Hello everyone!

Now that school is back in and we are all starting to think about fall plans, I hope that part of your thinking includes the October 21 municipal election.  It’s not far away!  So whether you’re thinking of running (and I hope you are!) or thinking of attending a forum and casting a well-informed vote, I hope you will mark these dates in your calendar right now:
• September 23 – nomination day
• October 15  -- Candidates’ forum, Banff Park Lodge
• October 21 – election day

So far, I have heard that the following have publicly announced their candidacy for the six council positions:  Grant Canning, Ted Christensen, Corrie DiManno, Stavros Karlos, Ken McMurdo, Chip Olver, Brian Standish.  Hats off to all of them for offering to serve the public, and to the others I know are considering this step!  So far, I have not heard of anyone planning to run against Mayor Karen Sorensen.

COUNCIL MEETING MONDAY

Council meets at 2 p.m. on Monday, September 9, and we’d love to see you there!  You can see the entire package for the meeting at the following link:
http://www.banff.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/09092013-313

As always, there are two opportunities during the agenda for members of the public to ask questions about the meeting’s agenda items.

Here are some of the highlights:

Public Hearing on Railway Lands (CR zone) changes:

Council is being asked to delay the public hearing on this bylaw, as Parks Canada has expressed a wish to explore further some of the concerns they have.  You can see the letter from Parks, starting on page 2 of the package.  I understand the delay, but I’m sorry that I will not be at the council table by the time this comes back, as I take a keen interest in all Land Use Bylaw issues.

Notice of motion – employee housing as a distinct use in the Land Use Bylaw

At the last council meeting, I gave notice of the following motion:  “That council direct administration to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of a separate land use
category for employee residences, and bring a report to council with that information and a recommendation on whether this change should be made to the Land Use Bylaw.” This will be discussed and voted upon on Monday.  I believe it could help us write appropriate bylaw requirements for employee residences, without having the same requirements apply to other apartment buildings with very different types of residents.

Procedures Bylaw and Committee Appointment policy

Everyone who sat through the debate on these items at the last meeting was probably praying for lightning to strike the council chambers.  Yes, I know it was excruciatingly detailed and boring, but the rules on how council can (and can’t) do behave are important.  You can see the report starting on page 15 of the package.  Some of the amendments didn’t get picked up quite correctly, but a bit of tweaking should get us through third reading.

Retail doors open in winter

Following up on complaints received from residents and visitors, and after discussions with and letters from retailers, Council is looking at the bylaw amendment that would require retailers to have their doors closed when the temperature goes below minus 10 Celsius. This seems like a simple request, but anyone who has worked in retail knows that the open door makes a big difference in how many customers choose to walk in.  When you are selling items that may be a discretionary buy rather than a necessity, this factor is more important – for example, I note that pharmacies, grocery stores, and even restaurants rarely prop their doors open.  It appears from one of the letters we received that retail business owners would agree at minus 20 C, but not at higher temperatures.  I’d like to find a figure that people can agree on to get us started on this path – even the agreement that this practice is not always appropriate would be better than where we are now.  I’d love to get your feedback – should we regulate retail doors in winter?  Or is that an inappropriate interference with business?

ALSO ON MY COUNCIL CALENDAR THIS WEEK

Tuesday night, we have the final “fireside chat” for this term of council – an informal session at which we explore ideas and workload.  Wednesday at noon, I have the monthly board meeting of the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission – can’t wait to hear how the extra hours on the Banff-Canmore run are working out!  Thursday at 1:30 p.m., the Community Housing Strategy committee meets to continue interviewing (via Skype) housing experts from other communities who have kindly agreed to share their expertise.

NEXT COUNCIL MEETING WILL BE MISSING AN EMAIL UPDATE

My apologies, but I will be away when the September 23 council meeting takes place.  In my absence, I know that all the other councillors would be happy to hear your input or answer your questions.  I’ll be back on duty with your next council update on the Thanksgiving weekend.

THE FINE PRINT

This is Issue 122 of my council update, with approximately one more to go.  (I might not be able to resist a few reminder emails during the election!)  Past issues can be seen as posts on my blog at www.lataylor.com/blog.  These updates reflect my personal observations and opinions, and do not purport to be official communications from the Town of Banff or its Council.  As always, I welcome your comments and questions. 

All the best until next time -- Leslie
 

Hello everyone:

It’s been a long time since my last council update, what with the council meeting on July 29 being cancelled.  There’s a lot going on, and I’ll try to hit the highlights for you.

DO WE HAVE A “GOOD NEIGHBOUR” BYLAW”?

I noticed a “letter to the editor” in one of our papers recently, extolling the virtues of the “good neighbour” bylaw being considered by Canmore, and saying that Banff should have a bylaw like that (a bylaw requiring people to keep their properties maintained and not cause unsightly nuisances in their neighbourhoods).

Well, we do have one like that, and have had since around 1992.  It’s called the Community Standards Bylaw, and you can see it at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/DocumentCenter/View/200

If you believe that someone is creating a nuisance or an unsightly mess in your neighbourhood, or failing to maintain his/her property, just use the Action Request on the Town’s website www.banff.ca to complain, and bylaw officers will follow up on your complaint.

SCHEDULE UPDATE, BANFF-CANMORE ROAM SERVICE

Good news, and you’ll read it here first!  The transit commission voted the other day to extend the hours of the Roam Banff-Canmore service, filling in the “mid-day gap” on weekdays, and adding morning service on Saturday and Sunday.  This is in response to the even-better-than-expected success of the route and to requests from users to remove these schedule gaps.  The new schedule should be operating very soon.  Watch the newspapers, the website and the bus stop signs for updates.

TRANSPORTATION MASTER PLAN

You’ve probably noticed lots of changes around town this summer, as staff work hard to implement some of the ideas in the transportation master plan.  Timing on traffic lights, new turning lanes, new parking stalls in some places and removal in others – these are all examples of these changes.  Most are in place on a trial basis for this summer, and council will be getting a report in the fall to let us know which have worked well and which not so well.  In the meantime, please feel free to keep passing along your feedback, positive and negative.  I’ve heard kudos and concerns about the angle parking on Beaver Street.  I’ve heard that people miss the parking in front of the Post Office, but also that the turning lane may be helping.  I’ve also heard anecdotal evidence that the usual back-ups from the bridge along Spray and up to Valleyview have not been occurring this year.  Huzzah!

FINANCE MEETING

On Monday at 9 a.m., Council meets as the Finance Committee.  These meetings are open to the public, and you are always welcome to attend.  You can see the agenda package at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/08192013-309

Here are the highlights of the agenda:

Solid waste utility rates

As you’ll recall, we have been phasing in a user-pay utility for garbage and recycling.  At this point, we are all paying for 75% of this utility through our user fees, while 25% continues to be tax-supported.  A report starting on page 4 of the package asks the finance committee to consider the rates for the next couple of years, and also to consider whether we should stay at the 75/25 split instead of going all the way to 100% user pay.  The thinking is that separating waste into streams such as organic, cardboard, etc. is good for the community’s environmental goals, but businesses might find it easier and cheaper to just contract a private company to pick up all their waste, without separating it.  This would mean that our tonnes of organics might go to landfill instead of into the composting system.  Keeping part of the fee as tax-supported could provide a financial incentive for businesses to separate and recycle.  I think this is a good point, and I’m willing to consider this approach.

I will also be asking again in this part of the meeting whether we can do anything to extend the seniors’ utility discount to those seniors who are tenants but pay their own utilities.  At present, the discount goes only to property owners who are seniors.

Second quarter forecast

At Q2, admin is forecasting a deficit of $26,686 at year-end.  This is not a big percentage of the town’s budget, but it is a bigger miss than was forecast at Q1, so the trend is worrisome.  I will be asking some questions about the figures and checking to see whether we can postpone some proposed new expenditures into the new year.  You can see the entire forecast report, starting on page 8 of the package.

Financial plan 2014

Every year, council reviews and approves the Town’s Financial Plan.  This isn’t the budget for next year.  Rather, it is a statement of some of the context and principles that help to establish the draft budget.  For example, it explains the town’s approach to debt, to staff salaries, and to setting aside capital reserves.  It’s a helpful document, written for the non-financial reader.  You can delve into it, starting on page 28 of the package.

The big challenge, in my opinion, is the capital reserves.  We were *SO* close to having our 100-year infrastructure replacement plan funded, and we had a clear roadmap on how we were going to get there.   Then, without warning, the province took away our preferential education tax rate, and now we are a lot farther away from the goal than we thought we were, and a new road map is needed!  During the election, we will all need to let the council candidates know how we feel about these capital reserves.  I, for one, will be saying that the Town needs to continue to pursue this goal, even if it means that we all pay a bit more in property taxes.  Our roads, parks, recreation facilities, water pipes, sewage treatment plant and other infrastructure are central to our comfort and quality of life.

COUNCIL MEETING MONDAY

Council meets at 2 pm on Monday, and you are very welcome to attend.  Here’s a special invitation to those who are thinking of running for council – get yourselves to a meeting!  You can see the whole agenda package at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/08192013-310

Highlights from the agenda include:

First reading of the Land Use Bylaw amendment for the Railway Station lands

As many of you know, Caribou Properties has sub-leased from CPR the railway station and the big parking lot around it.  They are interested in redeveloping the station in keeping with its heritage status, and in commercial development of the surrounding lands.  This would require a major change in the uses and building coverage presently allowed on the site.  You can see the complete report and the proposed amendments starting on page 44 of the package.  As I’m sure you’ll remember, voting for first reading does not mean supporting the bylaw.  Voting for first reading just gets the bylaw on Council’s table and allows us to schedule a public hearing.  Second and third readings are when the debate takes place, amendments are proposed, and the bylaw is eventually approved, changed, or defeated.

Proposed changes to Council’s procedures bylaw

You can see the report on this, starting on page 60 of the package.  It is on the agenda for three readings.  While I appreciate the effort to make council’s proceedings easier, I will be proposing several changes to what is being presented.  For example, I don’t think that we should make it more difficult for a Banffite to apply to be a delegation at council, and I don’t think that staff should be mandated to decide who gets to be a delegation at council and who does not.  The elected representatives are directly responsible to the citizens of Banff and the procedures should reflect that.  Yes, you can phone your councillors at home or talk to them at the grocery store.  But Banffites should also be able to speak to a council meeting without jumping through too many hoops.

Recreation fees and charges

A report, starting on page 83 of the package, details some proposed changes to recreation user fees.  Our underlying philosophy remains the same:  adult programming is at 100% cost recovery, programming for children is at 50%.

Ped bridge usage

Starting on page 89, you can read about how spectacularly popular the new ped bridge is, as shown by automatic counters on the bridge.  What I find fascinating is that movements on the old bridge have not decreased all that much.

Land Use Bylaw Clause 8.16.1

Some weeks ago, an alert Banffite complained to me about the parking variances allowed for a new apartment building.   At first, I thought that this was just our new Land Use Bylaw coming into effect, because we had approved a provision (clause 8.16.1(v)) whereby apartment buildings that meet “alternative transportation” provisions (they’re near transit, they provide extra bike parking, they’re aimed at tenants who don’t normally have cars, etc.) could provide less on-site parking than we traditionally required.  But when I looked into the development further, I discovered, to my amazement, that the relaxation that council had approved in clause 8.16.1(v) was being treated as the “new normal”, and then further variance – quite substantially further --  was being allowed beyond that.  This was certainly not my understanding when we voted on this, and I have therefore asked for this item to be on Council’s agenda, so that we can determine what Council as a whole intended with this clause.

ALSO ON MY COUNCIL CALENDAR THIS WEEK

Community Housing Strategy Committee on Thursday afternoon.  The committee is in the midst of having Skype conversations about “best practices in affordable housing” with housing experts from around western Canada.  This is to help us discover good ideas that can work in Banff.

THE FINE PRINT

This is Issue 121 of my council update, with two more to go, as I will be missing the second council meeting in September (apologies in advance!).  Past issues can be seen as posts on my blog at www.lataylor.com/blog.  These updates reflect my personal observations and opinions, and do not purport to be official communications from the Town of Banff or its Council.  As always, I welcome your comments and questions. 

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Hello, everyone:

I hope you have had a chance to walk or bike over Banff’s new bridge.  It’s so lovely to be out there, seeing so many families and individuals enjoying the views and the new community connection!

I’ve been asked about whether biking is allowed on the new bridge.  Absolutely!  I know we’ve been calling it the “pedestrian bridge”, but that’s just because “pedestrian and cyclist bridge” is awfully long to say.  Please bike responsibly – be courteous to other users. 

While you’re walking or cycling on the bridge, take a moment to look down between the slats at the sewer pipes that were the original reason (and the source of the budget!) for the crossing of the Bow.  Now we have secure and easily serviceable river crossings for both water and sewer pipes, with built-in redundancy, all wrapped in an elegant bridge for people.  Kudos to the engineering staff at the Town, who really thought outside the box on this one!  You can read all about the project at this link http://www.banff.ca/index.aspx?NID=299

MONDAY COUNCIL MEETING

Monday’s meeting has a long agenda, as we cut the June 24 meeting very short, in order to let staff get back to helping our neighbours and to keeping our town protected and well-serviced during high water.  You’re very welcome to attend (2 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall).  You can see the agenda package at this link:

http://www.banff.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/07082013-303

Here are some highlights from the agenda (I’m including items from June 24 that have been moved to July 8):

Public hearing on fees for Commercial Development Allotment transfer and for transfer of existing Gross Floor Area

When these two bylaws came to council, one of the suggestions was the establishment of fees for these transfers.  Council gave first reading to the fees bylaws, andwill be listening to public input about them on Monday.  Here’s how to participate:
http://banff.ca/index.aspx?nid=687

and here is a link to more information on the transferability bylaws:
http://banff.ca/index.aspx?NID=753

Decisions on Commercial Development Allotment (CDA) transfer and transfer of existing Gross Floor Area

Council will be asked on Monday to approve third reading of the bylaws on transferability (320 and 321) and to approve second and third reading on the fees for these processes (bylaws 324 and 325).  You can see all the background information, starting on page 39 of the package.

After listening carefully to all the input, and thinking back on the history of development decisions in Banff and our surrounding area, I am inclined to support CDA transfer, but not the transfer of existing gross floor area.  That’s because the first requires corporate memory to persist for only five years, but the latter requires corporate memory to persist indefinitely.  Although I was successful in getting an amendment into the bylaw that requires a publicly available register of all such development trade-offs (which I think will be helpful), I’m still not comfortable.  I think that history has shown us that development rights are traded away for important considerations, and are then re-granted – a “have your cake and eat it too” situation.  Development rights in Banff are too precious for that.

Council remuneration policy

Starting on page 74 of the report, you can read the clear and concise report from the Banffites who volunteered to serve on a committee to review council compensation.  If approved, their recommended changes would come into effect after the 2013 election.  They established the following principles to guide their work:
• There is a need for greater accountability to address growing expectations of the community with respect to the Mayor and Councillors’ responsibilities and obligations throughout their term of office.
• Council salaries should not be perceived as a significant barrier to those seeking to serve the public in the position of Mayor or Councillor.
• The level of compensation should attract and retain competent and well qualified community-minded citizens for the offices of Mayor and Councillor.
• The complexity, responsibilities, time commitments and accountabilities associated with the role of Mayor and Council in our community is unique to an international tourist destination.
• Remuneration must be transparent, fiscally responsible, and easily understood by the electorate.

They have made several recommendations, including that the Mayor’s job be considered full-time, and that it be compensated accordingly, at $77,000 per year.  You can see the summary of their recommendations on page 85 of the package.

I agree with all their recommendations except one – I believe that if council remuneration is upgraded to $25,500, then council per diems should be eliminated.  Per diems are not transparent to the public.

2012 Housing Needs Assessment

The BHC board and staff, town staff, and the consultant have been working hard on this report, and now it’s coming to council.  You can see the background and the executive summary starting on page 99 of the package.  Key recommendations are listed starting on page 101 of the package.

The needs assessment points out that rental housing is our most pressing need and that accessible housing is an important and growing issue as more seniors remain in Banff after retirement.  The many key recommendations include:
• Improve data gathering and maintenance
• Continue to focus on encouraging density
• Focus the BHC’s work on rental housing
• Look to regional solutions
• Explore ways to increase enforcement of need to reside

Council is being asked to accept the report as information, and distribute it to key players in housing in the Bow Valley.

Staffing for capital project management

Starting on page 112 of the package, you can see Engineering’s request for an additional person for the next three years, to help with an unusually heavy load of capital projects.  The report discusses the pros and cons of contracting this position out, versus doing the work in-house.  I’m inclined to agree that in-house is the way to go, but I will be asking whether this type of project position should perhaps be funded from the capital budget, rather than from operations.

Bridge for the bike trail along Norquay road

You’ve probably noticed the Legacy Trail extension work going on along Norquay Road.  Council had originally approved a bridge over 40-mile Creek, but the estimates for this came in higher than expected.  Administration has provided some information on options, starting on page 115 of the package.  I’d like to explore further the option of having cyclists cross the creek on a dedicated lane of the existing bridge.

Capital project update

Starting on page 120, you can see a description of every capital project the Town has scheduled in 2013, along with information, and often photos, of the progress.  There’s also a complete financial accounting. 

ALSO ON MY COUNCIL CALENDAR THIS WEEK

On Monday at 1:45, council meets briefly as the BHC shareholder, to consider a recommendation that would allow us to appoint a council “alternate” who could attend the BHC Board meetings when the regular council members are unavailable.  On Wednesday at 12 noon, the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission has its regular monthly meeting.  And I’m working away on the Community Housing Strategy.

THE FINE PRINT

This is Issue 120 of my council update, with five more to go.  These updates reflect my personal opinions, and do not purport to be official communications from the Town of Banff or its Council.  As always, I welcome your comments and questions. 

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Hello, everyone:

Well, haven’t the last couple of days been something?!  Bow River flows blew the previous record away – 380 cubic metres per second in 1923 was replaced by yesterday’s 444 cubic metres/second.  We in Banff have been very lucky, and I know we’re all thinking of our friends in Canmore and Calgary.  Huge kudos to town and emergency services staff, who not only took care of Banff, but also pitched in providing necessary assistance for the much more serious situation in Canmore. And huge kudos to all the volunteers – the volunteer response was overwhelming!

I’ve been very impressed with the communication!  Between the constant updates on the Town’s website and the mayor’s top-notch work on Facebook and Twitter, no one needed to rely on the rumour mill – the real information was easy to access.  The most recent update that I’ve received, by the way, is that 93 south (Castle Junction to Radium) is now open to private vehicles and tour buses.

Still no way of knowing when the TCH will be available to the east.  And it is still important, of course, to stay away from the banks of all rivers, creeks and streams.

Astonishingly, in the midst of all of this, normal business continues.  And therefore, I know you’re anxious to hear about ...

COUNCIL MEETING MONDAY

Council meets Monday at 2 pm, and we’d love to see you in the gallery.  You can see the whole agenda package at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/06242013-300

Here are a few of the highlights:

2012 Housing Needs Assessment

The BHC board and staff, town staff, and the consultant have been working hard on this report, and now it’s coming to council.  You can see the background and the executive summary starting on page 14 of the package.  Key recommendations are listed starting on page 16 of the package.

The needs assessment points out that rental housing is our most pressing need and that accessible housing is an important and growing issue as more seniors remain in Banff after retirement.  The many key recommendations include:
• Improve data gathering and maintenance
• Continue to focus on encouraging density
• Focus the BHC’s work on rental housing
• Look to regional solutions
• Explore ways to increase enforcement of need to reside

Council is being asked to accept the report as information, and distribute it to key players in housing in the Bow Valley.

Fees for Commercial Development Allotment transfer and for transfer of existing Gross Floor Area

When these two bylaws came to council, one of the suggestions was the establishment of fees for these transfers.  Council is being asked to give first reading to the fees bylaws, and set a public hearing for July 8.  Voting for first reading does not mean that a council member intends to support the bylaw in the end.  It’s just the way to get it onto the council table for consideration.

Canada Day

Who doesn’t love Canada Day in Banff?  Starting on page 45, you can read a briefing on the events planned for this year, including the expected-to-be-popular tug of war between Banff council and Canmore council, with MLA Ron Casey calling the play-by-play.

Staffing for capital project management

Starting on page 47 of the package, you can see Engineering’s request for an additional person for the next three years, to help with an unusually heavy load of capital projects.  The report discusses the pros and cons of contracting this position out, versus doing the work in-house.  I’m inclined to agree that in-house is the way to go, but I will be asking whether this type of project position should perhaps be funded from the capital budget, rather than from operations.

Bridge for the bike trail along Norquay road

You’ve probably noticed the Legacy Trail extension work going on along Norquay Road.  Council had originally approved a bridge over 40-mile Creek, but the estimates for this came in higher than expected.  Administration has provided some information on options, starting on page 50 of the package.  I’d like to explore further the option of having cyclists cross the creek on a dedicated lane of the existing bridge.

Capital project update

Starting on page 55, you can see a description of every capital project the Town has scheduled in 2013, along with information, and often photos, of the progress.  There’s also a complete financial accounting. 

ALSO ON MY COUNCIL CALENDAR THIS WEEK

On Wednesday, the regular monthly board meeting for the Regional Transit Commission.  On Friday, the Banff Housing Corporation board meeting.  And a bunch of work on housing strategy.

THE FINE PRINT

This is Issue 119 of my council update, with six more to go.  Past issues can be seen as posts on my blog at www.lataylor.com/blog.  These updates reflect my personal opinions, and do not purport to be official communications from the Town of Banff or its Council.  As always, I welcome your comments and questions. 

All the best until next time -- Leslie
 

Here are a few quick notes on the questions I’m hearing most frequently.  Please pass this information on!

Where can I find out what’s happening?

Your best source for very current Banff information is www.banff.ca
You’ll see the red light and “Emergency Alert” notice at the top of the home page.  That’s where the most current updates are being posted.

Please, *don't* listen to or contribute to the rumour mill!  Check for the real info at banff.ca

Can I drive to ... ?

Here’s the most current info from Parks Canada
• Trans-Canada Highway:
Closed both directions east of the Norquay interchange - motorists cannot
travel east from Banff
Open both directions between Norquay and Lake Louise - motorists can
travel between Lake Louise and Banff
Open westbound only from Lake Louise to Golden - motorists can
travel to Golden from Banff and points west and make further travel
decisions once in Golden
Closed eastbound from Golden - motorists cannot travel east from Golden
and emergency personnel are NOT allowing local residents (Field, Lake
Louise, Banff) through the closure at this time

Are there any problems with the water supply?

No, our drinking water supply is running normally, water quality is being monitored, and it is fine.

What can I do?

• Some low-lying properties near the river are sandbagging.  Volunteers can help fill sandbags at the dog park.  Please bring a shovel.
• There has been an evacuation of Rocky Mountain Housing Co-op.  If you can host evacuees, please call FCSS 403-762-1251 to put your name on the list.
• Please do *not* go near any riverbanks
• Please do *not* clear the grocery store shelves “just in case”.  Arrangements are being made to get groceries into Banff. 

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!
LT