Hello everyone:

What a difference a day or two makes!  Hard to believe that we were basking in sunshine just last weekend.  But this is perfect weather for reviewing the approximately 435 pages of documents that Council has for its Monday meetings.


On Monday at 10 a.m., Council meets as the finance committee.  As always, this is a public meeting and you are very welcome to attend.  You can see the entire package for the meeting at this link:

The purpose of the meeting is to set new financial performance targets for the Fenlands recreation centre.  The proposed targets cover a variety of criteria – you can see them in the report that starts on page 5 of the package.  I’m pleased to see that the report refers to the balance between public benefit and the service levels expected by the community and the purely financial considerations.  Having said that, I will be asking whether we might reasonably expect more than median performance when compared to other communities, given that our facility is surely more than “median” in its quality.

As you may recall, back when this project was approved, the projection was that the operation of the renovated/new centre would cost taxpayers the same amount per year as the old one, while giving us more space and better recreation options (my recollection is that this figure was in the range of $350K per year in 2008 dollars, although I will have to check this against hard-copy council packages, as I’m having trouble finding the 2009 council packages on the website).  This was because the new centre would be more energy-efficient, less maintenance-intensive, and more attractive to paying users.  Council was then asked in May 2009 to approve an additional $2 million in borrowing for more additional space, with the rationale that this additional space would pay for itself in additional user fees.  You can see my discussions of all this on the 2009 entries in my blog.

Unfortunately, it looks as if the financial projections on which Council based its decisions may have been over-optimistic.  Although the new centre is already performing at close to the median level for comparable communities, if we go with the targets proposed in the report, the cost to taxpayers for its operation will actually be in the $450K to $500K range per year (2013 dollars).

There’s no doubt that the recreation centre needed to be renovated and reconstructed.  As much as possible of the old building was retained, an excellent job was done on the financial management of the construction project, and we have a new centre we can all be proud of.  I will be raising the point, however, that it would have been useful to include at least a brief reference to the history of these decisions in the “background” portion of Monday’s report.  Making financial projections is always difficult and hind-sight is 20/20, but when projections prove to be off course, we should always be transparent about that, and we should spend a moment thinking about what factors contributed, so that we can possibly avoid them in future.


Council meets at 2 p.m. on Monday, and we’d love to see you there!  You can see the entire package for the meeting at this link:

Here are a few highlights from the agenda ...

Land Use Bylaw variances

At Council’s last meeting, I gave notice that I would be making the following motion on April 8:
“that council direct administration that any report to a development approving authority that describes a proposed variance for approval must include clause 4.7.1. from the Land Use Bylaw, along with a description of how the proposed variance does or does not meet each and every sub-clause in 4.7.1.”

On Monday, I’ll be asking Council to approve that motion.  Clause 4.7.1 is the “variance test” clause – it lays out all the criteria that a variance must meet before being approved.  For example, a variance must be minor, it must not interfere with neighbours’ enjoyment of their properties, and so on.  I would like us to state specifically how these criteria apply, every time a variance is proposed.  The Land Use Bylaw is put together with a great deal of thought, and the “variance test” is there to ensure that we stay close to its intentions. 

Banff Centre radio

As you probably know, the Banff Centre is asking the CRTC to let them take over operation of English and French “Park Radio”, and add a third channel that concentrates of works produced by the Banff Centre.  As you can see on page 10 of the package, Council is being asked to send a letter of support.  I think this is a great idea!

Staff compensation:  external market indicators

For some years, Council has had a policy that we will pay Town staff at the 50th percentile level (compared to similar jobs in other municipalities and in the private sector), and that annual cost-of-living adjustments will be based on Alberta CPI changes.  In the report that starts on page 18 of the package, you can see where changes to that approach are being proposed.  Instead of comparing to Alberta CPI (which is a cost of living indicator), we would be comparing to actual labour costs, as reflected in various objective third-party indices and reports.  The report in the council package shows various possible sources of information, and asks for Council’s direction.  I’m inclined to suggest that we use an average of the various sources, but I want to check to ensure that this wouldn’t result in some costs.

Tunnel Mountain Pumphouse upgrades

Starting on page 23 of the package, you’ll see a report detailing some upgrades needed for the Tunnel Mountain pumphouse portion of our water system.  Apparently, we have equipment there dating from 1971 (I’m surprised, as I thought that the Tunnel Mountain pumphouse was installed after the 1983 “beaver fever” outbreak).  There are two options – do all the work required at once, or phase it out.  Given the impact on water rates (1/10 of 1%), I’m inclined to do it all at once.

Transportation Master Plan draft report

**You will really want to look at this one!** 

The Transportation Master Plan has the goal of making it easier for everyone to get around – drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and delivery trucks.  It examines all sorts of ideas that have rumbled around our community for decades, plus many that are new.

Starting on page 27 of the package, you’ll see a summary of a much bigger report.  You can concentrate on the Reader’s Digest version of the findings and recommendations, which runs from page 28 to page 46 of the package.  Or, if you are a real keener, you can look at the whole plan, which you’ll find at this link:

Just a warning – the whole plan is 25 MB, so it will take lots of time to show up on your screen.  But if you want to see the background on the recommendations, or the many ideas that the traffic engineers modelled, but did not recommend, this is your source.  For example, if you want to see what would happen if we made the 100 and 200 blocks of Banff Avenue into a pedestrian-only zone, you can go to page 69 of the full plan.  If you want to see what visitors had to say about parking in Banff, that feedback starts on page 12.  And so on.

However, if you have less time, please do at least take a look at the recommendations summary in the main council package.  It includes recommendations on traffic signal timings, a re-design of the intersection between the library and the post office, “scramble” phases for pedestrians at some intersections, changes to parking on Bow, Beaver and Buffalo and much, much more.  These will be coming back to Council early in May for some priority-setting, and you may see some of these ideas implemented in 2013.

Settlement services in the Bow Valley

Starting on page 48 of the package, you can read about what is being done in our communities to make New Canadians feel welcome, and help them integrate into our way of life.


Tuesday and Thursday:  working with Mr. Skinner’s Grade 12s on debating political ideas in the municipal setting. I always enjoy the chance to work with the high school students!
Wednesday:  the regular monthly meeting of the Bow Valley Regional Transit Commission
Thursday:  the twice-monthly meeting of the new Community Housing Strategy committee
Friday:  Banff Housing Corporation board meeting


Please keep in mind that our municipal elections are coming up.  If you’re thinking of running for council, I’d be happy to take you for coffee or lunch, to answer any questions you may have.  Serving on council is a big commitment, but it’s also a wonderful learning opportunity and a meaningful way to give back to the community we all love.  Please, start thinking about it now!


As always, this post presents my personal opinions.  It does not purport to be an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and/or questions!  Or, if you want to be taken off my email list, just let me know.

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone:

It was great to see so many people at Connect 2013 the other day.  Thank you so much for coming out and having your say!  I loved the idea of having all sorts of information and input opportunities in one place at one time, and I hope that this will become an annual event.  I think the only improvement I could suggest would be to consider having a supervised “play and pizza” room for young kids to make it easier for parents to attend.


Council meets on Monday at 2 pm, and – as always – we would be delighted to see you there!  If you’re thinking that you might be running for council in the fall, it’s time to start attending a few meetings to get a feeling for the issues and the format.  If you’re not thinking about running, you’re still very welcome.  Remember, during every agenda there are two question periods in which people in the gallery can ask questions about the day’s agenda items.

You can see the whole agenda package for the meeting at this link:

Here are a few highlights:

Banff Ideas Bank

Kim Bater will be presenting the 50 best ideas from 2012.  You can see them starting on page 5 of the package – take a read, they’re inspiring!

Bylaw on Transferability of Commercial Development Allotments

As you know, we have a commercial growth cap here in Banff.  Every so often, a lottery is held to give potential developers a crack at some square footage that will allow them to do their development.  Right now, unused Commercial Development Allotments (CDAs) expire after five years, returning to the Town’s “kitty”.  Meanwhile, there are developers who have part of the square footage they need for their proposed building, but no way (other than the lottery) to acquire more.  The proposed bylaw would allow CDAs to be transferred from a developer who is not going to use them to one who will.  This bylaw is in front of council for First Reading.  Voting for First Reading does not mean that you support the bylaw, it simply gets the bylaw on the table for a public hearing (probably in late April) and further discussion.

You can see the report and the proposed bylaw starting on page 21 of the package.

Bylaw on Transferability of commercial gross floor area

The transfer of CDAs is a transfer of potential, un-built space.  This bylaw proposes transferability of previously built space.  So, for example, if commercial space is demolished, or if a building that was commercial is taken over for non-commercial purposes (a government office, let’s say), then this bylaw proposes that the commercial space represented by that building should be available for transfer to another site.  Just like the other, this bylaw is in front of council for First Reading.  Voting for First Reading does not mean that you support the bylaw, it simply gets the bylaw on the table for a public hearing and further discussion.

You can see the report and the proposed bylaw starting on page 27 of the package.

Closing retail doors in winter

This report (starting on page 37 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 quite a few now) agree that an open door brings noticeably more people in off the sidewalk. Weird, but true.  Another difficulty is that many retailers believe that the “air curtains” that they use at their doors result in an energy regime equal to having a closed door.  We’re having trouble understanding this, as it appears that the “air curtains” themselves must take up substantial energy to maintain.  However, it’s been difficult to ascertain the facts, until now.  This report proposes that we do an experiment with air curtains at our own public washrooms, where we have control over the doors and good, solid stats on energy use long-term.  You can see the report starting on page 37 of the package.

I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with this experiment.  After all, if what seems likely to be true actually is true, and air curtain plus open door still equals lots more energy use than closed door, then we will have used extra energy in order to prove that energy is being wasted.  And even if we have irrefutable proof at the end of our experiment, it’s not likely that that proof will lead to a massive wish for closed doors among the retail community.  I’m ready to listen to the discussion tomorrow, but I’m inclined to suggest that we should just go to work on what would be a reasonable temperature range for a closed-door bylaw.  However, the main difficulty would be the need for enforcement, as allowing a few businesses to flout the bylaw while everyone else complies would put them at a competitive advantage, and we would be creating an unfair situation.

Appointment of committee on council compensation

Ten kind-hearted, public-minded folks have stepped forward to volunteer for this committee, and council will be appointing five of them tomorrow.  Thank you so much to every person who volunteered!  You can see the report on page 39 of the package.


On Monday, we will be meeting with S.Sgt. Brunner of the Banff RCMP to learn about crime statistics and to discuss the policing plan and priorities for the coming year.  On Wednesday, I will be attending the first meeting of the Community Housing Strategy committee – a new committee to bring together some of the major players in housing in Banff, focus our efforts and look for duplications and gaps.

Best wishes until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone:

The pussy-willows are out along the Vermilion Lakes Road!  Can the Canada geese be far behind?  I hope you have been able to get out and enjoy this beautiful weekend.


Several opportunities for public input are available right now.  You can see them all on this page:

... and here are the highlights:

Connect 2013

Just a reminder about this open house at the Rec Centre on March 14.  There will be lots of information and an opportunity to have your say on several major projects, including the Transportation Master Plan and Cave Avenue.  If you miss this, there will be online information and surveys available after March 14, but I think you’ll find the face-to-face opportunity more interesting and engaging.

Council compensation review committee

I see that the deadline for applying has been moved to March 20.  That often means that too few volunteers have come forward.  I hope that some of you will think about volunteering for this committee.  Council compensation will be one factor that will contribute to people’s decisions about whether to run next fall, and the committee is just a short-term commitment.  This is your chance to have direct input to this important discussion.

Economic prosperity

As you know, the town is working on an economic prosperity strategy.  Step 1 is to ensure that we have a definition of economic prosperity that is meaningful for everyone.  You can have input into this definition by going to the page I’ve linked above, and doing the online survey that shows at the bottom of that page.  I hope you will take the time – about 10 minutes – to fill this out!


Council’s meeting looks brief this week.  As always, you are very welcome to attend, and there will be two opportunities during the meeting to ask any questions related to the agenda.  You can see the whole package at this link:

There are two key items:

Voting on the formula business quota bylaw

This is the vote that was delayed from the February 25 meeting.  You’ll recall that I discussed it in my last council email update, so I won’t repeat all that here.  You can see the relevant material in the agenda package, starting on page 9.

Update on changes to the elections act

As you’ll recall, the municipal election will be held this October.  I do hope you’re considering running for council!  If you are, you’ll want to pay close attention to the briefing that starts on page 39 of the package.  Some examples of the changes include:
• Council terms change from three years to four years
• Candidates who haven’t provided their required financial disclosures from the last campaign will be barred from running in the next one
• Voters will have to have approved ID when they show up at the polls.  A driver’s licence with a Banff address on it will be a good thing to bring along. 


Bow Valley Regional Transit will have its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday afternoon, and a strategic planning meeting all day on Friday.  Banff and Canmore councils and the School Board will be meeting informally on Wednesday evening – we like to keep channels of communication open.  I’ll be interested to chat with School Board members about the suggestion to shrink the number of trustees.


As always, this post presents only my personal point of view.  It is not an official communication from the Town of Banff or its council.  I welcome your questions or comments!

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone:


Council has what looks like a long meeting on Monday – I’ve just finished going through the package in detail.  You can see the whole package at this link:


As always, you are very welcome to attend, and there will be two opportunities during the meeting to ask questions related to the meeting agenda.  Here are a few highlights:

Formula business quota bylaw

Starting on page 8 of the package, you can read the full background report, the draft bylaw, and the minutes from the public hearing.  As you’ll recall, this is a bylaw that would set a cap on the number of formula retail or restaurant businesses that can locate in any of the commercial districts in Banff.  The proposed cap would be somewhat above the numbers we have now, in order to ensure that no business is made non-conforming by the passage of the bylaw, and that everyone has lots of notice of the cap.

I have listened closely to the full range of public input on this bylaw – and I just have to say again how constructive and respectful everyone was during the discussion at the public hearing.  Several things that I heard have had major impacts on my thinking about this bylaw:

The need for a tactic to be related to a preferred future outcome, and the need for a public discussion on what that is:  People on all sides of this issue have talked about wanting a shared community vision of what our economic future should look like, and several have mentioned that this quota bylaw is a tactic to take us there, in advance of knowing where “there” is.  There was discussion during the public hearing about the economic prosperity process, and how that (or a similar public discussion) could take us closer to a shared idea of the preferred economic future of Banff.

Difficulty of reversal:  The point was made that we can pass this bylaw, and refer it to the Minister for approval, but – once it’s approved – we have no guarantees that we could get ministerial approval if we wanted to get rid of the bylaw.  This bylaw would be somewhat experimental, and if it had unintended consequences (for example, a rapid increase in formula businesses as people try to get in before the quota takes effect), we might not be able to reverse it.

The question of whether formula businesses are really the problem:  People have concerns about tacky-ness, and a wish to retain an authentic mountain community feel.  But there were lots of examples cited of formula retail businesses that fit with who we are, and the point was made that some independent, local businesses contribute actively to tacky-ness.

Having heard all that, I am presently thinking that I’m not convinced this bylaw is the right step, in its entirety.  But I would like to keep the definitions in the bylaw, and keep the idea of making formula businesses discretionary.  In future, I’m thinking, councils could decide through policy votes how that discretion is to be exercised.  This would be an approach that could be entirely locally controlled, and could respond more nimbly to the outcomes of the economic prosperity planning process, or other future public discussions.  I’m looking forward to talking this over with the rest of council and with staff on Monday, to see whether it might be workable.

Outdoor merchandise display policy – pilot project

Starting on page 48 of the package, you can read the report on a proposal to do a pilot project this summer on outdoor retail displays.  The idea is that Planning would work with the business community to develop guidelines for outdoor retailing, and then businesses could apply to be part of the pilot this summer.  The outdoor retailing displays would be up for the summer, and everyone would have a chance to comment on how they look, whether they affect the sidewalk use, and so on.

Looking at the report, though, I do find myself wondering exactly why we’re doing this.  We’ve had bylaws prohibiting outdoor retailing since the early 90s.  According to the report, even the people who showed up to the business meetings that Planning held in December seemed to be much more interested in having seasonal decorations, planters, etc. than they were in putting merchandise outdoors.  According to the report, lots of people in the business community share the concern that outdoor merchandise makes our downtown look tacky.  Looking at the report, it appears that the number of businesses wanting merchandise outdoors is similar to the number that were flouting the bylaw all along. I’d like to have a conversation on Monday about what we can do in this pilot to encourage planters, iconic welcoming displays, seasonal decorations (and I do mean seasonal, not Christmas in March!), while keeping merchandise indoors.

One-day business licences for out-of-town photographers

This bylaw is coming to council – you can see the report, starting on page 63 of the package.  Administration feels that this will not actually increase compliance, and that the one-month licenses already available are a reasonable attempt to meet the needs of photographers from out of town.  I’m inclined to agree. 

Warming shelters for the high school field ice rink

We have money in the capital budget to build two warming shelters in the 2014-2015 season.  The report that starts on page 66 of the package suggests that we move this money forward a year, so that we can build our shelters in partnership with Parks Canada, who are building some for cross-country skiers.  Putting all the shelters in one large contract should make ach shelter somewhat cheaper.  I think this is a great idea.  Yes, I know that I originally voted against the money for the high school rink, citing the quantities of skating opportunities already available, and the amount of money we were spending on them.  But I’ve become a convert – I love seeing people skating and playing hockey outdoors and right in the middle of town.

Cave Avenue design selection process

As you’ll recall, there is a design ready to go for Cave Avenue, but Council asked admin to slow down a bit, in order to make sure that people really understand what the finished product will look like.  In the report that starts on page 69 of the package, you’ll see the process that the town is going to go through to make sure people have another chance to see the alternatives and have input on what they like.  I think this is a good approach.

Proposed rickshaw tour service

Starting on page 76, you’ll see a report on a proposed rickshaw tour operation.  Planning is asking for Council’s guidance on whether to go further on this.  My personal feeling is that this is not a good fit for Banff.  Rickshaws are not part of our history, the pace of the rickshaw when on the roads will be slower than traffic, causing back-ups, the rickshaw will take up most of the Bow River pathway width when it’s on the pathway.

Sewer back-up – concerns expressed

Starting on page 99, you’ll see correspondence and a report describing a situation in which a backup occurred on a service line between a home and the town’s main line.  The homeowners are not happy with the way the repair process was carried out.  The town manager will be offering to meet with them to explore this further.


Last week, we had more than 1,000 riders!  If you haven’t ridden this service yet, give it a try – it’s a very relaxing way to go to/from Canmore.


As always, this post gives my personal point of view, not that of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments or questions!

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone:

First, let me say how great it was to see so many people out for the public hearing on the formula business quota bylaw.  I was so proud of our community as I saw everyone listening intently and politely to all speakers, clapping after all presentations (whether they agreed with them or not), and looking to build on areas of agreement.  It was so civil, so respectful, and so essentially Canadian.  If you weren’t able to be there, you can see the draft minutes from the meeting in this week’s council package.  Council members have to think about what we heard, and then the bylaw comes back for voting on second reading on February 25.


This past week, Council also held a joint meeting with Canmore council in their chambers.  It was an information meeting, not an official decision-making meeting, but it concentrated on the various ways we have worked together and could work together.  There were presentations on regional transit, on the work with the province to complete the Legacy trail between the park gates and the Travel Alberta info centre, and on Banff’s new N-Viro treatment for biosolids and organics, and how Canmore might be able to be involved in that in the future.  We also saw the plans for the aging-in-place development that is underway in Canmore.  It’s very encouraging to see work on new supported living spaces for seniors, as studies have shown us the gap between what we need in the future and what we have now.


Council’s meeting on Monday looks as if it will be brief.  You can see the whole package at this link:

Here are a few highlights:

Delegation regarding the obstetrics closure at Banff Mineral Springs

I see from the agenda that this will be related to transportation, but I can’t tell you more yet, as there is no written information in the agenda package.

Draft minutes from the quota bylaw public hearing

Council will be asked to review and approve these.  You can see them starting on page 10 of the package.

Council compensation committee

One of the toughest votes for any elected officials is on the matter of salaries for their positions.  Unfortunately, those votes have to be held from time to time.  It’s best to have good, clear recommendations from a process that is outside council, so that no one who might benefit from the recommendation is involved in making it.  At Monday’s meeting, council is being asked to set up a five-member public committee that will look at our compensation policy and make some recommendations that can be voted on before the next election.  If this passes, and we start recruiting members, I do hope that some of you will express an interest in serving on this committee!  You can see the whole report, starting on page 22 of the package.

WOW – a second community greenhouse!

Starting on page 30 of the package, you can read about a proposal to construct a second community greenhouse in a new and very central location – on top of Cascade Plaza’s parking.  Looks like the money is mostly in place, the private partners are willing, and there are just a few details to be sorted out.  This is great news, and I am in total support of the Town providing any in-kind assistance possible.  Hats off to everyone involved in bringing this second project into action so quickly!

Draft 2012 Banff Community Social Assessment

Every five years or so, our FCSS group works with people around the community to assess our social strengths and needs, and to suggest ideas that could help us with those needs.  Good things have come out of past reports, such as the Banff Affordability Guide, the first community greenhouse, low income transit initiatives, and many more.  You can read all about the social assessment process in a report that starts on page 34 of the package, but the real meat starts on page 59, where you’ll see the recommendations coming from this year’s assessment.  There are great community-building ideas, such as “Know your neighbour” night, or collective kitchen initiatives, or “affordable good food box” information.


Council will also meet on Monday as the BHC shareholder.  This is a simple agenda – we’ll just be reviewing for approval the Terms of Reference for how the shareholder and the BHC Board work together.  It’s a way of clarifying who does what and making that information accessible to the public.  You can see the whole package at this link:


On Monday morning, Council will be attending an educational session about tax policy.  Wednesday afternoon is the monthly meeting of the Bow Valley Transit Services Commission – I look forward to more good news about ridership on the new Banff-Canmore route.  Wednesday evening, the hospital is holding an information session about the obstetrics move, and I will try to attend, as I did the information session at St. Mary’s a couple of weeks ago.


As always, this email reflects my personal point of view.  This is not an official communication of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions!

All the best until next time -- Leslie