Hello everyone:

What an interesting week it has been for weather, to be sure.  I hope you're all enjoying the opportunity to ski, run, bike and/or birdwatch, often on the same day!


The land use bylaw is important in any town, but it's particularly important here, where we have fixed boundaries, strong opinions about design, questions about density, and so on.  The review of our land use bylaw will be going on for the next 18 months or so, but it kicks off on Thursday, April 30, with an open house at council chambers from 4 - 6 pm.  You can learn about the process here:


... and you can learn more by coming to the meeting and chatting with the team involved.  The town's planning staff want to make this process very interactive and take the feedback opportunities out to the neighbourhoods.  I'll try to keep you updated on what's happening, because I know that many of you will have opinions and suggestions to offer. 


Council and BHC homeowners are looking at the "workbooks" prepared by the facilitators at Certus, and using the questions provided to prepare some thoughts on issues, interests and values to be protected.   Once everyone has done their homework, council will be meeting with homeowners to discuss the issues that pertain most directly to them.  Plans are still in the works for a more general community meeting on some of the more general recommendations from the BHC, probably in early June.


A few of you have written to me with concerns about your tax assessments, questions such as "House prices are dropping -- why is my assessment higher than last year?"  Because this seems to be causing some general concern, I thought I'd provide a little background. 

The first thing to remember is that the assessment is as of July 15, 2008, so it pretty much catches the peak in house prices.  There will be a similar lag if prices go back up in the future - it will take a year or so for your assessment to catch up with them. 

The second thing to remember is that higher assessments do not equal higher taxes.  The town sets a mill rate that establishes how much tax will be charged per unit of assessment.  This year's budget is set up so that the average will be 0% overall property tax increase.  Remember though, that is an average.  If your property rose in value more than the average home (which went up by around 14.5%) then your property taxes will increase slightly.  If your assessment increased by less than that average, then your overall property taxes will decrease slightly.  If you're right on the average, you'll be at zero.


I have also heard from several people recently who are expressing concerns about whether the rec centre renovation will include a second ice surface.  (For all of you who are not rec centre users, I'll explain as background that the present centre includes a full-sized arena, curling sheets, and something called the "mini-ice", a half-sized surface suitable for skating). 

Council was planning to go ahead with Rec Centre phase one (renovation of the present arena, demolition of the curling/mini-ice section of the building, and rebuilding of four curling sheets and lobby/changeroom spaces) and, if the environmental assessment is approved, phase two (the building of a new hockey-sized rink).  We had the funding plans in place and everything was looking good.

However, the province recently announced that they were cutting the level of Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding, something that they had formerly referred to as a ten-year commitment.

This leaves us in a quintuple bind:

1.  we're told by structural engineering studies that the curling/mini-ice part of the building will reach the end of its habitable lifespan in the near future, so the status quo is not an option.

2.  we have to start construction this summer, or we lose $6 million in federal/provincial funding that we already have, so entering a lengthy re-planning process would be a very expensive option.

3.  the MSI funding that we were counting on to pay the bill for the rec centre renovation has been diminished, but we cannot get a clear answer yet on how much it may be (or not be) in the next years.

4.  people are nervous about the economic climate, and don't want to see their taxes go up for a big borrow.

5.  rec centre users are unhappy at the thought of just building phase one, and therefore going from 1 1/2 ice surfaces to just one.

Options for solving this issue will be coming to council on May 11.


Things are looking up on the hospital recruitment front, but there is still no set date for the reopening of the obstetrics program.  Lots of locals continue to be active in showing their support for the hospital and its obstetrics program - you can find out about their latest activities on Facebook by searching "Bow Valley Residents Supporting Banff's Labour and Delivery Program".


You can see the whole council package (all 280 pages of it!) here:


Here are the highlights:

Update on EMS transition

The ambulance service at our hospital is now going to be managed/funded by the province rather than locally (this has been done throughout the province, it wasn't a matter of local choice).  The EMS director will be coming to council to brief us on how the changeover is going.

Audited financial statements from 2008 and budget revision for 2009

We're getting some pretty distressing news with our 2008 audited financial statements.  Although Council was assured by the town's managers in the September forecast that we would hit the year-end pretty much on budget, the actual result is not what was forecast.  We finished 2008 $429,000 in the red.

The town has a reserve fund to cover deficits, but it is not big enough to cover this one.  Therefore, council will be asked tomorrow to approve some budget revisions for 2009 to make up the difference while still budgeting to break even at year-end without increasing taxes, and budgeting to rebuild the stabilization reserve fund over the next three years.

To say that I am disappointed with this situation would be putting it mildly.  If forecasts that were brought to council had been more accurate, then we might have been able to tighten belts in the second half of 2008 to end the year on target. 

The town's managers have proposed various measures to track financials more effectively in 2009, and I will be asking questions about these at council tomorrow.  You can see the whole report by clicking on the link to the Council package (above) and scrolling down to page 25.

2009 Tax rate bylaw

Council will be deciding the tax rates, within the overall boundary of a 0% overall property tax increase.  I will be asking council to take the commercial/residential tax split to 4:1, which was the level promised during the incorporation referendum.  This shouldn't be too difficult, as the present proposal is for 3.935:1.  You can see the complete report on this tax rate process in the council package by scrolling down to page 113.

Indexperience summer survey results

The town and the park partnered with Banff Lake Louise Tourism to do a visitor experience survey over the past year, and final results from the summer survey are now available.  The results show that people generally think our town is pretty great, but the biggest municipal-related issues for visitors are public washrooms, wayfinding and parking.

Interestingly, the consultants who do the report compare how many people "totally agree" with a positive statement to how many people disagree (which is the sum of those who totally disagree and those who somewhat disagree).  In other words, if you "somewhat agree" with a positive statement about the town or park, your results are not highlighted.  It's worth keeping this in mind when you look at the numbers.

Those of you who believe that the beauty and environmental values of our national park are our most important tourism assets will be delighted to see how the visitors agree with you!

You can see summaries of the results in the council package, starting on page 128. 

Hello everyone!  I hope you all had a super Easter weekend, and survived the shock of seeing a snowstorm when you opened your curtains this morning. 


In response to comments from some people over the past year about the difficulty of getting to council meetings, council decided to schedule three evening meetings this year.  This is an attempt to see if evening meetings would be easier for people who would like to attend.

As you probably already know from the Crag, the first of these evening council meetings is tomorrow, April 14, starting at 7 pm.  If you're thinking of running in the next election, or if you want to know how council does business, or if you have a question related to the day's agenda that you'd like to ask in person, I hope you'll attend!


I've written a brief mid-term report card, comparing what has been happening with what I promised to support during the election.  You can find the mid-term report on my council blog at www.lataylor.com/blog and the original campaign page at www.lataylor.com/campaign.htm   I welcome your comments!


Dave Gould of Certus Strategies is the facilitator working with council, the BHC, the BHC homeowners, and the community at large.  Dave met with the homeowners on March 25 to get their input into the process, and will be meeting with council members and staff on April 14 to set up the next steps.


It's a pretty short council agenda, so if you decide to come to the meeting, you won't need to worry about being there all night!

The key items for decision relate to parking. 

Council is being asked to confirm that they want to go ahead with surface parking on the Beaver Street lot bought for that purpose.  I'm very pleased to see that staff is proposing to try out a permeable pavement for the lot -- this will help keep surrounding trees and underlying soil more healthy.

Staff is cautioning council that developing this lot as surface parking could include some costs that would not be recoverable if the town then decided to build a parkade on this and its neighbouring lots.  As you know, I don't support this parkade (although I realize that some of you hold the opposite point of view), but some council members wish to revisit this idea.  In any event, the approximately $9 million that such a building would cost is not in the 13-year capital budget at present, so this discussion may be a short one.

There is also a suggestion for an ongoing parking occupancy monitoring program, to give the town reliable information on which to base parking management decisions.  I think this could be a useful program, as it would also help us track the success of car-free initiatives such as public transit, way-finding, etc.

As well, the council is being asked to consider whether to continue the parking on the west side of Bow Avenue that was allowed during the downtown reconstruction work, or whether to discontinue parking on that side of the avenue.  I know several of you felt quite strongly in the past that this side of Bow should not be used for parking -- I welcome your comments on this issue.

Because a councillor's workload can take on a life of its own, it's a good idea to check yourself every now and then against the goals set back during the election.

Here are some notes about areas I'm pleased with so far, and areas where I think I should try to work harder.  These all relate to my campaign promises, which you can read at www.lataylor.com/campaign.htm   Of course, no individual councillor can take credit for any program -- everything that is done by the town is a team effort of various councillors and staff -- but I believe that my efforts have helped to support some positive directions.

The environment:

I'm very pleased with our improvements in public transit, with the huge increase in convenience of recycling, and with the completion of the Urban Forest Management Plan and council's agreement to fund work on it, even in this difficult year.  I had an opportunity to work on development regulation application for a year, as a member of the MPC, and I enjoyed making a contribution to that work.

 I'm looking forward to an opportunity to support updated development regulations and dark skies initiatives as part of the Land Use Bylaw review that is starting this month.

We've had a tough time with the wastewater treatment plant over the past year, with a few different operators, and questions about whether we were meeting provincial standards for operator qualifications, numbers of staff, and so on.  However, the effluent quality remained substantially better than provincial requirements throughout.  We are now settled in with new Alberta-based operators, and I look forward to smooth sailing from here on in.

Our financial fitness:

I was not successful in my attempt to establish a financial review committee of council, but we have made some changes that I think help to establish an environment of more transparent financial accountability to the public.  These changes include quarterly financial forecasts at council, releasing to the media the town's list of cheques written, and a much more detailed public review of operating and capital budgets.  There is always more work to do in this area.

I supported the borrowing bylaw for the recreation centre upgrades, based on the assurance that provincial MSI funding would cover the cost of paying back the loan.  Now, with the new provincial budget, it appears that the MSI amounts will be less than expected.  I will be looking at this (and I expect the rest of council will, too) to see what we can actually afford to do, and whether we need to rescind the bylaw.

Quality of life for residents:

I have tried to support programs that concentrate on the needs of residents, and also made an effort to let people know what's available to them.  I've publicized the "Action Request" on the website (it lets people ask directly for the services they need) and have occasionally done action requests on behalf of citizens who don't have online access.

Opportunities for input:

There is always more work to do in this area.  I still feel that the town would benefit from more public advisory committees, but I know that it is hard to get members for these.  During this past year, the town has held open houses on important issues (e.g. Cave Avenue housing, wayfinding plans), and I'm looking forward to a series of public input opportunities as part of the Land Use Bylaw review.  I'm also pleased with the continuing great service on the website.

To try to help citizens feel engaged, I've personally undertaken two communication initiatives.  First, I put out a council update before each meeting, both here on my website and as an email to those who've signed up on my email list.  People often provide input to me on the issues raised in those updates.  As well, I'm trying to door-knock the whole town again (half last fall, half in the fall of 2009) to give people a chance to tell me directly what they think about town services and priorities.

I've sent a personal answer to every email that's been sent to me, and I've followed up for people who have sent emails to town departments and not received an answer.

In retrospect, I feel that I should have done a better job of helping to shape the communications related to the proposed Banff Housing Corporation changes.  I think the facilitated working group approach is helping to get this back on track.