Hello everyone, and happy Easter weekend!  The robins and the bluebirds are back, the snow is amazingly beautiful on the mountains (and a little daunting in our driveways) and --somewhere in the Bow Valley -- a prairie crocus is blooming.

Before I get to Council business, how about ...


As I’m sure you know, we go to the polls on April 23 for an election that looks livelier than any we have seen in some time.  If you’re having trouble deciding which party best aligns with your values and opinions, you might find Vote Compass helpful (  www.cbc.ca/votecompass ).  And if you want a chance to compare the candidates for our Banff-Cochrane riding in person, there will be an all-candidates’ forum at the Banff Park Lodge on April 19th, 7 – 9 pm.  Hold the date in your calendar!


Council meets on Tuesday this week, because of the Easter long weekend.  The meeting is at 2 p.m. at Town Hall and, as always, you are very welcome to attend.  You can see the whole package for the meeting at this link:  http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Town+Hall+PDF/Council+Agendas+PDF/2012+Agendas+PDF/Council-Agenda-120410.pdf

Here are the highlights:

Sewer siphon/pedestrian bridge report

If you would like the straight goods on what the two options for the sewer/water crossing would cost, you can see the whole report starting on page 10 of the council package.  Page 34 of the report shows you, side-by-side, the costing for the sewer/water plus pedestrian bridge option (as per the firm quote from the successful bidder) plus all ancillary costs, and the costing for the directional drilling option that is preferred by a group of citizens (as per the budget prepared by the contractor recommended by those citizens) plus all ancillary costs.  That contractor has now seen all the geotechnical and engineering information that the Town has, and has therefore been able to prepare a better-informed figure. 

The Town had examined directional drilling as an option last summer when we looked at the four options for crossing the river, but we have gone back and re-examined this option as requested.

In summary:
What you get:  ped bridge option:  sewer/water crossing, emergency vehicle crossing, ped/cycle crossing
                               Directional drilling option:  sewer/water crossing

What it costs:  ped bridge option:  $6,723,595.56
Directional drilling option:  $6,477,000.00.  This figure does not include the release fee to Parks Canada to allow construction of a building on the south bank – that cost is, as yet, unknown.  The release fee to Parks for the rec centre addition, for example, was $400,000.

Offsetting grants from the province:       ped bridge option:  eligible for a grant of $370,000, bringing total to 6,353,595.56.  This grant, however, could also be applied to other projects (sidewalks, road overlays) in town.
                                                                                Directional drilling option:  not eligible, leaving total at 6,477,000.00

What you will see when it’s done:  ped bridge option:  a bridge across the river – see a rendering here: 
      Directional drilling option:  Nothing across the river, and a lift station building about the size of the Wolf Street washrooms on the south side of the river.  The directional drilling option would not be “gravity feed” – this is because the driller would have to go 9.5 metres below the river bed to find a layer that is geotechnically suitable.

Operating costs:  Similar for both.  Because of the 9.5 metre drop and gain for the directional drilling, both would be pumped systems.

But please, don’t just read my summary.  Take a look at the report.  Read the opinions of two independent engineering companies on the risk factors related to each option. 

And just a reminder:  Council is not choosing between this project and the Central Park/Rec Grounds ped bridge project.  No matter what happens on Tuesday with the sewer siphon/ped bridge discussion, the Central Park bridge project remains as is:  a project already approved by majority vote of Council, ready to go whenever the construction costs (in the range of $2 million) become available.  We cannot take money from the sewer crossing project and do the Central Park bridge with it, because the sewer crossing needs to be replaced.

Sponsorship policy

Starting on page 42 of the package, you’ll see an updated version of the draft Sponsorship policy for the town.  This update takes care of the concerns that I expressed in the last meeting.  You can see (starting on page 50 of the package) the list of the facilities and programs that would and would not be eligible for sponsorship opportunities.


This week, I have a workshop session on the transportation master plan on Tuesday morning, a meeting of the regional transit commission on Wednesday afternoon, and Banff Housing Corp on Friday morning.  Council is also doing its best to meet with the various candidates for MLA (if they wish to meet us), to ensure that they are up to speed on the municipal issues here in Banff.


As always, this post represents my opinion only.  This email is not an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  As always, I welcome your questions and comments – and any new subscribers. 

All the best until next time -- Leslie

This week's Outlook provides a good overview of what's happening on this project, with quotes from all sides:



Hello everyone:

First, a few notes about community items you may be interested in:


If you have a BES or BCHS student in your family, you may be interested in this contest. The Crag is once again offering a prize to the first student to email a picture of a robin (taken this spring in Banff) to Larissa Barlow. You can read about the long-ago Crag tradition that inspired this contest at this link:

I happen to know that there’s at least one robin out there, so enjoy the outdoors and keep your eyes peeled.


On April 4th, the Banff Ideas Bank is running their monthly Conversation Cafe.  The theme will be humour!  So bring your best thoughts about being funny, and join the community conversation.  The event starts at 7 pm at the WildFlour.


There’s still time to do a quick and easy online survey to give the Town of Banff your opinion about transportation in town:  parking, driving, public transit, the bridge ...  From door—knocking, I know for sure that there are lots of opinions out there!  Your input will help shape the terms of reference for the transportation plan that the town is working on this year.  Go to:

Now, on to tomorrow’s business...


About  eight times per year, all of council meets as the finance committee, in order to have extra time to review the town’s financial procedures, policies and results.  These meetings are public – you’re very welcome to attend.  Tomorrow, we’ll be meeting at 10 a.m. in Council Chambers; you can see the whole agenda package here:

The key purpose of the meeting is to discuss the amount of capital reserve that the Town should put aside each year in order to be prepared for the future replacement of town buildings, when they eventually hit the end of their useful lives.  This is prudent management – making sure that future taxpayers won’t have to come up with large sums for the replacement of necessary facilities.

In the report, starting on page 4 of the package, you can see information on the current replacement value of various buildings, and on the assumptions made about how long foundations, building envelopes, roofs and services can be expected to last, and what those assumptions translate into in terms of annual contributions to capital reserves.  Finance committee is our chance to examine those assumptions.  For example, I’m thinking that we could responsibly estimate a 60-year life for building envelopes and a 25-year life for roofs – at least on our more modern buildings – and therefore lower the annual contribution somewhat, while still being responsible.


I believe that tomorrow’s agenda package may have set a new record:  433 pages.  You can see this weighty tome at this link:

A few of the highlights:

Briefing on the pedestrian bridge project:

Because there is so much public interest in this project (both for and against), administration will be bringing us regular updates on what’s being done with community feedback and questions, and what’s happening on the project itself.  You can see the report starting on page 8 of the package.

Update on illegal dumping:

Town staff are working hard to deal with the consequences of “beside the bin” dumping of large items – through education, and through additional pickup services.  Starting on April 2, you can book large-item pickup not just on Fridays, but five days per week.  You can see the waste reports starting on page 26 of the package.

RCMP policing agreement

The province has re-negotiated the agreement with the RCMP on behalf of the municipalities that use the RCMP as their police service.  The province provided the detailed agreement to municipalities for the first time on March 9, and gave us until March 31 to sign.  Nice to have lots of time to review it!  The good news is that some provisions have been re-written to give municipalities a stronger voice in helping to set policing priorities within their boundaries.  The not-so-good news is that we don’t know the details of the financial implications yet.  If we sign on now, we have two years to withdraw from the agreement.  You can see the whole report starting on page 34 of the package.

Regional Transit financial commitment

As discussed in my last update, Council approved the business plan changes for regional transit at the last meeting, and is now being asked to vote the financial support for 2012.

Sponsorship policy

A draft sponsorship policy for the town starts on page 86 of the package.  This lays out the conditions under which the town would accept marketing style sponsorships – the kinds of things where buildings or programs are named for or logo-ed for the companies that pay to support them.  I am OK with this in principle, and I like what the policy says about not associating ourselves with businesses that do not reflect our values.  However, I think we need to identify the buildings, facilities and programs that cannot be named or logo-ed in this way, I think we need to decide what happens when companies that compete directly with our taxpayers want to sponsor a Town of Banff asset, and I think we need to lower the level of sponsorships that can be negotiated by staff without taking it back to Council. 

Street lighting policy

The planning department is working on a street lighting policy, to ensure that we work toward a street lighting system that is environmentally responsible, that provides appropriate light levels without glaring into people’s windows, and that is aesthetically pleasing.  You can see the full report starting on page 94.  This whole policy is going to go out for public review, and planning has some interesting ideas for letting people know what the different light levels mean, so that you can respond about what you’d like to see in your neighbourhood.  I’ll keep you updated as this progresses, and make sure you hear about the public input opportunities.

Land Use Bylaw

And finally, the Land Use Bylaw.  The report that starts on page 126 of the package (and goes on to page 433) details some of the proposed changes for home occupations, bed and breakfasts, housing and parking fees.  The purpose of having this on the agenda is so that Council can give first reading (which just gets it on the table for discussion) and set a time for a public hearing.  So I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that public hearing date.


As always, the opinions in this post are mine alone.  This post does not purport to be an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions!


Hello everyone:

I apologize again for not being able to give you an update before the last meeting, and hope that you were able to keep informed on the town’s doings via banff.ca and the newspapers!


Monday’s council meeting looks fairly straightforward.  You can see the whole package at

Here are some of the highlights:

Banff Community Foundation presentation

Lorraine Widmer-Carson and John Allard from the BCF will be coming to update council on Foundation doings.  You can see some of the highlights they will be presenting, starting on page 5 of the package.  It’s exciting to see the breadth of Foundation activities, and the background information on how the Foundation does its work.  One interesting fact that I had not known before:  65% of this year’s donations to the Foundation come from donors with addresses outside the national park. 

Regional Transit decisions

Council is being asked to approve updates to the business plan of the Bow Valley Regional Transit.  Because this is a joint effort among Banff, Canmore and ID9, all three councils are asked to approve key documents annually. 

The changes being proposed are:
• 12 hour service on the new Banff-Canmore route, rather than 8 hours.  This is to ensure that the route can function as a meaningful alternative for commuters.
• A lower expectation for fare revenues in the first two years of the new Banff-Canmore route.  The business plan laid out 31-33% fare recovery, but experience on similar routes elsewhere suggests that 25% may be more realistic for the first two years.  Of course, every effort will be made to substantially exceed that expectation.
• Changing the buses we’re acquiring for the Banff-Canmore route.  The business plan proposed two hybrid buses for the new route.  The amended business plan proposes two 40 ft and two 30 ft bio-diesel buses, for the same price that the two hybrids would have cost.  Hybrid buses are excellent for in-town use.  On the longer, highway-based routes, bio-diesel is the better choice for fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility.  You can see the research on this in the report, starting on page 19 of the package.  The Green Trip funding will still be available for these purchases, and regional transit is joining in Calgary Transit’s big purchase of new buses in order to get the best possible price.
• Upgrading the electronic fare collection equipment, to ensure that monthly passes and similar payment options can continue to be dealt with efficiently.
• Delay in the Parks Canada portion of the transit system (route from Banff to Lake Louise/Moraine Lake).  Parks Canada feels that they will be better able to undertake this new system with a 1-2 year delay.  In the meantime, the Regional Transit Commission will work with them on the planning of their new route and stops.

Canmore and the ID have approved these changes already.  Banff council had some questions at the last meeting, and wanted to see more information to ensure that the right choices were being made for environmentally responsible reasons.  The questions from Banff are covered in the report and research that start on page 19 of the package, and I am hopeful that Banff will endorse the new business plan on Monday.

In general, the research shows that environmental responsibility in transit services is not about picking one type of equipment and using it on every route.  On the contrary, each transit route needs to be looked at (minimum and maximum speeds, numbers of stops, normal road conditions, etc.) in order to choose the type and size of equipment that will minimize fuel use and GHG emissions.

Off-leash dog park

As you’ll see in the report that starts on page 79 of the package, Parks Canada has expressed some concerns about the Hawk Avenue location for the new dog park, and wants to see some further analysis of potential effects on the nearby wildlife corridor.  This may result in increased costs and a longer timeframe for the dog park.  I’ll keep you posted.

Community Services alternative revenues

Starting on page 87, you can see a summary of the grant revenues brought in by Community Services staff over the past year, and the projects that have been supported in our community as a result.  Hats off to these hard-working grant-writers for finding non-property-tax ways to fund services, to the tune of almost $275K in one year!


As always, opinions expressed in this update are mine alone, and do not purport to be those of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions!

All the best until next time -- Leslie


Hello, everyone:

Happy Valentine’s Day in advance!  I’m just back from an inspiring and informative conference – the Federation of Canadian Municipalities ”Sustainable Communities” conference.  You can see the conference program here http://www.fcm.ca/home/events/2012-sustainable-communities-conference-and-trade-show/program.htm  to get a sense of why I’m feeling all charged up and full of ideas.


There’s a lot of discussion around this right now.  I put up an entry on my blog at http://www.lataylor.com/node/189 to provide links to all the past public discussion that I could find.  I hope this may be helpful.

Let me try to summarize the present situation as I see it (the background and costing for everything said below is in the reports referenced in the blog entry):

A.  There is a proposal sitting on the books to build a pedestrian bridge from Central Park to the Rec grounds.  This bridge is priced at 2.55 million for a ped bridge only (no access for ambulances).  It has been on hold for some time because hoped-for grants and donations did not materialize.  Nothing has changed around this proposal.  It has the go-ahead from the majority of Council, and if the money materialized tomorrow, it could conceivably be built.  I have severe concerns about what it would do to Central Park, but that’s just me.

B.  There is a requirement to replace our sewage pipe that crosses the Bow River between the end of Muskrat Street and the YW.  We have looked at a multitude of options:
1.  Pipe-jacking or directional drilling:  these are options that do not require trenching through the river.  Engineering review has concluded that these are not appropriate for our situation, largely for geo-technical reasons.  You can see this information in the reports referenced in the blog entry above.
2. Trenching through the river bed and laying new pipe:  we are very concerned about the environmental impacts of doing this.  Picture coffer-dams to dewater the river bed, coupled with heavy equipment working in the river bed for weeks.  You can see what this would be like in the reports referenced in the blog entry above.
3. Trenching up the side of the river to the existing bridge, providing pumping stations, and hanging the pipes under the existing bridge.  To use a metaphor, this puts yet another egg into the one basket that we have crossing the river.
4. For the same price as option 3, building a structure above the river, following the line of the existing pipe, to hang the water and sewer pipes on. 

Because options 1 and 2 have been explored and found to be impracticable, we are choosing between option 3 and option 4.  Making either choice does not affect the Central Park-Rec Grounds bridge project, which continues to be as described under A.

If we choose option 4, we can make the structure just a pipe-hanging structure OR we can make it capable of carrying people, bicycles, and ambulances.  We can achieve one objective with option 4 (utility crossing only) OR, at the same cost to Banff taxpayers, three objectives with option 4 (ped/cycle bridge, utility crossing and emergency vehicle crossing).

Council has chosen to achieve the three objectives with option 4.  I think this is the right choice.  However, it still needs to go through environmental assessment (with public input encouraged) plus there will be an open house on February 16 (seniors’ centre, 3:30 to 6:30) for people to look at the proposed concept and comment on what is needed (approaches, lighting, etc etc) to make it work well.


Council has a relatively short meeting on Monday.  You can see the full package at this link:

Here are a few highlights ...

Petition from out-of-town photographers regarding non-resident business licenses

Starting on page 5 of the package, you can read a petition stating that out-of-town wedding photographers should not have to pay non-resident business license fees when they work here.  Just to clarify a bit, our bylaw requiring this is nothing new, and it’s nothing unusual.  The City of Calgary charges non-resident business license fees as well, and I’m told (although I haven’t researched this myself) that they are higher than ours.  We do offer options, so that non-residents who want to do business here don’t have to buy a license for the full year if their work here is short-term.  I will be interested to hear the presentation that will be made by Calgary photographer Edward Ross http://edwardrossphotography.com/   In general, I feel that local businesses pay business license fees to work here, and should not have to compete with businesses that do not.  That’s why, if a business that I don’t know offers me goods or services, I ask to see their local license first.

Revenue licensing and leasing policy

Council is being asked to update this policy about how the Town issues leases or licenses for town-owned property – you can see the report starting on page 49 of the package.  I’m really pleased to see new clauses on how we will determine the market value of the proposed lease or license, and also new clauses (6.1 and 6.2) making the whole process more transparent.  These new clauses will ensure that everyone gets a fair crack at any leases or licenses that the town has to offer.


Council will also be having a strategy session about how we work with the BHC board going forward, and a strategy workshop on the potential street lighting policy.  These are not decision-making meetings.  Any decisions needed on these topics will be discussed and voted on in future public meetings.


I will be on vacation from February 16 to March 7, and so will miss the February 27 council meeting, therefore there will be no “council update email” the weekend of February 25/26.  I do apologize for that, and will resume my council emails in time for the first meeting in March. 


As always, this email represents my opinions only, and does not constitute an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions.

All the best until next time -- Leslie