Hello everyone:
I hope you’re having a great long weekend!  Because of the holiday on Monday, council this weel will be on Tuesday afternoon, at 2 pm in council chambers.  As always, you are very welcome to attend. 
You can see the full council package at this link:
Highlights include:
Rental Bike system proposal
Some of you will be familiar with the success of public bike rental systems such as Velib in Paris.  The BCHS Socials 30 class is coming to council with a proposal that we do something similar here in Banff.  They’ve been working with Mayor Sorensen on how to present such an idea, and will be coming to council with their presentation on Tuesday.  You can see the full text starting on page 4 of the package.
I would love to have a system like this in Banff, and look forward to discussing their idea with the students.
2010 Audited Financial Statements
Starting on page 13 of the package, you can read the Town’s audited financial statements for 2010, which are coming to council for approval before being sent to the provincial Municipal Affairs department.  In general, you’ll see that the value of our tangible capital assets has increased and our indebtedness has increased.  These changes are largely due to the Recreation Centre project.  On page 29 of the package, you can see detailed information about the nature and timing of our debt and debt repayments.  Page 30 of the package shows that we are well within the debt and debt servicing limits required by Alberta Municipal Affairs.  Council continues to operate on the policy that our capital reserves may be temporarily in the red, but our capital planning must always take us to a positive balance within five years.
Proposed pedi-cab operation
Starting on page 70 of the package, you’ll see a report about reintroducing pedi-cabs into Banff.  If council wants to do this, then we need to keep in mind several things:
·         The traffic bylaw would need to be amended
·         We would need to set a top number for total pedicabs, plus a top number for pedicabs operated by any one operator
·         The Municipal Planning Commission would need to consider conditions on the development permit, such things as: routes, location and nature of storage, pickup, drop-off and parking
I’m inclined to support this, but I do think there are major conditions to be imposed in order to make sure that pedicabs don’t interfere with other vehicles’ movement or parking.
Sidewalk stickers
Council is being asked to approve the use of red, 3 ft x 3 ft sidewalk stickers to advertise locations at which Banff Culture Weekend events are taking place.  These locations are 3 commercial galleries plus the Whyte Museum.  We are being asked to permit the signs to remain in place for 65 days, because there are three-day events planned at either end of that period.
Last year, these signs were approved by administration for installation just before Banff Culture weekend in August, and removal before September 28.  They were eventually removed in early November.
In general, I do not believe that the public realm should be used to advertize individual businesses.  An approval of this proposal would logically lead to similar signs outside each restaurant for Food and Wine festivals, outside each bike shop for Bike Fest, and so on.
As well, we have a 14-day limit on special event signage for a reason.  I’m surprised that Planning staff would recommend leaving special event signage in place for 59 non-event days between two sets of three-day events.  I look forward to hearing why they believe that should be done.  You can see the report starting on page 84 of the package.
Municipal Census coming up
June 13 is proposed as Banff’s official municipal census date.  “What?” you exclaim, “I just filled out my census two weeks ago!”  Yes, you’re right, but that was the federal census and this is our town census.  We’re required to do this by the province, and it’s a good thing, because we ask questions about housing, transportation and social programs that don’t get covered on the feds’ short-form census.  Having accurate information on population numbers plus these other items helps us make the case for grant money for various projects, thus saving the Banff taxpayers’ money.  The full report starts on page 95 of the package.
As always, the opinions expressed in this post are mine alone, and I’m not pretending that they’re the official opinions of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your questions or comments!
All the best until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone, and Happy Mother's Day to all those moms out there. 


Tomorrow's council meeting agenda is a long one, and includes some items carried over from last meeting.  You can see the entire package at this link:


Here are some of the highlights ...

New composting approach

You'll recall that we saw some information on this a few weeks ago, and asked for two options - one in which we own the equipment, the other in which the N-Viro company that will be marketing the soil amendment product would also own the equipment.  This was because we were worried about spending all the capital money on equipment, then finding out after five years of operation that the program wasn't working out. 

Starting on page 9 of the package, you can see the resulting report.  It appears that owning the equipment ourselves is the best deal, but that's because the company would be charging us 9% per year on their cost of owning the equipment, while depreciating it as well -- all this at a time when a good commercial rate of borrowing is around 5%.  To me, this unusually high interest rate suggests that N-Viro possibly views this project as risky.  I will be asking more questions.

On the plus side, our operations manager has now visited sites where this process is in action -- I look forward to hearing what he learned from those visits.

Proposed Farmers' Market

The farmers' market idea is coming back to us with a recommendation for approval, for ten Wednesdays between June 29 and August 31.  I will be asking for more assurances about where the vendors come from, and the balance between food/produce and other items.  I also think that the proposed street use permit fee, which works out to around $35 per vendor per day, is too low to compensate the community for the additional work that will need to be done each week.  It is also, I believe, considerably lower than the per-day vendors' fees typically charged by arts and crafts shows in the area.  You can read the whole report starting on page 16 of the package.

Tunnel Mountain Campgrounds hook up to Town’s sewage system


You may not know that Tunnel Mountain Campgrounds, equivalent to a summer village of around 1300 inhabitants, drain their sewage along the old Anthracite road to settling ponds and a sand filter in the old Peyto Pit.  This is not exactly state-of-the-art sewage treatment (although the ducks seem to like it), so it’s good news that Parks Canada has decided to hook up to the Town’s system.  They will pay the same utility rates as other out-of-town users, and so this is good for the environment and for the cost recovery of our system.  You can read the briefing starting on page 55 of the package.


2014 Alberta Winter Games bid preparation


Since we last saw information about this possible bid, a small group of determined volunteer and staff members from both communities has been working away at the various pieces of information needed to prepare an actual bid (due in June).  This report (starting on page 84 of the package) tells us about their progress.  There is a lot of good info here, but I still have a few questions.  For example, the report shows that our own ever-energetic Mary Brewster has been working 3-5 hours a week on this project, then making up the time on her usual tasks in the evening and on weekends – that’s surely not sustainable.  I also still need to see an indication that we will actually get the commitment of the hundreds of volunteers needed from each community.  And there is still no indication of how much money the Town of Banff will have to contribute, and when it will be due.  Finally, the report makes it clear that the two towns are on the hook for any deficit, but there is no information on where a surplus would go. 


Wolf Street washroom – solar panels?


We are being asked (starting on page 93) to expand the present Wolf Street washroom renovation project to include solar panels on the roof and better exterior lighting and signage.  This would be funded from capital reserves.  I think this is an excellent idea – I think we should be doing this on the roof of every building that we do work on.


New purchasing policy


Council will be asked to pass the new purchasing policy that we reviewed in detail at the Finance Committee meeting.  You can see this report starting on page 98 of the package.


Recreation, Parks and Culture activities 2007-2010


This report tells you all about program participation, facility usage, and the broad range of work done by this department.  It starts on page 112 of the package.


Communications policy and strategic plan


These items (report starts on page 127) will guide the Town’s communications efforts.  I like the majority of what we’re seeing here, but would like to have discussions with council on a few items.  For example:

·         There’s a reference to communicating with the “appropriate Banff public”.  How do we determine who the appropriate audiences are for various initiatives?  I don’t want to see us relying too much on “stakeholders” while spending less effort on the general residents.

·         There are references to making sure that programs, buildings, and so on are identified in ways that conform with the Town’s identity.  I’d like to go a little farther and specify that the Town’s logo is what we use for Town programs, and that we don’t need to create additional logos.

·         There’s a reference to challenging “negative and inaccurate information from third parties”.  Of course we should challenge inaccurate information, but negative opinions are fair game, as far as I’m concerned.  Everyone has the right to freely disagree with Town decisions.


Other items


Some other items were carried over from the April 26 meeting, and you can read all about them in my previous email.   They include:

·         Bow River Utility Crossing

·         FCSS annual plan

·         Banff Housing Corporation shareholders’ meeting and AGM




As always, opinions expressed in this email are mine alone.  This email does not purport to represent the opinions of the Town of Banff or its Council.  If you’d like to be taken off this mailing list, just let me know by email.  I’ll only whine a little bit.

Unfortunately, I seem to have hit some sort of maximum on the blog entry, so here are a few remaining details on the BHC meeting:

We will also be asked to approve bylaw changes that bring the bylaw up to date.  These include items such as the new board composition (more public members, more homeowners).  You can see all the changes starting on page 20 of the package ...


And there is an important report about administration fees.  As per last year's working group recommendations, the BHC board has reviewed the costs related to administering existing properties.  In other words, if the BHC did nothing else, what would its annual operations cost?  This was done in order to recommend a fair level for BHC homeowners' annual administration fees.  The report provides background on the figures, and states that the annual cost in 2011 would be $45,020.  It goes on to recommend an increase in annual administration fees to $250 per unit by 2012.

As per the process that came out of the working group, you can expect council to send this proposal out for public input and to hold a public meeting, before making a decision on whether to accept this recommendation.

Hello everyone, and Happy Easter!  What a glorious spring day - I'm headed out to enjoy it as soon as I bring you up to date on what's happening at and around council.


LUB Phase 2

We've had two different rounds of public "kiosk" events at places such as Cascade Plaza, Safeway and Nesters -- thanks so much to the landlords and business owners and managers who have been so patient with us!  I enjoyed the chance to chat with many of you about the Land Use Bylaw proposals, and I do hope that you went home and filled out the online survey.  Just in case you lost the card with the URL on it, here's the link to the survey.  Doing it is a great way to learn about the proposals, and have your say:  www.banff.ca/ourlanduse

Different people and organizations have also sent us detailed letters with their thoughts about the Land Use Bylaw -- that's another great way to make your opinion known.

Federal election

The federal election is important to all Canadians -- even more important to us because the federal government (via Parks Canada) has many direct impacts on what happens in and around the Town of Banff.  If you missed the all-candidates' forum at the Banff Centre last Wednesday, or if you want to hear a forum where the incumbent is in attendance, the next forum is in Canmore, Wednesday April 27 (the date is wrong in the RM Outlook ad) at 7:30 at the Cornerstone Theatre.  Bring your questions and I'll see you there!


Yes, that's right -- the council meeting is on Tuesday this week at 2 pm in Council Chambers.  As always, you are welcome to attend!  You can see the whole package for the meeting at this link:


Here are some of the highlights ...


James Barkley will be bringing a request for council to reconsider having pedi-cabs in town.  You can see his presentation starting on page 4 of the package.

Banff Farmers' Market

Jolene Brewster and Rene Geber will be bringing their preliminary ideas about how to do a farmers' market in Banff.  Many people in town like this idea - it will be great if we can sort out the many issues involved.  You can see the presentation starting on page 9 of the package.

Banff Legion

Town of Banff staff and the Banff Legion have been talking about whether the Town should tax the part of the Legion which is taxable.  The Legion's presentation asks Council to continue to exempt from taxes all parts of their operation, and describes their contributions to the community.  You can see the presentation starting on page 28 of the package.

2011 tax rates

 You've all received your assessment notices in the mail, and now it's time for Council to set the 20111 tax rates:  the residential and non-residential rates that will be applied to properties in town in order to generate the amount of tax revenue laid out in the approved budget.  This is always a complex decision, and seems even more so this year.  You can see the whole report starting on page 47 of the package.  Here are some of the major factors that are part of this decision:

  • Change in taxable assessment:  the economy has affected the value of properties in town.  On average, the value of commercial properties has dropped by about 20% this year.  The value of residential properties has increased by about 3% on average.  That makes it likely that some of the tax burden of the town would shift from commercial taxpayers to residential taxpayers.  Overall, the value of the town's taxable properties has dropped by 5.6%.
  • The waste utility:  this year, we phase in 1/4 of the new user-pay waste utility rates -- that means that your taxes come down and your utility fees go up.  That makes it hard to compare tax rates year-to-year -- we have to keep adding the waste cost back in to get a true apples-to-apples comparison.
  • The tax split:  every year, council decides the "split" - the ratio between the mill rates for commercial properties and for residential properties.   In the financial plan, council asked for a split between 4:1 and 5:1.  However, because of the change in taxable assessment, we'd have to go to a split of 6.45:1 to have the tax percentage change be the same for commercial as it is for residential.
  • The education tax change:  this year, because our overall assessment has 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 unusually large:  $855,000.  We could continue to follow policy and send that amount to capital reserves.  Or we could change the amount in order to try to keep taxes low -- but that affects all future years as well.  So, for example, if we decided to pass on that savings this year to the taxpayer in its entirety, then 20 years from now, our capital reserves/infrastructure would be more than $17 million poorer.  We have to balance short-term gain/pain with long-term gain/pain, and it's not an easy decision.

To help us with all this, staff gives us a series of scenarios -- different splits, different amounts to capital reserves.  In the end, we have to decide -- which is why council members are getting very little sleep this weekend.  All the above factors, and more, will be debated at council on Tuesday.  I'll be listening to everyone's point of view, but my present inclination is to look for a split that recognizes some of the shift to residential, and to continue to make a substantial contribution to capital reserves, although not the whole amount.

Capital project update

Starting on page 93 of the package, you'll find a brief and informative report about how things are going on the various capital projects for 2011.  If you have a pet project (tennis courts, say, or the community greenhouse), this report lets you know what progress has been made and what's next.

Thinking outside the box

Starting on page 99 of the package, a report with the unpromising name "Bow River Utility Crossing" contains some pretty exciting news.  In brief:  we have to reconstruct the pipes that carry sewage across the Bow (right now, they are 1968-vintage pipes in the river bed).  The town engineer thinks that the most environmentally friendly way to do this would be via a structure above the water, rather than in the riverbed.  He thinks we might be able to build this structure as a pedestrian/bike bridge, sling the pipes under it, and do all that for the original budget that would have been spent anyway on the sewer pipes.  The pedestrian bridge would run from the south end of Muskrat Street over to a location between the Y and the existing bridge.  It wouldn't require all the construction of approach paths and exit paths that was proposed for the Central Park location.  I think this is an exciting and positive idea and I look forward to hearing more about it.

FCSS annual report and plan

I'm constantly amazed by the range of programs and services provided by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).  Starting on page 102 of the package, you can see their 2010 annual report and their plans for 2011.


Council will also meet on Tuesday in our capacity as the shareholder of the BHC.  This will be the annual general meeting, so we'll be looking at the audited financial statements and the business plan for 2011 - both of which you can see in the package at this link:



Thanks to an alert reader for letting me know that the Banff Public Library will host an all-candidates' forum at the Max Bell Auditorium at The Banff Centre, 7:30 pm on April 20.  Great to know that we will have this opportunity right here in Banff to be better-informed voters!