Hello everyone!

Hope you’re managing to stay warm and enjoy the outdoors, in spite of this somewhat unseasonable weather.


In this week’s Outlook, a letter made reference to a May 12 email to me, and suggested that I had failed to respond to one of the questions raised in it.

I responded on May 15, 16 and 18, and would be happy to share those responses with any of you who may wish to see them.  You have a right to see whether I am doing my job diligently, so please feel free to ask!  I continue to hope that you will ask me or another member of Council directly, if you have any questions about the sewer crossing or about the pedestrian bridge that Council is adding to it.

Council has a busy day on Monday with ...


The Finance Committee meets Monday at 10 am in Council Chambers, and you’re very welcome to attend.  You can see the entire package at this link:

General Capital reserve

Reports starting on page 4 of the package describes the value of land improvements (such as playgrounds and trails) and machinery & equipment (such as transit signs and office equipment) owned by our community, what the expected lifespan of these items is, and how much we should be saving in capital reserves for their future replacement.  Our recommended target is to be contributing $4 million annually to the general capital reserve, based on what we’ve seen in this report and the earlier reports on roadways and buildings. Fortunately, we’re fairly close to the necessary amount, and should be able to reach the right level of annual savings within the next five years or so.  Council will be asked to approve the target and discuss how best to ensure that we get there.

Keeping tabs on the budget

At the end of the first quarter, we were forecasting a small deficit of $44K at year-end.  Fortunately, we have three more quarters to make sure that we correct that and come in on budget.  That’s one of the values of paying public attention to these numbers each quarter – it focuses our efforts.  We’ll see the second quarter results and forecasting in August.  You can see all the information about results and forecast, starting on page 13 of the package.


You can see the entire package for the meeting at this link:

The meeting is at 2 pm in Council Chambers, and we’d love to see you there.  As always, there will be two opportunities to ask questions related to Monday’s agenda.  Here are some of the highlights from that agenda ...

Off-leash dog park

Nothing’s simple, as you’ll see in the dog park report that starts on page 10 of the council package.  Because of concerns raised by the environmental screening, the location will move slightly to the southwest of the original proposal, and the park may be 1.5 acres rather than 2 acres.  To get to 2 acres in the new location, we’d need an extra $10K worth of clearing and site work.  I’m inclined to stay within the original budget, but council will be discussing whether to add the money to ensure the 2 acre size.  I welcome your thoughts on this!

Land Use Bylaw, Phase 2a, and Parking and Housing policies

The bulk (and I do mean bulk!) of the meeting will be on this topic, which you can read about on pages 16 to 328 of the council package. 

This is the phase of the bylaw review that deals with matters in the commercial zones.  We won’t be talking about the formula-business quota idea – that will come back to council in June.  But we will be deciding on many other items including (among others):


  • Defining “liquor stores” and “night clubs” as unique uses, and making new ones discretionary, so that their impacts in a particular area can be considered.  I think this is a good idea, as the loading requirements of the former and the noise and spill-over aspects of the latter make these businesses worthy of attention.
  • Requiring anyone building or redeveloping in the downtown to meet only 10% of their parking requirements on-site, and requiring them to pay for the remaining 90% in cash.  I don’t support this.  I think 10% is too low, and that this will encourage larger buildings while leaving the community to pick up part of the tab on parking costs elsewhere (because cash-in-lieu doesn’t actually pay enough to cover the cost of providing a new stall).
  • “Encouraging” B&Bs to not put guests into below-grade bedrooms that have little natural light.  I think we should be stronger with this wording.
  • Removing the requirement for a spatial separation between B&Bs.  I disagree with this change – I think having a row of adjacent B&Bs would not be good for a residential neighbourhood.
  • Limiting hotels along the Banff Avenue strip to one free-standing sign along their entire frontage.  I’m not convinced that this is necessary, as I think our limits on sign size and materials keep the strip from looking over-signed already.  But I’ll be interested in discussing this with planning staff and my colleagues.
  • Making it possible for small start-up businesses to provide or pay for their parking and housing requirements over a three-year phase-in period.  I think this is a good idea, as long as we can ensure that we will be covered if a business changes hands.


There are many other changes in the bylaw that we will be debating on Monday.  These are just a few examples.  I hope you will contact me if you have any questions or comments about what you see in the package.

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!  The mother robin that nests on the carriage lamp by our front door is celebrating by incubating four gorgeous turquoise eggs.  I’m celebrating by reading my council package on the deck.


Council meets tomorrow at 2 pm, and you are very welcome to attend.  As always, there will be two opportunities in the agenda for anyone present to ask questions about items on the agenda.  You can find the whole package for tomorrow at this link:


Here are a few highlights from the package:

Tennis Court

Council is considering doing a full re-build of the Rec Grounds tennis courts (around $400K), rather than just a resurfacing (around $130 K).  You can see the report starting on page 29 of the package.  As you may remember from my last update, a complete rebuild would give us functional tennis courts for a lot longer, rather than taking a chance of frost-heaving and cracking again.  I would like to do a complete rebuild, but I’d like to fit it into our long-term capital plans, so I’ll be asking about the relative priority of other projects and whether fitting this in would cause unacceptable delays.


Three reports update Council on goings-on in Community Services. 

Starting on page 46, you can read about the Community Social/Recreation Assessment that will be done this year.  Community Services staff will work with the public and focus groups to identify key social and recreation issues and propose the best solutions.  A similar process in 2006 led to lots of great results, including the Affordability Guide, Banff-Canmore Community Bus, Low-Income Transit Pass, Community Greenhouse and Everybody Gets to Play.  The information also helps Community Services staff continue their great record of applying for and receiving provincial grants.

Starting on page 49, you’ll find information about one of those grants:  $39.9K to support expansion of the Get Out Program.  This is a drop-in program that offers social and recreational opportunities for kids and youth, both indoors and outdoors.  Thanks to this grant, more variety and frequency can be offered.

The Bow Valley Learning Council (formerly Bow Corridor Continuing Education Council) continues its great work, and you can read all about it starting on page 51.  Better yet, pick up a copy of their guide and sign up for a course!  You can find the course guide online at http://www.bowvalleylearning.ca/detail.php?course=all

2012 Tax Rate Bylaw

Council will be setting the tax rates for residential and commercial taxes tomorrow.  There are two key decisions to be made.

The first is the decision on the tax split.  This number establishes how much of our revenue will come from commercial taxpayers, and how much from residential taxpayers.  It is complicated, because our average commercial assessment has gone down again this year (by 2.51%) and our average residential assessment has gone up (by 0.32%).   Our financial plan identifies 4:1 to 5:1 as our ideal tax split range.  Last year, we went to 6:1, because otherwise the increases to residential taxes would have been huge, while relatively little relief would have been provided to commercial taxpayers.  Looking at the implications, I’m inclined to do that again this year. 

The second key decision is what do about the decrease in the education requisition that the province is asking for.  This year, because our overall assessment has once again decreased more than expected, the provincial levy for education has also decreased. Council's policy for several years has been to "occupy the taxing room" -- in other words, to keep charging the amount that would have gone to the province, and to dedicate the proceeds to our capital reserves. This is part of our plan to close the infrastructure gap, and to ensure that we have the roads, streetlights, playgrounds, vehicles, equipment etc. etc. needed for our community into the future. This year, however, the "taxing room" vacated by the province is $218K larger than expected.  Council will be asked whether we want to continue with the policy of dedicating this saving to capital reserves, or whether we want to forego that money.  I believe that we should continue with the policy – it’s prudent to save for future capital needs. 

If we have a 6:1 split and if we choose to follow council policy on the capital reserves, then the average homeowner will see an increase of 6.8% this year, and the average commercial taxpayer will see a decrease of 0.41%.  You can read all about this year’s tax rate factors and options starting on page 98 of the package.  There are charts that show you the implications of different tax splits and different capital decisions.

Smart Parking pilot project

Council is being asked to try out real-time parking information via mobile device apps. This is a way of matching parking demand to parking supply by helping people find the vacant spots without driving around – I think it’s a great idea.  The proposal is to try it for the Bear Street parkade this year, then expand it further if it works well.  I’ll be asking whether we could try it for the Cascade parkade instead, since that’s the one people seem to have the most trouble finding.  You can see the whole report (including a graphic representation of the system) starting on page 114 of the package.

Street lighting policy

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Banff has a real patchwork of street lighting types, old and new.  This policy (starting on page 124) is an attempt to make sure that we will be more thoughtful going forward, and that we will design any new or replacement lighting to be environmentally responsible, dark-sky compliant, appropriate in intensity and uniformity.  It includes factors such as avoiding glare into neighbouring properties.  Banff’s streetlights are owned by Fortis (351 lights) and the Town (290 lights).  The changeover to a more modern system will be very long-term, but this policy is a good start.


Council will also be doing a workshop on Monday with a designer of skateboard facilities.  Town staff have asked several members of the skateboard community to also attend, so that we can all be informed on the latest trends in skateboard parks. 

Council will be meeting with the Library Board to talk about library levels of service and performance benchmarks.


As always, this email represents my personal opinions.  This is not an official communication of the Town of Banff or its council.  I look forward to your questions or comments. If you would like to be removed from this list, please just let me know.  If you have friends who’d like to join the list, I’d be delighted to hear from them!

All the best until next time -- Leslie