this week

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

Metro Line Update – Testing Results

The report is not yet available, but Council is slated to receive an update on the results of testing at the Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday. The City is planning to open the Metro Line LRT on September 6 using a modified approach (slower trains, line of sight operation, etc). Last week Council discussed the auditor’s report.

Wildlife Management

A response to an inquiry by Councillor Walters provides some information on the management of coyotes within the city. Here’s what we learned:

  • 311 received 3600 inquiries/complaints about wildlife in 2013, 4500 in 2014, and 2500 so far in 2015. “It is estimated that coyote-related issues represent the majority of these calls.”
  • The City has started tracking coyote-specific inquiries in June 2015.
  • Research shows that coyotes are the top animal predator in an urban area. They help to reduce the abundance of “pests” like mice, rabbits, and grasshoppers, but they can get too comfortable around people and then become a nuisance.
  • Coyotes are considered a nuisance if they attack a human or animal, pose a risk to public safety, loiter in “safety sensitive locations”, establish a den in residential neighbourhoods, or are sick or incapacitated in residential neighbourhoods or parkland.

Coyote
Coyote near Elk Island Park, photo by Shawn McCready

“While most of the existing and future plans seek to enhance and protect wildlife habitat diversity and reduce human wildlife conflict, there continues to be a growing need for a faster enforcement response, improved educational effort and more support for wildlife research and rehabilitation.”

Project Watch

UPDATE: This item has been moved to September 3.

Project Watch is “a collaborative initiative between the City of Edmonton and Province of Alberta to ensure safe housing conditions for vulnerable individuals and families that are temporarily housed in commercial accommodation.” Mayor Iveson made an inquiry about the program back in June and the report being discussed this week provides background and an update on what Administration has done to help.

Here’s how the City has been involved:

  • Research, inspections, and enforcement for infractions to the Zoning Bylaw 12800.
  • Review of business licenses.
  • Coordination and assistance from the Landlord and Tenant Advisory Board and Housing Programs.
  • Enforcement of the Community Standards Bylaw 14600, to address “any exterior aesthetic deficiencies, including nuisances on land and on buildings.”
  • A Fire Prevention Officer attends all Project Watch inspections and provides public safety and awareness.
  • Inspections and enforcement for Building Safety Codes.

Administration is working to “develop clear communication protocols” with the Edmonton Police Service and the two will continue meeting to support the initiative.

While additional budget is not being requested, Administration is assigning one full-time employee to the project.

Valley Line LRT Street Closures

Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting will include a non-statutory public hearing for 38 different road closure bylaws. These closures are intended to “promote the safe interaction of trains, vehicles and pedestrians along the Southeast to West LRT (the ‘Valley Line’) alignment.” The associated documents say that “construction of the Valley Line is scheduled to begin in 2016 and will result in changes to various streets and vehicular access points along the alignment.”

Implications of the Alberta Wetlands Policy in the Edmonton Region

Implementation of the Alberta Wetlands Policy began on June 1, 2015, but there are still plenty of details yet to be released. Council previously recommended that the Mayor write a letter to the Province outlining concerns with the policy. The Province responded acknowledging the concerns and committed to working with the City to address them.

The report identifies a number of implementation issues, including a risk that “if the Province maintains current compensation rates it may result in further loss of wetlands in the City.” Other potential issues include “hydrological impacts that make it difficult to sustain natural wetlands,” “an increased number of wetlands regulated by the Province within the City of Edmonton,” and “the transfer of compensation funds collected in Edmonton and spent on wetland restoration/conservation projects outside of Edmonton represents a flow of money from one municipality to another municipality without any benefit to the citizens of Edmonton.”

Whitemud Wetland
Whitemud Wetland, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Administration has identified three options for addressing recommendations of the Wetland Task Force (which was formed in 2014 to consider the impact of the new policy). The first is to advance work with existing resources, the second is to add a full-time employee and spend $500,000 on “external services” over two years, and the third is to add a full-time employee and spend $700,000 on external services over two years.

Other interesting items

  • The Community Services Advisory Board 2014 Annual Report and the City of Edmonton Youth Council Annual Report will be discussed by Community Services Committee on Monday.
  • Bylaw 17297 will amend the Public Places Bylaw to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in the same manner as tobacco products.
  • Bylaw 17298 will amend the Community Standards Bylaw to “formalize the creation of a nuisance condition related to backyard fire pit activities.”
  • A response to an inquiry from Councillor Knack provides information on the Home for Life Initiative, part of Age-Friendly Edmonton, “focused on promoting home design features that allow seniors and people with varying abilities to live in their homes independently.”
  • The first Neighbourhood Structure Plan (NSP) with the Decoteau ASP is being developed. Currently identified as the North Neighbourhood, it will include parks, roadways, and sewers as you might expect, but will not include a library, fire station, or police station. Development is slated to start in 2020.
  • A new report outlines the authority of Administration to grant variances as part of Development Permit applications.
  • Bylaw 17353 is an update to the Procedures and Committees Bylaw to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on prayer at Council meetings. “On April 15, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in Mouvement Laique Quebecois v. Saguenay (City) 2015 SCC 16, 2015 CSC 16. The court ruled that municipalities must be neutral in matters of belief and non-belief.”
  • Amendments to the Zoning Bylaw are being considered to reduce parking requirements for minor eating and drinking establishments.
  • Currently you don’t have to be a resident of Edmonton to be appointed to civic agencies, but a new report details a couple of options to change that. Many other municipalities require residency but allow Council to make exceptions.
  • Council will receive a private update on the Vehicle for Hire bylaw on Tuesday. We must be getting close the proposed changes for Uber. UPDATE: This item has been moved to September 3.
  • The only item on the agenda for the Performance Evaluation Committee is a verbal report on Consulting Firm Interviews.

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.

Coming up at City Council: August 24-28, 2015

Council really hit the ground running on Monday with a big discussion on the Metro Line LRT. That topic looks set to dominate the news next week too, as Council discusses the City Auditor’s report on the delayed project. The other topic you’ll probably hear some grumbling about is the report on what to do with our city’s entrance signs. Replacing them could take two years and cost up to $2.5 million!

Meetings this week

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

Metro Line LRT

As it was last week, the biggest item before Council will no doubt be the Metro Line LRT. On Monday morning Council will start with a special Audit Committee meeting, to discuss the City Auditor’s report on the issue.

Metro Line LRT
Metro Line LRT testing on August 21, 2015 at 106 Avenue and 105 Street, photo by Sharon

There are some pretty shocking things in the report, including the fact that senior management at the City seemed to be completely in the dark about potential delays until late 2013, as Mayor Iveson wrote about. Delays in planning were identified as early as January 2010 and construction delays were identified as early as August 2010, but these delays were not adequately communicated.

One of the key issues identified was the decision in February 2010 to split the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling contract and the civil construction contract. This meant that the construction activities were not coordinated and that contributed greatly to the delays. On top of that, the contractors involved seem to have agreed to timelines that were unrealistic and unlikely to have been met even if everything else had gone smoothly.

In addition to identifying a number of lessons learned, the Auditor made three recommendations:

  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services ensure that for all major projects consistent principles and methodologies of Contract Administration are adhered to including quality assurance and quality control activities.”
  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services ensure that project roles, responsibilities, lines of communication, management of working relationships, and decision authority levels are clearly defined, assigned, and communicated for all major projects.”
  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services in conjunction with Financial Services and Utilities’ and the Corporate Centre for Project Management staff develop a standard corporate reporting methodology for major capital projects which includes schedule, scope, and budget status as well as overall risk assessment and quality management.”

City Administration did accept all three recommendations. They’re still going to get grilled hard by Council though.

Entrance Signs

The other item I’m betting will have lots of Edmontonians talking is the update on our city’s entrance signs. I wrote about the history of our current entrance signs here and discussed some thoughts on how they should change here.

Edmonton Entrance Sign

As Council previous directed, all the “City of Champions” placards have been removed. So the signs just say “Welcome to Edmonton” now.

The report identifies four options for changing the signs, ranging from low cost to high cost:

  • Option 1 would range from $150,000 to $175,000 and would replace the existing signs and flower beds with an internally designed sign.
  • Option 2 would place a new facade on the existing sign base, which could be developed internally or externally. The cost could range from $500,000 to $600,000.
  • Option 3 would completely replace the signs with an open competition for the design of the new signs. The cost could range from $1.2 million to $2.5 million, and it could take up to two years for the project to be complete.
  • Option 4 is a hybrid recommendation, where some signs could be cheaper and others could be more expensive.

In part to facilitate construction of Anthony Henday Drive, some signs have been removed over the years, and the report says it could be an option to look at adding some of those back.

Where would the money come from? For option 1, existing operating budgets would be enough to cover it. For any other option, an increase of funding or a delay to other projects would be required.

Employees or External Consultants?

One of the reports on the Utility Committee meeting agenda compares the incremental cost of City employees to the cost of hiring consultants. Here’s the key table:

employee vs consultant
(CEA is the Consulting Engineers of Alberta)

As you can see, the hourly incremental rates for City employees range from 42-51% of the hourly rates for external consultants. The report states that based on the above comparison, “increasing internal capacity could be more cost effective than retaining external consultants.” But not in every case, apparently. “There are situations and specific value to retaining external consultants,” the report says.

The report concludes: “Drainage Services will continue to be vigilant in hiring internally while practicing due diligence when retaining external consultants.”

Jasper Place Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP)

The Jasper Place ARP, Bylaw 17260, is ready for three readings after the public hearing has been held. The ARP covers the neighbourhoods of Britannia Youngstown, Canora, Glenwood, and West Jasper Place, as well as portions of the Stony Plain Road BRZ. Developed over the past two and half years, the Jasper Place ARP “provides guidance on future land use and City investment in Jasper Place, and will help to guide change and growth over the next 15 to 20 years.”

In order for the ARP to become the established planning document for the area, the Britannia/Youngstown Neighbourhood Planning Study, the 100 Avenue Planning Study, and the September 1980 resolution known as “Newman’s Resolution” will all be repealed. Newman’s Resolution states:

“Whereas the large majority of home owners have previously expressed a strong desire to remain single family area, therefore, I move that the area from the lane west of 149 Street to the lane east of 156 Street between 95 Avenue and 100 Avenue remain RF-1, which is the equivalent zoning to what presently exists in the area.”

That’s Kenneth Newman, the last mayor of the Town of Jasper Place. When the town amalgamated with Edmonton in 1964, Newman was elected as an alderman. He retired in 1983. The park at 10802 150 Street is named after him.

jasper place arp

The Jasper Place area will eventually receive three new LRT stations as part of the Valley Line LRT, which provides a great opportunity for transit-oriented development. Other goals of the ARP include: “enhancing the Stony Plain Road commercial corridor as a vibrant, mixed use pedestrian shopping area”, “increasing housing choice by introducing more housing options”, and “providing adequate infrastructure now and in the future.”

Committee Recommendations & Bylaws

There are 11 committee reports on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting, including:

  • Community Services Committee recommends that $1.5 million be transferred to the Whitemud Equine Centre for arena replacement and rehabilitation work. Related to that, the committee recommends that the Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association be allowed to seek facility naming rights.
  • Community Services Committee recommends that $1.8 million in funding be approved for the Fort Edmonton Park Catering Kitchen Project.
  • Executive Committee recommends that Edmonton’s Community Energy Transition Policy C585 be approved.
  • Transportation Committee recommends that the revised Capital Profile for LRT Escalator & Elevator Renewal be approved. This is not a change in funding, just in approach.

There are 28 bylaws on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting, most of which are for the closure of vehicular access. Others include:

  • Bylaw 17256 – To authorize the City of Edmonton to finance the Francis Winspear Centre for Music parking structure with up to $25 million.
  • Bylaw 17257 – To authorize the City of Edmonton to lend money to the Francis Winspear Centre for Music, which is necessary for the previous bylaw!
  • Bylaw 17154 – To rezone from RF1 to UCRH at 14035 and 14039 106 Avenue NW in Glenora to allow for the development of row housing. Interesting because there has been a lot of opposition to infill in Glenora.

Other interesting items

  • Three city networks – C40, ICLEI, and UCLG – have come together in a worldwide effort called the Compact of Mayors aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change. According to a report on the issue, “The City of Edmonton is well-positioned to participate in this initiative.” Participation would not cost us anything, but a separate strategy coming forward during the 2016-2018 budget process would have funding requirements.
  • There’s a recommendation that Councillor Caterina be appointed as the City of Edmonton representative on the AUMA board.
  • There’s a pending motion from Councillor Henderson called Councillor Absence from Regular Council Meetings.
  • There are a bunch of private reports on the agenda for Tuesday, including: an update on Northlands, an Intergovernmental Update on the City Charter, and an update on LRT Advocacy. The report on the Communications Plan for LRT Funding has been delayed until Q1 2016.
  • On the agenda for Monday’s public hearing is an amendment to the Calgary Trail Land Use Study, “to close an undeveloped portion of the east side of Gateway Boulevard immediately between 34 Avenue NW and 38 Avenue NW and to rezone of the lands from (AG) Agricultural Zone to (CHY) Highway Corridor Zone.” This will allow for “the existing berm to be removed and the land to be developed for highway commercial uses.”

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.