Hello everyone:

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


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:

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.


You can see the whole package for council’s meeting on Monday at the following link:

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

Just thought that you might like to know about Council’s budget process.

You can see the schedule of budget meetings and pick up agenda packages at this link:

Budget meetings are scheduled 9 am to 12 noon on:
November 21
November 28
November 30
December 5
December 7
December 12
All budget meetings are open to the public – we’d be delighted if you were to attend.

On November 21, council will hear from 11 different community organizations that would like funding from the Town.  You can see the package at this link:

On November 28 and 30, we will be looking at the capital budget, followed by the operating budget in December.

The financial plan http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Town+Hall+PDF/Budget+PDF/financial-plan.pdf  shows the assumptions and principles we asked staff to follow in creating the draft budget. 


Council has a very busy schedule in the coming week.  But before I get to that, how about a little ...


The library has its fundraising gala this coming Friday (November 18) at 7:30 pm.  I hear from board members that there are some wonderful auction items.  Tickets ($25) are available from board members and at the library.  It’s a great opportunity to see all your friends, brighten up a November evening and support the library, so I hope to see you there.


Parks planning forum

This week is the annual Parks Canada planning forum. 

Wednesday evening at 7 pm, you can join the Banff superintendents for their “open mike” Q & A session (Harkin Hall at the Admin Building).  They’ll be providing some background on what’s gone on in the park this year, and answering any park-related questions from the audience. 

Thursday from 8:30 am to 4 pm (203 Kinnear building at The Banff Centre) will be the round table section of the planning forum.  This year’s areas of concentration are winter activities and trails.  There will be lots of opportunities for all those present to get involved in the small-group sessions.

Off-leash dog park

Go to www.banff.ca and click on the link from the home page to fill out a survey about off-leash dog park options.  Whether you’re a dog owner or not, this is an opportunity to comment on a project that may show up on the capital budget in the near future.


Monday from 10 to noon, council will be meeting as the Finance Committee. This is an open public meeting and – as always – you are very welcome to attend.  You can see the agenda package here:

Pre-planning for the audit

The Town’s auditors (KPMG) will present their plan for how the Town’s audit will be carried out at the end of this year.  The audit process is very important, not just because of the double-check on the accuracy of our reporting, but also because the auditors point out any improvements we can make in our financial tracking and reporting systems.

Third quarter results and forecast

Starting on page 4 of the package, you can see the town’s third-quarter financial results and the forecasting to year-end.  The short version is that staff is predicting that the Town, overall, will be right on budget at year-end, which is excellent news. 

Drilling down into the detail, you’ll see quite a bit of movement up and down in various areas.  For example, the Town has had to transfer $256K out of the budget stabilization reserve to offset the decrease in provincial funding for our police services.  Council chose to transfer $90K out of the budget stabilization reserve in order to do the tree replacements on Banff Ave all at once.  Transfers to capital reserves in sewer and water are down because the consumption of water was less than we expected.  The town has saved more on the wages and benefits line than council had asked for, but this extra saving has been offset by over-budget expenditures in other areas.  On each page, notes at the bottom explain the reasons for items being over or under budget.


Council meets Monday at 2 pm – you’re very welcome to come and listen in!  You can see the full agenda package at this link:  http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Town+Hall+PDF/Council+Agendas+PDF/2011+Agendas+PDF/council-agenda-111114.pdf

Here are some highlights from the agenda:

Council 2012 priorities

Every year, council highlights some key items that we’d like to concentrate on (while, of course, keeping all the other balls in the air as well!).  The 2012 priorities are coming to council for approval on Monday.  You can read the detail in the report that starts on page 8 of the package, but the short-form list is:
• Sustainable transportation (updating the transportation plan, working to ease congestion and reduce emissions)
• Phase 2 and 3 of the Land Use Bylaw
• Supporting the Competitive Initiative (this is the plan to focus on student travel, regional conferences, winter animation, etc)
• Seeking resort community status (the attempt to deal with our unique financial challenges through different funding approaches)
• And (yay!) urban forest management (continued implementation of the forest renewal plan)

Buying the Spirit Bear

Michale Lang is bringing a proposal that the Town should partner with the Whyte to permanently acquire the new bear sculpture that’s in front of the Whyte.  The Whyte has already put together $87K in funding support.  I love this idea!  Unfortunately, it would mean going against the opinion already expressed by the public art committee, so that makes it rather tricky.  You can read Michale’s letter on page 11 of the package.

Cave Avenue Reconstruction

A complete re-do of Cave Avenue is in the works for 2012.  Starting on page 25 of the package, you can read a briefing about the extensive public consultation process that has contributed to the design, and get some sense of what the final product is going to look like.  I’m hoping we will see more about the actual final design in a presentation in the meeting.  I’m particularly curious about the proposed width of the new road, with its parking spaces, bike lane and sidewalk, as compared to the existing roadway.

Contract renewal for Cascade Plaza public parking

As you may know, the town contracts with Cascade Plaza to make some of their parkade available for public parking.  This contract is ending soon, and administration is asking to negotiate an additional 5 years.

Social media

You can read a briefing about the Town’s use of social media, starting on page 93 of the package.  As you’ll see in the report, we’re having a lot of success with Facebook.  If you haven’t seen the Banff Facebook page, you can view it here:  https://www.facebook.com/#!/townofbanff  ... and perhaps Friend it, Like it, etc.


Council members will be meeting in strategy sessions at other times this week to get an initial look at the applications for tax exemption (decisions will be made later in a public meeting) and to review the budget strategy.  I also have a regional transit commission meeting on Wednesday – we are hard at work on the operating bylaw and financial procedures for the organization.


I know I’ve mentioned this before, but a lot of people still seem to be unaware of the Action Request, a great feature on the Town’s website  www.banff.ca   At the very top of every 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 an unshovelled sidewalk 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.


This post expresses my opinions only.  It does not purport to express the opinions of the Town of Banff or its Council.  Any errors are mine alone.  I am always happy to hear your comments or help with your questions about these items or any others relating to the municipal government.


Hello everyone:

Here are some highlights of what Council is up to this week ...


The Banff Housing Corporation is looking for a public member.  You can read all about this important opportunity here:
and here:

I`m on the BHC board, and I find it challenging and a worthwhile use of my time.  I hope that you might be keen to work on this important issue in our community.  All applications are appreciated, however the BHC is presently seeking a non-BHC-homeowner member in keeping with the working group recommendations.  Closing date is October 27th.


The Finance Committee meets Monday at 1 pm in Council Chambers.  This is an open public meeting, you are welcome to attend!  You can see the whole package at this link:

Reduction in 2012 waste utility rates

As you know, we went to a solid waste utility this past year, and we’re phasing in the utility payments over time.  As well, the Town has undertaken solid waste collection for Parks, resulting in some efficiencies in staff and equipment costs.  Looking at costs and revenues so far, administration is suggesting that we lower residential waste utility rates in 2012.  You can see the report starting on page 4 of the package.  I’m inclined to support Option 2, which would result in a 12% decrease in waste utility bills to homeowners, while still keeping enough money in the utility to pay for more frequent pickups of the items that people dump illegally beside the bins.  I don’t like to “reward” people by picking up their illegally dumped items, but a lot of people (myself included) really dislike seeing the mess around the bins, and more frequent pickups will help with this.  We’ll keep up the effort to educate people about the many ways to legally get rid of their over-size waste items.

While I’m on this topic – I’d just like to put in a plug for Bow Valley Freecycle.  http://groups.freecycle.org/BowValleyFreecycle/posts/all   This is a way to find people who might be able to use your no-longer-wanted items, or find items for FREE that you need.  I’ve used it to acquire an office chair and to give away a backyard trampoline.  It’s a great system.

Change in the Recreation Centre borrow

As you’ll remember, the Rec Centre project came in $1.6 million under budget.  Furthermore, as you’ll see in the report that starts on page 7 of the package, staff have found a way to save money on the borrowing that was done for the project.  Because the Rec Centre has met and exceeded energy saving requirements, the Town was eligible for a $400K grant and a $4 million low-interest loan from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Fund.  The report is about options for paying back some of the money we borrowed at 3.344% and replacing it with a longer-term loan at 2%.  Net saving on the cost of borrowing will be over $300,000.  This is the result of excellent work by all the staff involved.

Public membership on the Finance Committee

The report that starts on page 9 of the package is a way of opening the discussion about whether we should appoint public members to the Finance Committee, or whether there should be a separate Budget Committee with public members, or whether the present system works fine.  At present, the Finance Committee consists of all council members, and its meetings are all open to the public, with agenda packages on the town`s website.  Would YOU be keen to be a public member on the Town`s finance committee – do let me know!


You can see the overall package for the council meeting at this link:
It starts at 2 pm in the council chambers, and you are very welcome to attend.  There are two opportunities during the meeting for people in the gallery to ask questions about items on the agenda.

Here are some highlights:

Delegate presentations

Parks Canada will be making a presentation about the Wildfire Plan, and the Biosphere Institute will be making a presentation about the work of their organization.  Alas, I can`t tell you more, because we don`t have any advance written material on those two presentations.

Council process stuff

Council will be asked to approve a new `BYOD`` (Bring Your Own Device) approach.  For the past 4 years, council members have had laptops issued to them by the town and maintained by the town.  This approach has saved unimaginable reams of paper.  The new suggestion, which will cost the Town less money, is that councillors should buy and maintain their own portable devices, receiving an allowance of $500 per year for that purpose, which will be a taxable benefit.  You can read about this starting on page 13 of the package.

Council will also be asked to approve a revised policy for making committee appointments.  One item that I want to discuss here is whether we should have a limit on how long any one person can serve on a particular committee.  I know it`s very hard to get volunteers, but I also know that having some turnover is healthy.  I would love to hear your thoughts about this.

Methods for prioritizing and costing out road projects

You`ll see an information briefing, starting on page 37 of the package, about how the Town will prioritize and cost out road work throughout the town.  There`s a detailed example showing how a Rabbit Street project would be costed.  I look forward to hearing the details of the actual prioritization process – I assume they`ll be in a verbal presentation.


But yes, there is even MORE fun to be had in council chambers on Monday!  Council will also be having its annual organizational meeting.  This is the meeting at which we set the schedule for the coming year, and appoint council members, parks reps and public reps to various committees.  You can see the package for this meeting at this link:


As always, this post represents just my point of view and does not purport to represent the point of view of the Town of Banff or its Council. 


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  As the turkey roasts to golden perfection, perhaps you have a moment to read about Tuesday’s council meeting ...


First, a reminder that council moves to Tuesday this week, because of the holiday Monday.  The meeting will be at 2 pm in council chambers, and – as always – you are very welcome to attend.  There are two opportunities in each meeting for members of the public to ask questions about items on the day’s agenda.  You can see the whole agenda package at this link:

Here are a few highlights:

Report on Library Benchmarks

You can see how the Banff Public Library’s usage, collection size, and cost compares to others in the province by taking a look at the detailed report from the library, starting on page 3 of the package.  Lots of good news here:  our library is free to users, we fund our library by more per capita than the average community in Alberta, we have 2.5 times the visits per capita of the average community, we have a large library collection for our size, and our library gets excellent reviews from its users.

Skateboards, 11 pm – 7 am

The bylaw amendment is coming back to council for second and third reading.  This amendment would lift the present ban on skateboard use between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am.  As you’ll recall, I asked council to wait until this meeting for final consideration, in order to give people on the other side of the question a chance to comment.  The town has received only three requests to keep the ban in place, along with over a dozen requests to lift it.  It therefore appears to me that the concern about noise is not as widespread as I had thought.   With all that in mind, I’m feeling inclined to vote to lift the ban – although, of course, I’ll listen to any additional comments at Council on Tuesday.  I will be asking council, however, to place a mark in the council calendar for this to come back for a follow-up report a year from now, just to see what the consequences of changing the bylaw have been at that point.

By the way, an interesting side effect of this whole conversation has been reading people’s comments about what they believe cyclists are and aren’t required to do at night.  Just to help clear this up, I will mention that the Alberta Highway Traffic Safety Act requires cyclists travelling at night to have a white light at the front, a red light at the rear, and reflectors visible from the sides.  Fines are listed for those not complying.

Water and sewer rates

Council is being asked to phase in water and sewer rate increases over the next 20 years, to ensure that our capital reserves are ready for the necessary repairs and maintenance that will come up.  If we go with the 20-year option, the effect on the average residence in 2012 would be a $20 increase, assuming levels of consumption stayed the same.  I think this is a small price to pay to guarantee our clean water and clean river into the future, so I’m inclined to go with this recommendation, although council will also be considering a 40-year phase-in.  You can see the whole report starting on page 40 of the package.

Two new 1-bedroom units, but more costs than expected

The town has a staff housing reserve, which is built up from rental revenue from staff housing units.  The purpose of the reserve is to make sure that we can repair and replace units as we need to. 

At present, the town is working on a project to build two new one-bedroom units into the basement of an existing town-owned house on Cougar St.  This is being done to meet the housing requirements that were part of the Rec Centre redevelopment.  Council had approved a $125K budget, with $42K from the Rec Centre contribution and the remainder from the staff housing reserves.  Unfortunately, tenders came in higher than expected and – between that and some proposed environmental upgrades, we’re being asked to increase the budget for the project to $183,000 (the additional money will come from the staff housing reserves).

I agree in principle with providing more housing, and with environmental upgrades.  I will be asking about the design process, however, since we not only have a project going over its designed budget, but we also have a huge spread in the tenders, which leads me to wonder whether the design and specs were clear enough for builders to do good bids.

You can see the whole report starting on page 48 of the package.

Transportation planning

Starting on page 55 of the package, you’ll see a briefing report on the town’s ongoing work on transportation planning.  Perhaps the most interesting part is on pages 69-74, where the writer compares our 1998 transportation plan objectives with what is in place in 2011.  It’s actually rather encouraging to see the progress on many fronts, although – of course – new problems emerge.  The town is working on a transportation plan update, and you can see the details of how this will be done in the report.

Farmers’ Market 2012

Council is being asked to lay out the conditions under which a farmers’ market could take place in 2012.  The suggestion is that it would run weekly for 14 weeks, rather than 10 as it did this year.  When you look at the report (starting on page 81 of the package) it is pretty disappointing to see the tiny amount of user feedback that was collected, and – although the planning department did interview local businesses – business feedback is not included in the report.  So I will have some questions to ask about this, especially since council emphasized the need for such feedback when we gave permission for the pilot project. 

My own personal observations would suggest that the market was a success and that residents enjoyed it (I sure did!) and that it did not appear to create major disruption for traffic or for other businesses.  But one person’s personal observation is a pretty flimsy foundation for decision-making. I’d like to support it for next year, but would be happy to hear what you think!


Opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post does not purport to represent the position(s) of the Town of Banff or its Council.