Council update, 23 February, 2013

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