Hello everyone:

I must apologize off the top, as I’m having my knee fixed on Monday, and therefore will not be at council.  However, this council update will give you an idea of what’s coming up, and I will try to be back in action as soon as possible!


On Thursday afternoon (January 31) at 2 p.m., Council will be holding the public hearing for Bylaw 314 (Banff Land Use Bylaw Amendment – Land Use Bylaw Review Phase 2(b); Formula Business).  This is the bylaw amendment that would put a cap on the number of formula-based restaurants and retail outlets in Banff.  The public hearing is the opportunity for Council to hear input on the bylaw.  Voting on the bylaw will take place at a later date.

You can see the whole package for the public hearing at this link:

And you can see some FAQs about the bylaw at this link:

The package shows you who is scheduled to speak and who has provided written submissions so far.  You can speak at the public hearing by letting the municipal clerk know at the meeting that you wish to speak.  You can also hand in written submissions before the end of the hearing.  However, if you know you want to speak, or you know you want to hand in a written submission, consider providing your information to the municipal clerk sooner – it helps to simplify matters on the hearing day if she has things in advance.  You can reach the municipal clerk at municipal.clerk@banff.ca

The question of formula-based businesses has been a hot one in town for some years, with some people passionately supporting a quota, as is proposed in this bylaw, and others passionately opposed to this degree of intervention in the free market.  As is required by law, I’m going into this public hearing with an open mind, ready to hear every viewpoint and to consider what I’ve learned when this eventually comes to a vote at a later meeting.


I learn something new from other Banffites every day, and yesterday’s learning was thanks to an alert citizen letting me know about a town discount.  If you are 65 or over, and your name is on the title of the Banff home in which you live, you can apply for a seniors’ discount on your utility bill.  Ask at Town Hall front desk for an application! 

If you look verrrrry carefully, you can find a reference to this discount on this page of the Town’s website:


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

There are several sets of minutes for review, but only two reports requiring Council decisions.  These are about:

One-day business licensing

As you may remember, Council has been asked by out-of-town photographers to come up with a business licence fee that is aimed at their short-term type of work.  If they come to Banff once or twice a year to shoot weddings, they now have the choice of buying a monthly non-resident license for $280, or a yearly non-resident licence at $748.  The proposal before Council is to offer a daily option at $185.  So if you are an out-of-town photographer who shoots four or more weddings in Banff each year, the annual licence is your best option.  If you shoot many weddings, but just in July and August, two monthly licences might be your best bet, and so on.  The idea is that compliance might be increased if people had more choices, but staff questions whether that will actually be the case (and I think they are probably right, unless we are able to dedicate substantial enforcement time to this!).  You can read the full report, starting on page 42 of the package.

Snow and Ice Management

Starting on page 44 of the package, you can learn all about how snow and ice ploughing, shovelling and removal are managed in the town.  Council is being asked to consider several possible changes to the policy, including (among others):
• Simplifying the references to timing for different zones down to “within 24 hours”, “within 48 hours” and so on
• Noting the factors that lead to snow removal, such as narrowing of roads, visibility at intersections
• Making downtown alleys a high priority for clearing, because of their importance for deliveries and for pedestrian use
• Making school bus routes a high priority, regardless of location
• Doing a trial with a “washed rock” gravel product, to cut down on dust in the spring
This report includes the map of snow clearing priority zones.  Take a look to see how your block is prioritized on page 62 of the package.


As always, any opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post is not an official communication of the Town of Banff or of its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions, and I’m always happy to have new folks join my email distribution list.  If you’re inundated with email and you want to be removed from the list, I will comply with regret but without whining.

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone, and a belated Happy New Year!


2013 is a municipal election year – the election is on Monday, October 21.  Please give some thought to whether it might be time for YOU to offer your talent and energy in the service of your community.  Serving on council is incredibly time-consuming and it’s hard work, but it’s also an amazingly educational experience.  And local government is a place where you can actually make a difference, where you can propose something, bring it to council, and actually see it done, all within one term of office.  Please consider being a council candidate this fall!

If you’re considering running, I’m more than happy to take you out to coffee or lunch and to answer any questions you may have.


Parks Canada’s fee freeze ends this year, and they are asking for input on their proposed fee changes.  You can read all about it at this link:



It’s time again for one of my very favourite community events, the Jon Whyte Spelling Bee.  It’s fun and it’s free.  Gather five friends, sign up for your team of six, and challenge yourselves on spelling and trivia of all kinds!  Or just join the large and enthusiastic group of spectators at the Whyte Museum on the evening of January 22, and play along from the audience.  You can read about the Bee and find out how to enter at this link:



Council first regular meeting of 2013 begins at 2 pm Monday in Council Chambers at Town Hall.  As always, you are very welcome to attend.  There are two points in the agenda where anyone in the audience is welcome to ask questions about items on that agenda.  You can see the whole agenda package for Monday’s meeting at this link:

Here are a few highlights:

Council’s 2013 priorities and workplan:

You can see this item in every agenda package, but I’ll just highlight it, since we’re starting a new year.  Starting on page 2 of the package, you’ll see a report that shows what Council and staff will be working on this year, and predicts when you can expect these items to come to a council meeting.

Low- income residents and regional transportation:

For the past six years, the Town and the school board have worked together to provide low-income Banff residents with transportation to Canmore for medical appointments, to access government services, etc. This was done by letting people ride on the school buses on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Now that we have regional transit, the FCSS departments in Banff and Canmore are working with Roam to provide half-price trips ($3 one-way) for low-income residents.  You can read all about the service starting on page 16 of the package.

Community housing strategy:

Council is being asked to put together a new committee to prepare an overall community housing strategy for Banff.  There are many players involved in providing housing here, and this committee would work to ensure that everyone knows what everyone else is doing, and that we address both gaps and duplications.  You can see the draft terms of reference and the report, starting on page 29 of the package.


Also on Monday, starting at 2:45, Council is meeting as the Banff Housing Corporation shareholder.  There is only one item to look at – Council is being asked to approve a terms of reference for the relationship between the Shareholder and the BHC Board.  Because it is sometimes confusing for the public to figure out which body does what, it seemed like a good idea to get the Terms of Reference down in black and white, so that the document can be available on the website.


In this week’s Outlook, our transit general manager was quoted as saying that the new regional transit between Banff and Canmore was averaging 150 passengers per week.  What he actually said was 150 passengers per DAY.  The Outlook has acknowledged the error and will be printing a correction.  But the new system’s success is so important that I wanted to mention it here, as well.  Our biggest day so far was December 20, with over 230 riders.  Riding Roam to Canmore is a great experience – be sure to give it a try!


As always, this email reflects my personal point of view.  Any opinions expressed are mine alone.  This email is not an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome new members for the email list, and I welcome your questions or comments.


Hello everyone:

I’m sure you’re all in the midst of Christmas parties and preparations, but you may find yourselves with a few moments to catch up on what’s going on at Council.  We’ve been incredibly busy with budget meetings and the launch of the Banff-Canmore regional transit, but I think we are nearly through this stretch.  Here are a few of the things you might want to know about ...


Council will meet to discuss the capital and operating budgets, starting tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.  You’re very welcome to attend!  We’ve been through both budgets once, and I think it is likely that we will pass the budgets tomorrow – although it’s not over ‘til it’s over.  You can see the “budget tracker” at this link:


The budget tracker attempts to summarize all the factors that have contributed to our present point on the operating budget.  If all stays as is, we will pass an operating budget tomorrow that will result in approximately a 1.71% increase on the average Banffite’s overall property taxes.  However, that figure alone is not the whole story, because (as you keen readers will remember!) we are still in the process of phasing the garbage/recycling utility out of taxes and into a utility fee.  So your utility fee will go up this year – and, for continued transparency, the budget tracker shows you the whole story, with the utility changes. 

What does all this mean in real terms?  The estimated impact on the average Banff residence is $10.34 per month, including both the tax increase and the waste utility phase-in.

I’m also pleased to report that the budget, within that 1.71% tax increase, allows for increasing our contribution to capital reserves.  I know that I tend to go on and on about this, but it is so important for a municipality to save appropriately for the future replacement of infrastructure.  You hear a lot about Canada’s “infrastructure deficit”.  Here in Banff, our community has been prudent about dealing with that.

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


Council will meet at 2 pm on Monday, and you are more than welcome to attend.  There are two times in the agenda when you are welcome to ask questions about items on the day’s agenda.  You can see the whole agenda package at this link:


Highlights from tomorrow’s meeting include:

Shine and Banff Community Foundation presentations

Lorraine Widmer-Carson, the ED of the Banff Community Foundation, will be presenting information to council about the successful Shine 2012 event and future plans for Shine.  As well, she will present the Foundation’s Report to the Community.  It’s always exciting to see the good work that the Foundation is doing.  You can see the written background for Lorraine’s presentations starting on page 4 of the package.

Suggestion for a binding referendum on formula franchise outlets

Daren Krentz will be presenting this suggestion and a suggested question.  You can see his written backgrounder starting on page 20 of the package.

A bylaw regarding taxation of student dormitories

What parts of The Banff Centre should and should not be paying property taxes has been a topic of discussion in the community for a long time.  Not long ago, the province and our assessor suggested that we should be taking a closer look at this.  As a result, Town staff and the Banff Centre have had some discussions about various approaches. You can see the report, starting on page 31 of the package. The proposed bylaw would result in the Town taxing student “dormitories”.  (apparently that’s the expression that’s used – I don’t really think of the student accommodation at the Centre as “dormitories”!)  I’m interested in whether there are other “student dormitories” in town that would be affected – or whether they are already paying taxes.  Also, because The Banff Centre representative was unable to attend the last time Council discussed this, I’d like to just pass first reading, to ensure they have appropriate time to react and to speak to Council.

Contracting out water/sewer/stormwater utility – a proposal

As you keen readers will recall, the Town contracts out the running of the wastewater treatment plant to Epcor.  Wastewater treatment has been done by contractors since the Town’s incorporation in 1990.

Starting on page 34 of the package, you’ll see a report asking whether Council would like to see a price for contracting out water, sewer and storm sewer as an entire package, so that we can compare that price to in-house costs.  Saying yes tomorrow would not mean that we are going to contract.  It would just mean that we’d like town staff and Epcor to discuss pricing, so that we would know whether it would be a better option.  The Town would remain the owner of the systems – this would just be one means of operating them.

One problem that this could possibly help us with is attracting and retaining certified staff.  Provincial regulations require us to have people with certain levels of certification.  There are few of these people in the province and they are in high demand.  It’s hard for small municipalities to hold onto them.  It’s somewhat easier for a larger operator, such as Epcor, which can offer promotion potential and can share operators among more than one job site.

I’m inclined to agree that we should look into this.

Commercial allotment allocation

You will recall that a commercial growth cap of 350,000 additional square feet was established in 1998.  Since then, 197,819 sq ft have been built, 119,060 sq ft have been allocated but not yet built, and 33,121 sq ft remain to be allocated by the Town.  Space that has been allocated and not built expires after five years, so some of that may eventually come back to the town.  You can see the entire report, starting on page 42 of the package.

Council is being asked to make the remaining space available for a lottery-style allocation in 2013.  I’m a little baffled by this, as I had understood that we were awaiting recommendations from the planners about ways to ensure that the final space allocations meet the most pressing needs of the community.  I will be asking about this before voting.


Council will be given an update on the progress of the Smart Parking project, which aims to make it possible for visitors to use their mobile devices to find available parking stalls on busy days.  I think this is a great way to diminish visitor irritation and to ensure that we are using what parking we have effectively.  Read all about it, starting on page 46 of the package.


Bow Valley Transit

The transit commission will meet on Wednesday afternoon.  I look forward to our re-cap of the Banff-Canmore launch.  I rode the service on its first day of operation and enjoyed the experience very much!

Meeting with Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Council has its annual meeting with BLLT on Wednesday>  The Mayor represents us on the BLLT board, but it’s always good to have an update that everyone attends.


As always, this email presents only my point of view.  It does not purport to be an official communication of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your questions and comments, and I welcome new subscribers!

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone:

Just a month until Christmas!  But it’s one of the busiest months on Council’s calendar, with all the work on the budget ...


Council meets tomorrow morning from 9 am to noon to start digging into the budget, page by page.  All budget meetings are public, and you are very welcome to attend.  A special note to those of you who are starting to think that you might like to run for council in 2013:  understanding the budget is key to understanding what new ideas you might like to bring to the table at election time!

We have already had one budget meeting, at which we received a large number of requests for funding assistance from external groups who are doing good work in our community, such as STARS, the SPCA, and so on – totalling over half a million dollars.  You can see all those requests at this link: 
Unfortunately, the requests total quite a bit more than we have in the budget, so council will have to review all of these during the budget process, and decide how much the community can afford to fund.

The order of departments coming to council is now changed each year, which is a very good approach, as council members have the most energy at the beginning of the process.  Last year, we started with the capital budget, then went to operating, commencing with Legislative.  This year, we’re starting with operating budget, and with “Other” (miscellaneous items such as the tourism marketing contract, town-owned lands, etc.), which has come in at the end in the past.  As the budget process goes along, you can see all the documents and the updates at this page:

As always, council is aiming for a budget that is at or below inflation for the services that are already in place.  New services are funded by either cuts to existing service budgets, or tax increases, or an outside source of funding or revenue.  You can see an entire report on “New Initiatives” at the link for the budget process.  These are items that administration is asking Council to consider as possible additions to our present services.  Council will consider, debate and vote on new initiatives that any councillors want to bring forward.

Throughout the budget process, the “Budget Tracker” document, which you can see at the link above, will show council and the whole community the tax implications of any deletions or additions.  This is a moving target, because any item can be reconsidered.  So, for example, Council might add a new program at the beginning, but realize by the end of the process that the tax rate is looking unacceptable, and then go back and modify or delete that program.

The Town of Banff publishes a rolling three-year budget, so we’re now working on a budget that predicts revenues and expenses for 2013, 2014, and 2015.  Naturally, the budget for the coming year gets the most attention, as the most factors are known.  But the additional two years are an attempt to predict where we think revenues and expenses will rise or fall.


The regular council meeting starts at 2 pm in Council Chambers.  You can see the entire agenda package at this link:


Here are a few key items from the agenda:

Banff Volunteer Centre

The Banff Volunteer Centre has provided a letter (starting on page 4 of the package) that describes their reasons for ceasing operations.  The Town of Banff has been the only consistent funder through the 15 years of the Centre’s operations, although other sources have contributed at various times.  The Board feels that the inability to find long-term, consistent operations revenue makes it impossible for them to continue.


A report, starting on page 40 of the package, describes this new publicly accessible portal for interactive maps and applications.  This was entirely internally created – no consultants.  There is a lot of good stuff on this site!  I will be asking why some of it requires Flash, and is therefore inaccessible from iPads.

Cave Avenue redevelopment

Many thanks to the many people who provided feedback on the Cave Avenue final design.  You can see the report, and the public comments, starting on page 42 of the package.  As you’ll see, some people are delighted with the design as presented, some feel it’s too wide, some would prefer angle parking, some would like speed bumps, and so on.

Council is being asked whether they would like to go ahead with the project as designed, or go through one more round of public engagement and re-design, which would put construction into 2014.  I will be asking whether there is another option, i.e. to incorporate some of the key concepts from the input we’ve just received, re-design, and go ahead with construction in 2013.  But that may not be practical, especially since the public feedback is all over the map, and it would be hard to be sure we had found the right threads to pursue.

I know (believe me, I know!) that many Cave Avenue residents want to get this construction done in 2013.  But if we cannot do a re-design and go ahead, then I will be supporting the 2014 option.  I believe that a re-design is needed, and I don’t want to go ahead with the existing design.  After all, it’s pretty much irreversible once built.  That’s my personal position – the majority of council may feel very differently.

Banff Centre Assessment

Starting on page 60 of the package, Council is being asked to approve the drafting of a bylaw to tax student residences at the Banff Centre.  There’s a long history behind this discussion, but basically, we would stop taxing the Professional Development Centre, and instead begin taxing part or all of the student residences.  Town staff and the Banff Centre have been discussing this issue for some time.  It’s all related to what parts of post-secondary institutions are and aren’t taxable, under provincial legislation.  I think we should draft this bylaw, but when we eventually come to the final decision, I am undecided as to whether we should tax all of the residences or just part of the residences, so I will be listening closely to the discussion as this goes forward.

Skateboard helmet bylaws

Council asked staff to research what is done about skateboard helmets in other jurisdictions, and whether we can regulate them here.  In the report that starts on page 85 of the package, you’ll see the answers:  not a lot, and yes.  Although I really wish that every skateboarder would wear a helmet, I’m not sure that we have the enforcement capacity to follow this up, so I personally will not be pursuing it further.


Roam will start operating the regional Banff-Canmore route on December 3.  You can read all about it here:

If you believe that public transit is important, please support Roam by riding the service and by encouraging others to join you!


The Town of Banff website can be customized for your personal use.  By setting up a profile, you can have the items that are most important to you at your fingertips.  For a limited time, setting up your My Banff.ca profile also gives you a chance at winning an iPad, iPod Touch, or a certificate for community classes.  Go to www.banff.ca, click on any of the tabs across the top, and then on the MY Banff.ca icon on the right side to set up your profile.


This week, Council has another budget meeting on Wednesday morning from 9 to noon.  Development Appeal Board meets on Thursday at 9 a.m.


As always, this post reflects 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 questions, and I’m always delighted to add new subscribers to this list!

Until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone:

What a privilege it was to attend the Remembrance Day service and wreath-laying today.  It was great to see how many Banffites, young and old, wanted to participate.  Hats off to the organizers, who worked hard to make this solemn occasion meaningful for everyone.

Because of Remembrance Day, Council will have its regular meeting on Tuesday instead of Monday.


You can see the entire package for the meeting at this link:

Council’s agenda is fairly light on Tuesday.  The meeting starts at 2 pm, and you are very welcome to attend!  Here are the highlights:

Compensation review

Council has set a compensation policy that says that we will pay our staff at the 50th percentile for the work they do, compared to the market.  Every now and then, we need to review the external market to see whether we are living up to that policy.  This year, we did one of those reviews, comparing our pay levels to those of other municipalities, to those of other public agencies in the Bow Valley, and (where applicable) to those of private employers in the Bow Valley.

You can see the report about the results, starting on page 11 of the package.  I’m pleased to discover that we’re not looking at any big adjustments, and that 79% of our staff are already paid either at our goal level, or just above or below.  The report also notes that our pay system has become unnecessarily complicated, with 57 different pay grids, and recommends that we collapse similar positions into shared pay grids, taking this number down from 57 to 20.  It also recommends that we work with our province-wide pension provider to provide a range of different options for retirement savings – we now have just one option, a defined benefit program.

I believe that working with the recommendations in this report will take us to a less complicated and more transparent pay system at the Town.

The report also repeats the recommendation that Council has already approved:  to have a public committee examine council/mayor pay levels and make recommendations for the future.

Get Out Banff

Our FCSS group has been successful in getting a provincial grant to work on decreasing indoor and “screen” time and increasing outdoor time among Banffites, especially children.  Their report, starting on page 17 of the package, tells us about this new program, and reminds us that this is a goal we can all contribute to.

Banff.ca redevelopment

As I’ve mentioned before, the town’s communications staff won a contest for a free website makeover, cleverly saving the taxpayers around $30,000.  The new website is running, and new capabilities are being honed and tweaked.  Among other things, you can create your own “dashboard” now, so that the parts of the Town site that matter most to you will be front and centre when you log in.  As well, when the search function is fully operational, you’ll be able to search past agenda packages, something we have not had before.  Read all about it starting on page 19 of the package.


Finance Committee

Starting at 10 am on Tuesday, Council meets as the Finance Committee.  This is a public meeting, and all are welcome.  You can see the full agenda at this link:

A few highlights:

Pre-audit planning:  council will have a brief “in camera” meeting with the auditors.  This is done each year before the audit process starts, to ensure that every item thee auditors should consider has been mentioned to them.

Tangible capital asset policy:  as we have worked our way through the town’s financial reserves, we’ve had a lot of discussion about the reasonable expected lifespan for various capital assets (buildings, vehicles, heavy machinery, roadbeds, etc etc).  You can see the results summarized in a report, starting on page 4 of the package.

Operating reserves:  this report (starting on page 18 of the package) summarizes the levels of the town’s operating reserves, and recommends that we cap the “budget stabilization reserve” at 2% of total expenses.  This reserve is used when we are faced with one-time unforeseen expenses.  I agree with the 2% recommendation.

Third-quarter financial statements and year-end forecast:  As you’ll see in the report, starting on page 21 of the package, lower-than-expected revenues in several areas have contributed to a small deficit being forecast at year-end.   For example, low commodity prices have caused us to miss the mark on recycling revenues by $70,000.   The projected year-end deficit is in spite of good savings from the “hiring squeeze” – the town’s practice of carefully considering and sometimes delaying replacement hires.  Council is being asked to transfer $39,000 from the budget stabilization reserve to cover this deficit.

BHC shareholder meeting

On September 24, council (acting as the BHC shareholder) held a public meeting on the recommendation to change some of the user fees charged to BHC homeowners, for example, the fee paid when a homeowner sells his/her BHC home through the registered resale list.  This public meeting resulted in a range of questions that council asked the BHC board to respond to. 

At 3 pm on Tuesday, the BHC Shareholder will meet to look at the responses from the BHC board.  You can see the entire package for the meeting at this link:

The Board has attempted to provide background on the questions asked, and has also offered the shareholder two alternatives for the resale fee:
1.  The 0.6% fee, as suggested earlier, or
2. The present fee, with inflation added since 2006, plus an addition for newspaper advertizing.

This alternative has been offered, since the change in the mode of fee, from a flat fee to a percentage, had raised some questions at the public meeting.


Development Appeal Board meets on Thursday at 9 a.m.  Bow Valley Regional Transit meets on Friday at 2 p.m.


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

All the best until next time -- Leslie