Council update, 6 July 2013

Hello, everyone:

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

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

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


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

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

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

When these two bylaws came to council, one of the suggestions was the establishment of fees for these transfers.  Council gave first reading to the fees bylaws, andwill be listening to public input about them on Monday.  Here’s how to participate:

and here is a link to more information on the transferability bylaws:

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

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

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

Council remuneration policy

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

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

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

2012 Housing Needs Assessment

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

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

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

Staffing for capital project management

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

Bridge for the bike trail along Norquay road

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

Capital project update

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


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


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

All the best until next time -- Leslie