Hello everyone!

Council has two public meetings on Monday, the regular council meeting and a meeting of the Banff Housing Corporation shareholders.  As well, we will be meeting with one of the candidates for the PC nomination (we’ve been meeting with every candidate who asks us), we will be meeting briefly with MP Blake Richards, and we will be doing the official receiving of the grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (this grant is in support of the environmental standards of the Recreation Centre project).  A busy day!

MONDAY COUNCIL MEETING

You can see the entire package at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Town+Hall+PDF/Council+Agendas+PDF/2011+Agendas+PDF/council-agenda-120123.pdf

The meeting starts in council chambers at 2 pm, and you are welcome to attend.  As always, there are two opportunities in the agenda for you to ask questions about items on the agenda.

Here are a few highlights:

Competitive Initiative proposals for après-ski experience

You can read the full letter starting on page 5 of the package.  I really like the idea of public ski racks near our bike racks, although I will want to make sure that the signs acknowledging the sponsors are reasonably sized and positioned.  I’m interested in the suggestion of an in-town toboggan hill – sounds like fun!  The proposal for outdoor music during the après-ski hours causes me concern, mostly about how the volume would be controlled – I’m looking forward to having a conversation about this.  The proposal for buskers and people offering samples out on the street in front of each business could create a huckster atmosphere that would be a bit wearing – I’m not in support of this at present, but I’m willing to listen to the points of view around the table.  I am, however, definitely opposed to the proposal for heaters to facilitate outdoor seating in winter.  To approve this would go entirely against our community plan direction to work on lowering our GHG emissions. 

Pedestrian bridge and utility crossing

You will recall my other posts about this project last year – this is the approach of replacing our water and sewer lines across the Bow by slinging them below a structure that would function as a pedestrian bridge and an emergency crossing for ambulances.  The report that starts on page 12 of the package shows you the recommended contractor and what the proposed structure would look like.  I will be checking to see whether the contractor that is recommended will be offering us a fixed price, but in general I think this is a good project and I continue to support it,.  However, I have received comments from Buffalo Street residents in the last couple of days, stating that they would prefer not to have this pedestrian/cycle route go by their homes, because of concerns about increased noise, litter and dog droppings.  I’d like to see if there is anything we can do to mitigate those concerns.

Closing doors in winter

In stark contrast to the proposal above to provide outdoor heaters, this report (starting on page 33 of the package) asks Council to provide direction on the question of businesses leaving their doors open in the winter.  Council gets comments from time to time about this environmentally unfriendly practice, and about how it affects our image as a town in a national park.  The difficulty, of course, is that people who have worked in retail (I’ve asked a few now) agree that an open door brings noticeably more people in off the sidewalk.  Weird, but true.  So, if council chooses to ask for a bylaw on this, we would have to enforce it very stringently to ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly. 

MONDAY BHC SHAREHOLDERS’ MEETING

You can see the whole package at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Town+Hall+PDF/Council+Agendas+PDF/2011+Agendas+PDF/council-agenda-120123.pdf

There are two decisions to be made at this meeting:

Points for residency on the registered resale list

In brief, right now, potential buyers get one point per adult applicant for every year lived in the Bow Valley, and one additional point per adult applicant for every year he/she has lived in the Town of Banff.  For most potential home buyers, these residency points constitute the large majority of the points they have that decide where they sit on the Registered Resale List.
The BHC board, after quite a bit of discussion, is recommending that the total points per applicant be capped at 20.  So, for example, under the new system, a person who has lived in Banff for 10 years would be at the maximum, and would have the same credit for residency as someone who has lived in Banff for 20 years.  This change would come into effect after 18 months, so that anyone who is at the top of the list right now would have time to take advantage of that position before the change is made.

There were no comments at the public hearing made on this proposal.  I will be supporting it -- I believe that people have demonstrated their commitment to Banff by the time they’ve lived here for 10 years.  You can see the whole report starting on page 3 of the package.

Moving into the 21st (or maybe the 20th) century

After much discussion, the BHC board is recommending that we go from a door-drop method to an email method of notifying BHC homeowners of matters that affect them.  The recommendation in the report (it starts on page 11 of the package) says “effective immediately”, but I’ll be suggesting that we ask the BHC board to undertake a reasonable transition, so that people who don’t do email are taken care of, and so that everyone has lots of notice of this change.  It will certainly be a timesaver!

THE FINE PRINT

As always, this post reflects my personal understanding of the issues, and my personal opinions.  It is not an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council, nor does it purport to represent their opinions.  I welcome your comments and questions, and I love it when you send me the names of people who want to be added to the email list!

All the best until next time -- Leslie
 

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! 

Here are a few general-interest items:

NEW LOOK FOR THE ACTION REQUEST


Every now and then, I mention the action request.  On the town's website, at the very top of every page except the home page, you'll see a white band with a string of words in black.  Among those words is "Action Request".  If you want to let the town know about a backed-up storm sewer or a burnt-out street-lamp or a broken stop sign or your neighbour's dog that never stops barking, the Action Request is a great feature.  Clicking on those words takes you to a quick and simple online form, so that you can let the town know what the problem is.  If you request a callback, town staff will call you to let you know what action was taken.  Using the Action Request is a quick and easy way to make your concerns known.  It also lets us easily track complaints over time, so that we can identify areas that need more attention.

So here’s what’s changed:  on the town’s new home page www.banff.ca, you won’t see “Action Request” at the top anymore, but the feature is still available.  You need to click on “Quick Links” and then look for the pencil and paper symbol to find it.

COMMUNITY RADIO?


When the Friends of Banff wind up their operations in April, that could be the end of Park Radio.  But maybe not!  With the enthusiastic support of the Friends of Banff board, a group of interested and energetic folks are working together on the idea of running Park Radio on into the future as a community radio station for Banff and Canmore.  If you’re interested and would like to help, contact Joanna Croston at joannna_croston@banffcentre.ca to find out the time and place for their next meeting.

REDUCE, RE-USE AND RECYCLE


We’re doing pretty well on the recycling front, but if you have items that are in good shape and could make a new owner happy, just a reminder of some options:
• Good quality, clean used clothing:  drop-off bin by the fire hall
• Items you’re willing to give away (furniture, appliances, etc):  Bow Valley Freecycle. Go to http://my.freecycle.org and click on "sign up."
• Items you’d like to sell:  Advertize in the Crag and Canyon, the Outlook, or on http://banff.kijiji.ca/ , or on craigslist.ca 

And here’s what Council is up to on Monday ...

MONDAY’S COUNCIL MEETING


Start off your 2012 year of civic engagement by attending a council meeting!  The next meeting is tomorrow, Monday, at 2 p.m. in council chambers at Town Hall, and you are very welcome to attend.  You can see the whole package for tomorrow at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Town+Hall+PDF/Council+Agendas+PDF/2011+Agendas+PDF/council-agenda-120109.pdf

A few highlights ...

Banff Ideas Bank


Colin Funk will be presenting the great ideas that have come from this group in 2011, plus the scheduled topics for 2012.  You can see the full report starting on page 3 of the package.

Businesses with outdoor speakers directed at the sidewalks

Banff has a bylaw prohibiting the use of outdoor speakers to attract people to individual businesses, but you may have noticed that some businesses are ignoring this bylaw.  Council is being asked whether we want to allow this, or to enforce reactively on a complaint basis, or to enforce proactively after a brief education campaign to remind businesses of the bylaw.  I’m in favour of the third option.  Council just updated the Community Standards Bylaw in 2008, including the prohibition of using outdoor speakers in this way, so I would hope that council’s intention here is pretty clear.  You can see the report starting on page 44 of the package.

Outdoor retail display

Back in early 2007, the people who were on council at the time asked Bylaw staff to relax enforcement on outdoor retailing during the construction period on Banff Avenue.  Now that the construction has been over for a couple of years, we’re being asked whether we want to enforce the bylaw that prohibits outdoor retail displays, or whether we want to change it.  Personally, I think that outdoor retail displays of clothing, shoes, souvenirs etc., lower the aesthetic look of the street.  However, I’d be willing to consider limited outdoor display of activity equipment that is for rent (skis, snowboards, bikes, skates), because I think that might encourage people to be active in the outdoors.  You can see the report starting on page 47 of the package.

Water bylaw update


Starting on page 50, you’ll find a report about one important item in the water bylaw:  Who is responsible for the cost of repairs if a house water service freezes up?  The clarified answer in the bylaw amendment is that the homeowner is responsible for any repairs caused by this type of freeze-up that originates with the house and its service line. 
 

Take these precautions to prevent your water pipes from freezing:

• Insulate crawl spaces and make sure that the air around your water service line is heated.

• Insulate exposed pipes where they enter the home.

• Install a “free flow bleeder” to allow a small volume of water to flow through your lines. It will prevent freezing, but can be wasteful, so it is important to size the assembly appropriately.

 

Temporary borrowing bylaw


Every year, council is asked to pass a temporary borrowing bylaw, to carry the town over until tax revenues for the year are collected.  You can see the bylaw starting on page 77.

BANFF HOUSING CORPORATION PUBLIC HEARING

At 4:30 on Monday, in the council chambers, council will meet wearing their BHC Shareholders’ hats.  This meeting is to hear public comments on a proposal to change the point system for the Registered Resale List – you are very welcome to attend and comment.  In brief, right now, potential buyers get one point per adult applicant for every year lived in the Bow Valley, and one additional point per adult applicant for every year he/she has lived in the Town of Banff.  For most potential home buyers, these residency points constitute the large majority of the points they have that decide where they sit on the Registered Resale List.

The BHC board, after quite a bit of discussion, is recommending that the total points per applicant be capped at 20.  So, for example, under the new system, a person who has lived in Banff for 10 years would be at the maximum, and would have the same credit for residency as someone who has lived in Banff for 20 years.  This change would come into effect after 18 months, so that anyone who is at the top of the list right now would have time to take advantage of that position before the change is made.
You can see the whole background report at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Locals+PDF/Housing_BHC/housing-registered-resale-list.pdf

THE FINE PRINT

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

All the best until next time - Leslie

 

Hello everyone:

Right off the top, I’d like to give everyone a quick reminder about Santas Anonymous.  You’ll see the donation boxes at Town Hall and around town – I hope you will take a moment to donate!  You can find a list of preferred food and gift items on the town’s website at http://www.banff.ca/locals-residents/social-services-programs/low-income-residents/santas-anonymous.htm    Let’s help all Banffites have a merry Christmas!

BUDGET UPDATE

You can follow the budget process at this link:  http://www.banff.ca/town-hall/finance/budget_2012.htm  You’ll see various references on that page to items having been approved by council, but I should note that nothing is final until Council signs off on the whole budget – up until then, any member of council can ask for anything to be reconsidered. 

Council has been through the capital budget (although it is not yet approved), and now we’re working on the operating budget.  There are going to be at least two more meetings:  Monday morning from 9 – noon, and Wednesday from 9 – 2 pm.  As always, you’re welcome to attend these meetings.

There are big challenges this year, the biggest of which is the funding for the RCMP.  Last year, the province announced that it would decrease its funding of our RCMP by almost $400,000.  Unfortunately, we don’t feel that cutting the level of police service here is an option (especially since the province also closed our courthouse, meaning that Banff RCMP now spend much more time going to and from court and waiting around in court in Canmore), so Banff taxpayers will be picking up the tab.  This item alone will lead to a 2.02% tax increase.   Then there is the proposed expense for protecting our urban forest, which I support – but it means 0.31% on taxes.  Then there’s the community’s commitment to the Alberta Winter Games – 0.26% on taxes.  Then there are the many community groups who have asked for increased funding from the town this year to support their efforts.  Budget time is never easy.

To put these numbers in proportion:  every 1% of increase means a cost of approximately $2.65 per month to the average Banff household.

MORE ON FORMULA BUSINESSES

I told you in my “special edition” update about my motion to have the town look at a quota system for formula businesses.  At least, I thought (and some other people thought) that I said “formula businesses”.  But others in the room, who were also diligently listening and taking notes, feel that I said “formula restaurants”, and that is what appears in the draft minutes.  So, to make this one crystal clear, I’ll be bringing a follow-up motion to council on Monday to add “formula retail” to the earlier motion.  Council can choose to approve or not approve this.

MONDAY’S COUNCIL MEETING

Council meets Monday afternoon at 2 pm, and you are 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/2011+Agendas+PDF/council-agenda-111212.pdf

Here are some highlights from the agenda ...

Banff Tea Company presentation

Susanne Gillies-Smith of the Banff Tea Company will be presenting a request for an immediate moratorium on applications for chain stores while a quota system is being considered.  You can read the information and accompanying letters starting on page 3 of the package.

At present, I'm not in favour of a moratorium while we're looking at the question of quotas.  I think it's important that council sets regulations and policies that people know about in advance, that we look at the whole community and its needs in doing so, and that we don't change the rules of the game without reasonable notice (and lots of input).   If the community decides, through a public input process, that a quota system is a good idea, and if council votes it in, I would be in favour of ensuring that we don't exceed that quota during the time that we will have to wait for Parks to approve the bylaw -- which, as we know, can be more than a year. If that necessitated a freeze at that time, I would be willing to look at that.

Council honoraria

Want to see what Council gets paid?  You can read all about these princely sums, starting on page 48 of the package.  Every year, Council honoraria are brought to council for consideration of whether they should be adjusted to keep pace with inflation.  The last time they were adjusted for inflation was in January of 2008.

Community measures report

This report tracks key environmental, community and economic indicators year over year to see how we’re doing on implementing the goals in our Community Plan.  You can see the background information starting on page 87 of the package, and you can see the report itself at this link: 
http://www.banff.ca/town-hall/banff-community-plan/community-measures.htm

So – how are we doing, compared to 2009?  Here are a few examples – you’ll find many more in the report:
• We’re recycling more, but we’re also generating more waste overall
• We’re using slightly more water per person, but slightly less energy
• Our public transit costs are up, but we’re still using way less taxpayer support than most public transit systems.  Ridership is up very slightly.
• The number of people taking community classes is down

Outdoor rink – High School grounds

School board staff and town staff have worked together to create a proposal for use of the high school field for a skating rink.  Lovely as this would be, it’s hard to support at a cost of $51K for a 16-week season.  You can see the proposal starting on page 89 of the report.

LAST UPDATE FOR 2011

Unless something extraordinary happens, this will be my final council update for 2011, so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.  Many thanks to all the folks who have commented, questioned and generally encouraged me about this email update during the past year!!  I’m so delighted that you find it useful, and I look forward to sending you the first issue of 2012, sometime around January 7.

All the best until then – Leslie

P.S. - THE FINE PRINT

As always, any opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post does not represent the official opinions of the town of Banff or its Council.  But my guess is that they all wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, as well. ;-D

 

Hello everyone:

I don’t normally burden you with extra emails, but there are a couple of things going on right now that may cause people some concern, so I’d like to give you some background.

NOT A TOWN SURVEY

An alert reader (thank you, JB!) let me know that he was contacted by a phone survey a couple of days ago.  The survey person asked for his opinions on the “Ban-iff” (!) water and wastewater services.  He emailed me to ask if the town is doing this, and if so, why.

I checked with the town manager and this is *not* a survey being done by the town.  We have no idea who is doing it, or why.  If any of you happen to be surveyed and happen to find out who the client is, I’d love to know.

I hope they call me!  I’d be delighted to tell them that we have drinking water so good that I dream about it when I’m travelling elsewhere, and that we are very proud of the excellent quality of our wastewater treatment.

WHAT DID COUNCIL *ACTUALLY* SAY/DO ABOUT FORMULA RESTAURANTS ON MONDAY?

Having read this week’s Crag editorial, I’m concerned that you may get an odd impression of council’s discussion last Monday about chain businesses.  Of course, it’s not official until the minutes are approved, but here’s my personal recollection of how things played out:

As I mentioned in my last email update, council received the report from the Land Use Bylaw working group on Monday.  Stav Karlos came very well prepared with a series of motions, so that council could give clear direction about how we want to move forward.

On the motion to outright ban all formula businesses from here on, council voted no.  However, there was general interest in exploring the “quota” idea brought forward by the working group report – in other words, defining what “balance” means by putting an actual number on how many formula businesses are OK.  This might be a percentage, as in “no more than 30% of our restaurants will be formula-based”.  Or it might be a number, as in “at any one time, we will have no more than 30 formula-based restaurants in Banff”.  Based on what I hear, most people believe that zero is too low – they see a place in our community for some formula fast food or some formula retail.  Most people believe that 100% would be way too many – they want lots of small, unique businesses here.  So the answer falls somewhere in between.

Council passed a motion to have the planning people draft a process that will engage public input to come up with an appropriate quota level for formula-based restaurants and retail.  They’ll bring the draft process back to council, and – once it’s approved – we’ll be asking for your opinions.  Our goal is still to finish the Land Use Bylaw review by the end of 2012, so all this will be happening fairly soon.  I’ll keep you informed so that you can have your say.

THE FINE PRINT

As always, this post represents my own personal opinions, and does not purport to represent the opinions of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments!

All the best until next time -- Leslie

 

Hello everyone:

What perfect weather for hunkering down and preparing for meetings.  Good thing, because this time of year is incredibly busy for council. 

BUDGET MEETINGS

As I mentioned in my last email to you, we have two budget meetings this week (Monday and Wednesday, 9 am – 12 noon).  Both will be focussing on the capital budget.   You are very welcome to attend these meetings – they are open to the public.  You can see all the background information for these meetings at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/town-hall/finance/budget_2012.htm

Just scroll to the bottom of the page to see the current approved projects, the proposed new projects, the state of the Town’s capital reserves, and so on.

A few highlights to note:

Having done a thorough ranking of all the roads projects based on the current condition of the infrastructure, administration is proposing that we re-do the timing on some of these projects.  In the proposal, Cave Avenue reconstruction comes first in 2013, followed by the 300 block of Banff Avenue in 2014-15, Otter Street in 2015-16, and St Julien in 2017.  The roadway condition assessments and the very detailed costing sheets are in the public documents.  I’m pleased and impressed to see the level of objective assessment that has gone into this.

The town’s capital reserves are definitely looking healthier.  While we have an “infrastructure deficit” like pretty well every municipality in Canada, we are in a much better position than most and our trend is toward improvement, not toward increasing problems.  You may be interested in the “Debt” headings in the Capital Reserves document - you’ll see that 2012 is the last year of the debt for Banff Refreshing.

Some interesting new projects are proposed for council’s consideration.  These include major work on the library entryway, fencing for an off-leash dog park, Legacy Trail connections, a new “columbarium” (a place for cremation urns) at the Old Cemetery, etc.

COUNCIL ON MONDAY

You can see the whole package for council’s meeting on Monday at the following link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Town+Hall+PDF/Council+Agendas+PDF/2011+Agendas+PDF/council-agenda-111128.pdf

Land Use Bylaw working group

This group of dedicated volunteers has met 10 times, for three hours per time, in recent weeks.  We owe them all a debt of gratitude!  Chair David Bayne is bringing their final report to council tomorrow.  You can read the full report starting on page 3 of the package.

On the question of whether we should have spot zoning for gas stations and grocery stores, their consensus recommendation is no.  They feel that there is not an evident problem at present, and that even if there were, spot zoning would not be an effective approach.

On the question of whether we should attempt to control formula fast food establishments, they did not reach consensus.  However, a portion of the group felt that quotas might be worth exploring.  This would mean that the Land Use Bylaw would specify the total number of FFR establishments that would be in town at any given time, or would say “of our total restaurants, only X% may be FFR”.  This idea is interesting, because it does not involve the Town meddling in each and every individual transaction, and it provides long-term clarity over what will and will not be allowed, now and in the future.   I look forward to further exploration of this approach.

On the question of housing and parking requirements for new development, the group provided input rather than recommendations.  The ideas and questions that they raise will be valuable in the further development of the land use bylaw.

Off-leash dog park briefing

Council received input from 438 people on this issue.  Starting on page 46 of the package, you can see the results of the survey and discussion of the two proposed locations.  This is a briefing to help Council decide what to put in the capital budget for this project.  I’m inclined to think that the industrial compound location is the more workable one.  Kudos to all the folks who said they would help with donations, fundraising, or keeping the dog park clean!

Tax exempt status

Starting on page 121 of the package, you can see the report on all the properties in Banff that could potentially be taxable (or partly taxable) but at present receive tax exemptions from the Town of Banff.  Council has decided that it’s reasonable to review these exemptions once every three years to see whether they should be continued.    Each property has provided a background information document on their application for tax exemption.

There are many more tax-exempt properties in the town (schools, churches, etc) but they are not on this list because they are not potentially taxable.

Letters regarding Banff Tea Company

Council has received input from 20 people about the Banff Tea Company and the possibility that David’s Tea may be considering renting a Banff location.  I read every word, and you, too, can read these letters and emails, starting on page 154 of the package.

All the best until next time -- Leslie