Hello everyone:

I hope you all enjoyed the summer solstice!  Council has a heavy meeting load this week.  Today’s weather was perfect for reviewing a total of 234 pages of agenda package for Monday!


Council meets as the Finance Committee at 10 a.m. Monday in Council Chambers and – as always – you are welcome to attend.  You can see the whole package for the meeting at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Finance-Agenda-120625.pdf   The two items on the agenda are ...

Fleet Capital Reserve

As you know, we are reviewing all of the town’s capital reserves to ensure that, as a community, we are putting away enough money to replace our capital assets when we need to, without nasty surprises for future taxpayers. 

How much do we need to put into a fleet reserve each year in order to make sure that we can replace vehicles and equipment as they reach the end of their useful lives?  You can see the report that analyzes this question, starting on page 4 of the package.  I was pleased to see that staff had carefully weighed the maintenance records of our vehicles and equipment, their expected cost recovery at the time of disposal, and used two different methods for calculating replacement cost.  The upshot of it all is that we are aiming at an average of 15 years of useful lifespan for our vehicles.  This will require an annual transfer of $359,000 per year to be fully funded over time, and we are within sight of that now with an annual transfer of $270,000.

Performance benchmarks

In order to be transparent and accountable, the Town is adding easily measured performance benchmarks to our service review system.  This means that you can look at a report each year and see how we’re doing on a range of factors, compared to how we were doing in previous years.  A report that starts on page 13 of the package shows you some of the benchmarks that will be added this year, and reports on benchmarks that we already have in place.  You can see comparisons to other communities’ results where we are able to access them.  (The reason you’ll see comparisons to Ontario is because they have a benchmarking system in place that we can access easily).   Just to give you a few examples of the numbers you can see in this report:
• The percentage cost of our benefits package (health, dental, etc.), compared to wages, is going up, in spite of the fact that we have cut back on benefits available to Town staff.  This appears to be an issue that many employers are facing.
• Our website use continues to climb, and is way ahead of OMBI (the Ontario average) and Whistler
• Our voter turnout is lower than in comparable communities
• Our fire department costs less to operate per person served than those in two comparable communities
• We have fewer transit riders per population than the Ontario average, but our ridership is increasing
• Our operating cost per hectare for “grounds” (gardens, parks) is higher than the Ontario average, and is increasing in the three years shown
• We’re landfilling much less waste per person (residents and visitors included) than Whistler, and our amount is decreasing
• Our energy use per person continues to slowly increase
• The percentage of our population that registers for community classes continues to slowly decrease
• Crime numbers are available only for 2008 and 2009 – in those years, we had higher numbers than the Alberta average
• The tourism marketing dollars spent per visitor varied from $1.30 in 2009 to $1.06 in 2010 to $1.18 in 2011.


At 9 a.m. on Monday, Council will continue its deliberation on Land Use Bylaw related items, including the required housing and required parking policies.  You can see the package at this link:  http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Special-Council-Agenda-120625.pdf  Feel free to join us in Council Chambers!


At 2 p.m. on Monday, we’ll roll up our sleeves for  a heavy agenda for the regular meeting of council.  You can see the whole package at this link:
and you’re welcome to attend.  Here are a few highlights from the agenda:

Grease traps

Read the report that starts on page 10, for more than you ever wanted to know about yellow grease, brown grease, and how they can clog the arteries of our sewage system!  Utilities staff are briefing council about a pro-active education program they want to undertake, so that staff in restaurants and other businesses can understand better how their grease traps work and how to prevent sewer clogs.  If you’ve ever seen the football-sized grease balls floating at the sewage treatment plant, or had your neighbourhood’s system blocked up by grease, you’ll know what a problem this can be.

Environmental rebates

The town offers rebates to residents and businesses that update their property with water-efficient or energy-efficient appliances and equipment.  Examples?  Dual-flush toilets, energy-rated dishwashers or refrigerators, solar hot water systems, programmable thermostats ... and many more!  Take a look at the report that starts on page 25 to see what’s offered and how some of the offers may change.  It’s interesting to see that we get the best bang for our rebate buck by helping to fund programmable thermostats.

There is a proposal in this report to change the rebate for solar hot water from $650 to $3000, because we have had no takers so far.  However, this would also involve capping the rebates to the first three homes that apply.  I don’t think this is a fair way to allocate public dollars – a lot of money to a very few people on a first-come, first-served basis.  I’d like to leave it at $650, but make sure that people know that this is available.  Or perhaps we could consider the higher rate for people who will commit to making their home a demonstration project that others can look at?

FCSS Annual Report

Starting on page 108 of the package, you can read about the many programs offered by FCSS, and how they are working with a multitude of partners to meet their goals and to support the people of our community.  Everything from the community greenhouse to the seniors’ bus to settlement services for foreign workers is in this report, and it’s pretty impressive.

The Railway Lands

Council is being asked to approve some options for public consultations about the proposed uses at the railway station.  When the Land Use Bylaw was being discussed, most members of the public were focussed on other areas.  But now there are major changes proposed for what that area might look like, changes that would result in a new commercial area in the town.  Council believes that people will want to be consulted about this.

Land Use Bylaw

Council will consider third reading of phase 2a of the Land Use Bylaw update, after hours and hours of discussion and amendments on second reading.  In these recent meetings, I have been on the losing end of lots of motions related to the Land Use Bylaw.  However, I feel that every item was discussed thoroughly, and that all councillors brought their carefully considered opinions to the table and listened with an open mind to everyone else’s opinions before voting.  So the system is working the way it’s supposed to.


On Tuesday, I’ll be attending a meeting about the Transportation Master Plan, along with a lot of people from various sectors of the community.

And dog owners will be pleased to know that the fence for the off-leash dog park is almost complete.  Councillor Canning has taken a walk-through and says it looks great.


As always, any opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post is not a communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments or questions, and I’m always happy to add your friends to the email list.  If you’re just too busy to read these updates, let me know, and I’ll take you off the list (but I’ll miss you!).


Hello everyone:

Sorry to keep bombarding you with emails, but it seems as if lots of people are interested in information re the high water levels (I know I am!), so I hope you won’t mind a few extra messages during the run-off period.  This one, however, is just the regular council email update.

On Monday, council will have two meetings.


We didn’t finish debating the Land Use Bylaw phase 2a changes at the last council meeting, so we’ll be continuing that process on Monday, starting at 8:30 a.m. in Council Chambers.  You’re welcome to attend!  The package for the meeting can be seen at this link:


We still have to cover items such as bed and breakfast regulations, signage regulations, the height of buildings in the downtown, discretionary uses in the area around the train station, and our policies on required housing and parking to go with developments.


The regular council agenda is quite light on Monday (only 65 pages!!).  You can see the entire package at this link:


Here are a few highlights from the agenda:

Rocky Mountain Housing Co-op

You’ll all be familiar with the apartment buildings near the Recreation Grounds.  Since the earliest days of this cooperative (which provides 114 housing units for 18 different community organizations and businesses), the Town has provided a loan guarantee for the outstanding moneys owed by the cooperative, as a way of supporting this important staff housing initiative.  This doesn’t mean that the Town loans them money, or that tax-payers pay for any of their costs.  It just means that we enable them to borrow at the low interest rate that is available to the Town.  Council is being asked to renew the loan guarantee for three years.  This borrowing by-law will be subject to public scrutiny and comment before coming back to Council for a vote at a future meeting.  I will be asking for some updates on the current status of the RMHCA organization before we eventually pass this by-law.  You can see the whole report starting on page 7 of the package.

Non-resident business licences

Event-based businesses (such as wedding photographers) who come to Banff to do business from time to time are asking for some different  options for business licensing.  These include having single-day licences, and being able to pay for licences online.  The report that starts on page 17 updates Council on what is being done to explore these options.

Housing needs study

In a report starting on page 44, Banff Housing Corporation is asking Council to fund a housing needs study, to identify gaps (if any) between housing supply and demand in town.  Our last study was done in 2002.  The BHC has gone through a careful process to identify the questions that need to be answered, and to review proposals from potential contractors.  The $54,000 required for the study would come from the Town’s budget stabilization fund.

I expect a lively discussion about this one.  I strongly support the idea of updating our housing information before investing in a new housing project.  That’s because everyone I talk to tells me that “anybody knows” what the housing problem is – and then it turns out that each person has a different version.  Some believe that there is no longer a problem – that our housing supply has caught up with demand.  Others say we need seniors’ housing, or accessible housing, or managed housing for young, single entry-level staff, or starter homes for the first-time buyer, or move-up homes for the family looking for more room.  I have my own views, based on my own observations – but that’s just anecdotal.  I believe we need some concrete data to back up any future projects.

Settlement Support Services

An interesting report, starting on page 61 of the package, briefs Council on the changing nature of temporary foreign workers in our community, and how Community Services is working to help these new Banffites be successful and happy here.  There are many interesting points, but here’s one that stuck out for me:  In 2009, Banff Elementary School had 10% of their students as ESL (English as a Second Language).  In 2012, that has grown to 25%.  That one fact alone shows how quickly the changes are taking place.


As always, this blog post represents just my point of view.  This is not a communication from the Town of Banff or from its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions!