Hello everyone:

Fall is here and council is back in full swing.  Before I tell you about next week’s meetings, here are some important opportunities for you to “have your say”.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR INPUT

Transportation Master Plan

I know that many of you are very interested in possible transportation solutions for Banff.  The town is looking for residents who are willing to spend a couple of hours in a focus group in mid-September, reviewing and commenting on the draft Master Plan recommendations for improving all types of transportation.  If you’d like to get involved, you can sign up at this link: 
http://www.banff.ca/town-hall/major-projects-banff/Transportation_Master_Plan/ideas-way-to-go-banff.htm?

Housing

The housing needs study is underway and we’d love to have your input and insights, whether you are already happily housed or are still looking for your long-term home.  There are two separate online surveys (for residents and for business owners) and you can find them at www.banffhousingstudy.com   These surveys are for everyone, not just for those who are or expect to be BHC homeowners.  Please share your knowledge of Banff’s housing needs!

Cave Avenue design

As you’ll see below, the design for Cave Avenue is going out for final public comments soon.  If you live on Cave Avenue, you’ll get direct contact from town staff, asking for your input.  If you live elsewhere, but would like to comment on this design, please let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.

MONDAY’S COUNCIL MEETING

Council meets Monday at 2 pm, and you are very welcome to attend!  You can see the whole agenda package at this link:

http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Council-Agenda-20120910.pdf

Here are some of the highlights:

Return of the Formula Business discussion

Grant Canning will be bringing back the motion for first reading of the bylaw setting a quota on formula businesses, and will be proposing that we have a public hearing in January.  You can see the report starting on page 8 of the package. 

Voting for first reading doesn’t mean that you support the bylaw 100%.  It does mean that you believe that the bylaw merits a public discussion.  As I said the last time this came to council, I think there are strong feelings in the community about this idea (pro and con!) and I think that people expect this topic to be discussed at the council table.  I will be supporting first reading, and look forward to a lively discussion on whether or not townspeople want quotas, at what levels, where in town, and for what types of businesses.  After we’ve had a public hearing, council can publicly debate the bylaw and vote, bringing this issue to a resolution. 

Environmental rebates

A report starting on page 67 of the package suggests that we should dedicate some of our rebate money to encouraging people to sign up for “green power”.  The idea is that the town would pay 20% of the extra cost that you incur for green power for one year, in the hope that people will sign up with this incentive and then will stay signed up over the longer term.

I’m pleased that this idea was raised, because we should always be looking for additional ways to encourage reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  However, while I’m very supportive of rebates for equipment that continues to generate energy efficiency or water savings year after year (such as programmable thermostats, solar hot water installations, ultra-low-flow toilets, etc.), I question the wisdom of dedicating our dwindling environmental rebate dollars to an operating expense that may or may not continue to create environmental savings in the future.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Cave Avenue Reconstruction – design review

As you’ll see in a report that starts on page 72 of the package, the design for Cave Avenue is complete and is coming back to council for information before it goes out to the residents one last time.  You can see the design and the schematics in the report.  I completely agree that Cave Avenue and the water and sewer services beneath it need reconstruction.  However, I personally believe that the design as shown will be highly regrettable when built.

Engineering staff have explained to council that this design reflects the feedback they received from open houses.  I have been told that the option of a separate, lighted trail through the woods for bikes and pedestrians, complete with multiple accesses built up to and across the road to get to housing areas, was rejected by the open house participants in favour of the present design, which is a 1.5-metre wide sidewalk, 2 1-metre bike lanes (one on each side), two 3-metre driving lanes, all in the one right-of-way.  In many parts of the roadway, there will be an additional 2.75-metre wide parking lane.

This means that paving that is presently approximately 7 metres wide will be replaced (where there is parking) by paving and concrete that is 12.75 metres wide.  304 mature trees will be removed.   The report states that 112 of these are entirely healthy, and that the others (192) have been compromised by insects, snow piling, construction damage, etc.  The design includes the planting of 304 trees, which will probably be around 6 feet high when planted, but which we can hope will someday grow to be mature, as long as they are not stunted by insects, snow piling, construction damage, etc.

I’ve looked at the record of public engagement for this project, and I do believe that town staff did their best to hear and respond to public comment.  However, I find it amazing that the participants in the open houses would choose to go with a design that one would find in Panorama Hills or Beddington Heights.  I had always thought that Cave Avenue residents, while they were rightly tired of potholes, liked the charm of a quiet, treed street, with a width that discourages speedy travel.  But I may have misunderstood residents’ preferences.  A lot of Cave Avenue residents are on this emailing list – please, let me know what you think.

I have always considered a complete separation of the bike/pedestrian area from the vehicle area to be the gold standard, and circumstances where you can achieve that standard economically are relatively rare.  On Cave Avenue, we already have that separate path – all we need to do is make it more easily accessible from the housing side, make it suitable for four-season use and light it at night.  Instead, we are going to cut a swathe that will accommodate a road suitable to Calgary suburbs, and that will also impinge on the existing forest trail in several places. 

All of this makes me wonder whether open house participants were actually able to picture in their minds what the final result will look like.  There will be one more opportunity for residents to take a look at the final design.  I hope that people will take that opportunity and give serious consideration to whether this is the best future for Cave Avenue.

Graffiti briefing

Starting on page 78 of the package, you can read about how graffiti cleanup is handled in town.  Seasonally, bylaw staff track graffiti occurrences, then ensure that all graffiti is cleaned off Town property, then follow up with utility companies to do the same, finally finishing off with private property.  Graffiti tends to proliferate if previous examples are left up – our regular clean-up campaign works over the long term to diminish the amount of this vandalism that we have to deal with.  If you see graffiti, please use the Town’s online “action request” to report it, so that it will get cleaned up in the next sweep.

WHAT ELSE IS ON THE COUNCIL CALENDAR THIS COMING WEEK?

Service Review

On Monday and Tuesday, Council will be going through the initial background work on this year’s Service Review document – the plan that lets staff know council’s expectations for levels of service in the coming year.  This document is background for staff as they prepare their draft budgets. 

Early childhood development

Also on Tuesday, Council will be briefed about the Bow Valley’s part of the province-wide study on children’s readiness to learn when they hit kindergarten.  This is a preliminary draft briefing only – full information will be publicly available in October.

Regional Transit

Regional Transit meets on Wednesday – I’m looking forward to an update on our progress toward the fall launch of the Banff-Canmore service.

Banff Housing Corporation

BHC has its regular board meeting on Friday morning.

THE FINE PRINT

As always, opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post is not an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions, and I’m happy to add anyone who wishes to be on the emailing list.

All the best until next time -- Leslie
 

Hello everyone:

What a beautiful weekend!  When you come in from enjoying the great outdoors, I hope you’ll be able to take a moment to check out what’s happening with Town Council.

HAVE YOUR SAY

There are two online surveys going on right now – I hope you will be interested in providing your input.

Housing Needs Study

At this link http://banffhousingstudy.com/  you can participate in the housing needs study, and/or comment on some of the topics that have been raised on the blog.  This survey is really important to determine the future direction of the Banff Housing Corporation, and of Council’s policies on housing in town.  Please fill it out, even if you’re already comfortably housed.  We need input from the whole community in order to make the right decisions about future housing efforts.

Transportation Master Plan

The town conducted a survey about transportation issues early in the year, and this planning process is moving into its next phase.  You can see the results from the earlier survey, add your thoughts about the issues, or *volunteer for a focus group* at this link http://www.banff.ca/town-hall/major-projects-banff/Transportation_Master_Plan.htm   Yes, I know the website says the focus group will be in April, but on the next level in, you’ll see that the intention is to hold these groups in September, so you still have time to volunteer.  From door-knocking, I know that lots of you are passionate about transportation issues in town – here’s a great way to get involved.

FINANCE MEETING MONDAY

Council will be meeting as the Finance Committee on Monday morning at 10 a.m. and – as always – you are very welcome to attend.  You can see the whole package at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=4218   and here are a couple of highlights:

Second quarter financial statements and forecast to year-end

You can see the entire report starting on page 5 of the package.  Overall, staff are reporting that we are forecasting a deficit of $23K, down from a forecast deficit of $44K at the end of the first quarter, so things are being moved in the right direction. 

Reserves for staff accommodation, transit, public art, heritage, parking, offsite levies and municipal reserve (green space)

This report, starting on page 30 of the package, tells you all about what amounts are held in these reserves and for what purposes.  The key recommendation is that we need to increase the amount we are contributing to the staff accommodation reserve, in order to be ready to maintain and replace our staff accommodation as necessary.  This won’t affect taxes, as the operation of our staff accommodation is funded by the rents paid by the occupants.  Raising the reserve contribution means raising the rents to pay for it.

WEBSITE PROGRESS

Council will be briefed on Monday at 1 p.m. about the progress of the Town’s website update.  You’ll recall that we’re getting this revamping for free from a provider of municipal websites, because our staff did a great job of selling Banff as the perfect location for a showcase website for the company.

COUNCIL MEETING

Council meets at 2 p.m. on Monday, and we’d love to see you in the gallery.  As always, there are two opportunities during the meeting for public questions about items on this agenda.  Here’s the link to the package: 

http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Council-Agenda-120820.pdf

Highlights include:

Banff Volunteer Centre report

Didn’t we just have one of these, you say?  Well, yes, but this update is more meaty and informative, with specifics about how the BVC is addressing the volunteer needs of the community, real numbers around effectiveness, and concrete steps they are taking and will be taking.  You can see the report starting on page 4 of the package.  Hats off to the BVC for hearing Council’s concerns at our previous meeting, and responding to them.

Public art project

The Public Art Committee has responded to Council’s concerns about their temporary art proposal by coming up with a project that costs less, that is more long-term, that is more publicly visible and that has a private partner.  The new proposal will see art mounted on the east-facing wall of Town Hall and on the south-facing wall of the Bear Street Mall.  Four different artists will be featured over the 5-year life of the installations, and the public will get input into the artist choice.  The mounting hardware is reusable for future art displays.  With these modifications, I now think this is a good project and will be supporting it.

BANFF HOUSING CORPORATION SHAREHOLDERS' MEETING

After Council is over, council members will be meeting as the BHC shareholders.  You can see the meeting agenda package at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/BHC-Shareholder-Agenda-120820.pdf

A key piece here is the recommendations on user fees.  Although most fees are recommended to stay at their present levels, the BHC board is recommending a change in resale fees for equity-share properties to 0.6% of the value of the home.  You can see the whole report starting on page 5 of the package.  The shareholder meeting will not make a decision on this report, rather, we will be setting a date for a public hearing on the proposed changes.

The package also includes the BHC’s report on the various housing benchmarks for Banff.  You can see the numbers starting on page 25 of the agenda package.

THE FINE PRINT

As always, this update gives my personal point of view.  This email is not an official communication of the Town of Banff or its Council.  If you want off the list, just let me know – I promise not to whine.  If you have friends who’d like to join the list, I’d love to hear from them.

All the best until next time -- Leslie

Leslie Taylor
Box 2275 Banff Alberta T1L 1C1
ph 403-762-3926
fax 403-762-3926
www.lataylor.com

Hello, everyone:

As you may have noticed, council slows down a bit in the summer, with one council meeting per month rather than two.  Many committees continue to be very busy.

FINANCE COMMITTEE MEETING MONDAY

Council meets as the Finance Committee on Monday morning at 10 a.m. in Council Chambers.  You’re welcome to attend.  You can read the whole package for the meeting at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Finance-Agenda-120716.pdf

Highlights include:

2013 Financial Plan

Each year, before administration starts drafting the budget for the following year, Council approves a Financial Plan, as a way of publicly debating and clarifying the principles we want to see reflected in the budget.  You can see the report and the draft plan, starting on page 4 of the package.  A few examples of what you’ll find in it:
• Direction to limit any proposed total property tax increase to Alberta CPI or lower.
• Direction to use that same Alberta CPI figure for cost-of-living increases to staff salary.  We have a non-unionized work force, so clarity of expectations is important to everyone involved.
• Commitment to set target figures for all capital reserves by the end of 2012 – we’re already well into this task.
• A continuing commitment to occupy any “taxing room” left by decreases in education tax, and send that money directly to capital reserves, to try to close the gap on the infrastructure deficit.
• A commitment to continue to provide public information on how our tax levels compare to a list of other Alberta municipalities
• A requirement for zero-base budgeting
• A commitment to minimizing borrowing, and to ensuring that any borrowing is paid off in such a way that the Town’s capital reserves are in an overall positive balance within five years.

The draft plan is short and is written in relatively plain English (as these things go).  Reading it is the best way to understand the Town’s financial approach and philosophy.  I expect we will see a few changes to the draft at the meeting on Monday.

Debt update

Occasionally, you may hear comments about the Town’s debt level, and figures may be tossed about.  But you can look at the real deal on page 20 of the package.  You’ll see that the Town’s total debt in 2011 was $14,925,292, it will be $12,203,979 at the end of 2012, and $9,547,574 at the end of 2013.  You can also see the reasons for the debt (Rec Centre, Seniors’ Housing expansions, etc), and you can see what interest rate is being paid on each segment of the debt. 

MONDAY’S COUNCIL MEETING

Council’s regular meeting is on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers.  You’re very welcome to attend.  You can read the whole package (it’s puny – only 154 pages!) for the meeting at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/PDFs/Town+Hall+PDF/Council+Agendas+PDF/2012+Agendas+PDF/Council-Agenda-120716.pdf

Highlights include:

Digital wayfinding:

An intern, financed by a program of the Greater Toronto YMCA (!), has been doing some preliminary work on how digital wayfinding (on people’s mobile devices) could be implemented here.  You can see his report to Council starting on page 39 of the package.  I especially like the references to helping visiting pedestrians find their best route – often very different from the car route.

Economic prosperity strategy

We’re looking at preparing a long-term economic prosperity strategy, to help us meet the economic goals expressed in the Community Plan.  Step one is to ensure that we define “economic prosperity” in a way that is meaningful to everyone in the community.  The proposal is to work with groups of business people, residents and representatives of NGOs/non-profits to reach agreed-upon statements of what economic prosperity could/should look like in Banff.  After all, it’s not just about the total money generated in the community.  It’s likely to be about how economically secure households and individuals feel, as well as how economically successful businesses feel.  And there are likely some comments waiting to be made about what we are and are not willing to trade for financial profit.

The report that starts on page 47 of the package shows a range of options for a public engagement process to discuss this key definition.  I like Option 2 – having three discussion groups plus a larger resident survey. 

Formula retail and restaurants

You’ll recall that Council expressed an interest in exploring an idea that came out of the Land Use Bylaw working group -- a quota or cap on the total number of formula-based retail stores and restaurants that we will have in town.  This has been a hot topic of discussion for years, off and on, and now the planning department is putting a bylaw in front of us for consideration.  The idea is that we would state what a formula-based business is (one of 12 or more that are the same), decide which districts are appropriate for these types of businesses, and then set a figure for the total in each district.  I’m inclined at present toward 10% more than we have already, to give business people room to adjust – but I’m mostly interested in seeing what public discussion is generated by this proposal.

Council is being asked to just give first reading of the proposed bylaw, and to set a public hearing date for September.  Final decision on whether to go ahead with this approach, whether to tweak it, or whether to forget it altogether would come after the public hearing.

Historic designation of St George’s in the Pines Anglican church

Hats off to everyone who has worked on getting to this stage.  It’s very exciting to see St. George’s ready to be municipally designated, and ready to be eligible for a substantial grant to help with preservation of the historic building.  I’ll be pointing out a few tweaks needed in the statement of historical significance, but I’m wholeheartedly in support of this.  You can see the whole report starting on page 103 of the package.

Municipal bench-marking

Town manager Robert Earl and other members of town staff have been taking a leadership role in trying to get a bench-marking collaboration going in the province of Alberta.  Municipalities who are members would share information on their performance on key benchmarks such as the cost of maintenance per kilometre/lane of paved road, or the percentage of solid waste that is diverted from the landfill, or the cost of sewage treatment per cubic metre of sewage combined with effluent standards.  Having this information from other municipalities would let each member know how they are performing relative to others and who they should go to for best-practice information.  The province seems interested in supporting this initiative, and may kick in some funding, and each potential member is being asked to contribute as well, as there will be some start-up costs and some annual cost to compiling and distributing the information.  You can read the report starting on page 152 of the package.  I’m very much in support of this project, as I think it will lead to better transparency and accountability.

THE FINE PRINT

As always, any opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post is not an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome new members to my email list – just send me a note and I’ll add you in.  Similarly, if your inbox is just too full these days, let me know and I’ll take you off my list.

 

Hello everyone:

I hope you all enjoyed the summer solstice!  Council has a heavy meeting load this week.  Today’s weather was perfect for reviewing a total of 234 pages of agenda package for Monday!

FINANCE COMMITTEE

Council meets as the Finance Committee at 10 a.m. Monday in Council Chambers and – as always – you are welcome to attend.  You can see the whole package for the meeting at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Finance-Agenda-120625.pdf   The two items on the agenda are ...

Fleet Capital Reserve

As you know, we are reviewing all of the town’s capital reserves to ensure that, as a community, we are putting away enough money to replace our capital assets when we need to, without nasty surprises for future taxpayers. 

How much do we need to put into a fleet reserve each year in order to make sure that we can replace vehicles and equipment as they reach the end of their useful lives?  You can see the report that analyzes this question, starting on page 4 of the package.  I was pleased to see that staff had carefully weighed the maintenance records of our vehicles and equipment, their expected cost recovery at the time of disposal, and used two different methods for calculating replacement cost.  The upshot of it all is that we are aiming at an average of 15 years of useful lifespan for our vehicles.  This will require an annual transfer of $359,000 per year to be fully funded over time, and we are within sight of that now with an annual transfer of $270,000.

Performance benchmarks

In order to be transparent and accountable, the Town is adding easily measured performance benchmarks to our service review system.  This means that you can look at a report each year and see how we’re doing on a range of factors, compared to how we were doing in previous years.  A report that starts on page 13 of the package shows you some of the benchmarks that will be added this year, and reports on benchmarks that we already have in place.  You can see comparisons to other communities’ results where we are able to access them.  (The reason you’ll see comparisons to Ontario is because they have a benchmarking system in place that we can access easily).   Just to give you a few examples of the numbers you can see in this report:
• The percentage cost of our benefits package (health, dental, etc.), compared to wages, is going up, in spite of the fact that we have cut back on benefits available to Town staff.  This appears to be an issue that many employers are facing.
• Our website use continues to climb, and is way ahead of OMBI (the Ontario average) and Whistler
• Our voter turnout is lower than in comparable communities
• Our fire department costs less to operate per person served than those in two comparable communities
• We have fewer transit riders per population than the Ontario average, but our ridership is increasing
• Our operating cost per hectare for “grounds” (gardens, parks) is higher than the Ontario average, and is increasing in the three years shown
• We’re landfilling much less waste per person (residents and visitors included) than Whistler, and our amount is decreasing
• Our energy use per person continues to slowly increase
• The percentage of our population that registers for community classes continues to slowly decrease
• Crime numbers are available only for 2008 and 2009 – in those years, we had higher numbers than the Alberta average
• The tourism marketing dollars spent per visitor varied from $1.30 in 2009 to $1.06 in 2010 to $1.18 in 2011.

SPECIAL MEETING OF COUNCIL

At 9 a.m. on Monday, Council will continue its deliberation on Land Use Bylaw related items, including the required housing and required parking policies.  You can see the package at this link:  http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Special-Council-Agenda-120625.pdf  Feel free to join us in Council Chambers!

REGULAR MEETING OF COUNCIL

At 2 p.m. on Monday, we’ll roll up our sleeves for  a heavy agenda for the regular meeting of council.  You can see the whole package at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Council-Agenda-120625.pdf
and you’re welcome to attend.  Here are a few highlights from the agenda:

Grease traps

Read the report that starts on page 10, for more than you ever wanted to know about yellow grease, brown grease, and how they can clog the arteries of our sewage system!  Utilities staff are briefing council about a pro-active education program they want to undertake, so that staff in restaurants and other businesses can understand better how their grease traps work and how to prevent sewer clogs.  If you’ve ever seen the football-sized grease balls floating at the sewage treatment plant, or had your neighbourhood’s system blocked up by grease, you’ll know what a problem this can be.

Environmental rebates

The town offers rebates to residents and businesses that update their property with water-efficient or energy-efficient appliances and equipment.  Examples?  Dual-flush toilets, energy-rated dishwashers or refrigerators, solar hot water systems, programmable thermostats ... and many more!  Take a look at the report that starts on page 25 to see what’s offered and how some of the offers may change.  It’s interesting to see that we get the best bang for our rebate buck by helping to fund programmable thermostats.

There is a proposal in this report to change the rebate for solar hot water from $650 to $3000, because we have had no takers so far.  However, this would also involve capping the rebates to the first three homes that apply.  I don’t think this is a fair way to allocate public dollars – a lot of money to a very few people on a first-come, first-served basis.  I’d like to leave it at $650, but make sure that people know that this is available.  Or perhaps we could consider the higher rate for people who will commit to making their home a demonstration project that others can look at?

FCSS Annual Report

Starting on page 108 of the package, you can read about the many programs offered by FCSS, and how they are working with a multitude of partners to meet their goals and to support the people of our community.  Everything from the community greenhouse to the seniors’ bus to settlement services for foreign workers is in this report, and it’s pretty impressive.

The Railway Lands

Council is being asked to approve some options for public consultations about the proposed uses at the railway station.  When the Land Use Bylaw was being discussed, most members of the public were focussed on other areas.  But now there are major changes proposed for what that area might look like, changes that would result in a new commercial area in the town.  Council believes that people will want to be consulted about this.

Land Use Bylaw

Council will consider third reading of phase 2a of the Land Use Bylaw update, after hours and hours of discussion and amendments on second reading.  In these recent meetings, I have been on the losing end of lots of motions related to the Land Use Bylaw.  However, I feel that every item was discussed thoroughly, and that all councillors brought their carefully considered opinions to the table and listened with an open mind to everyone else’s opinions before voting.  So the system is working the way it’s supposed to.

OTHER ITEMS

On Tuesday, I’ll be attending a meeting about the Transportation Master Plan, along with a lot of people from various sectors of the community.

And dog owners will be pleased to know that the fence for the off-leash dog park is almost complete.  Councillor Canning has taken a walk-through and says it looks great.

THE FINE PRINT

As always, any opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post is not a communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments or questions, and I’m always happy to add your friends to the email list.  If you’re just too busy to read these updates, let me know, and I’ll take you off the list (but I’ll miss you!).

 

Hello everyone:

Sorry to keep bombarding you with emails, but it seems as if lots of people are interested in information re the high water levels (I know I am!), so I hope you won’t mind a few extra messages during the run-off period.  This one, however, is just the regular council email update.

On Monday, council will have two meetings.

SPECIAL MEETING RE LAND USE BYLAW

We didn’t finish debating the Land Use Bylaw phase 2a changes at the last council meeting, so we’ll be continuing that process on Monday, starting at 8:30 a.m. in Council Chambers.  You’re welcome to attend!  The package for the meeting can be seen at this link:

http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Special-Council-Agenda_120611.pdf

We still have to cover items such as bed and breakfast regulations, signage regulations, the height of buildings in the downtown, discretionary uses in the area around the train station, and our policies on required housing and parking to go with developments.

REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING

The regular council agenda is quite light on Monday (only 65 pages!!).  You can see the entire package at this link:

http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Council-Agenda-120611.pdf

Here are a few highlights from the agenda:

Rocky Mountain Housing Co-op

You’ll all be familiar with the apartment buildings near the Recreation Grounds.  Since the earliest days of this cooperative (which provides 114 housing units for 18 different community organizations and businesses), the Town has provided a loan guarantee for the outstanding moneys owed by the cooperative, as a way of supporting this important staff housing initiative.  This doesn’t mean that the Town loans them money, or that tax-payers pay for any of their costs.  It just means that we enable them to borrow at the low interest rate that is available to the Town.  Council is being asked to renew the loan guarantee for three years.  This borrowing by-law will be subject to public scrutiny and comment before coming back to Council for a vote at a future meeting.  I will be asking for some updates on the current status of the RMHCA organization before we eventually pass this by-law.  You can see the whole report starting on page 7 of the package.

Non-resident business licences

Event-based businesses (such as wedding photographers) who come to Banff to do business from time to time are asking for some different  options for business licensing.  These include having single-day licences, and being able to pay for licences online.  The report that starts on page 17 updates Council on what is being done to explore these options.

Housing needs study

In a report starting on page 44, Banff Housing Corporation is asking Council to fund a housing needs study, to identify gaps (if any) between housing supply and demand in town.  Our last study was done in 2002.  The BHC has gone through a careful process to identify the questions that need to be answered, and to review proposals from potential contractors.  The $54,000 required for the study would come from the Town’s budget stabilization fund.

I expect a lively discussion about this one.  I strongly support the idea of updating our housing information before investing in a new housing project.  That’s because everyone I talk to tells me that “anybody knows” what the housing problem is – and then it turns out that each person has a different version.  Some believe that there is no longer a problem – that our housing supply has caught up with demand.  Others say we need seniors’ housing, or accessible housing, or managed housing for young, single entry-level staff, or starter homes for the first-time buyer, or move-up homes for the family looking for more room.  I have my own views, based on my own observations – but that’s just anecdotal.  I believe we need some concrete data to back up any future projects.

Settlement Support Services

An interesting report, starting on page 61 of the package, briefs Council on the changing nature of temporary foreign workers in our community, and how Community Services is working to help these new Banffites be successful and happy here.  There are many interesting points, but here’s one that stuck out for me:  In 2009, Banff Elementary School had 10% of their students as ESL (English as a Second Language).  In 2012, that has grown to 25%.  That one fact alone shows how quickly the changes are taking place.

THE FINE PRINT

As always, this blog post represents just my point of view.  This is not a communication from the Town of Banff or from its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions!