Council update, 18 August 2013

Hello everyone:

It’s been a long time since my last council update, what with the council meeting on July 29 being cancelled.  There’s a lot going on, and I’ll try to hit the highlights for you.


I noticed a “letter to the editor” in one of our papers recently, extolling the virtues of the “good neighbour” bylaw being considered by Canmore, and saying that Banff should have a bylaw like that (a bylaw requiring people to keep their properties maintained and not cause unsightly nuisances in their neighbourhoods).

Well, we do have one like that, and have had since around 1992.  It’s called the Community Standards Bylaw, and you can see it at this link:

If you believe that someone is creating a nuisance or an unsightly mess in your neighbourhood, or failing to maintain his/her property, just use the Action Request on the Town’s website to complain, and bylaw officers will follow up on your complaint.


Good news, and you’ll read it here first!  The transit commission voted the other day to extend the hours of the Roam Banff-Canmore service, filling in the “mid-day gap” on weekdays, and adding morning service on Saturday and Sunday.  This is in response to the even-better-than-expected success of the route and to requests from users to remove these schedule gaps.  The new schedule should be operating very soon.  Watch the newspapers, the website and the bus stop signs for updates.


You’ve probably noticed lots of changes around town this summer, as staff work hard to implement some of the ideas in the transportation master plan.  Timing on traffic lights, new turning lanes, new parking stalls in some places and removal in others – these are all examples of these changes.  Most are in place on a trial basis for this summer, and council will be getting a report in the fall to let us know which have worked well and which not so well.  In the meantime, please feel free to keep passing along your feedback, positive and negative.  I’ve heard kudos and concerns about the angle parking on Beaver Street.  I’ve heard that people miss the parking in front of the Post Office, but also that the turning lane may be helping.  I’ve also heard anecdotal evidence that the usual back-ups from the bridge along Spray and up to Valleyview have not been occurring this year.  Huzzah!


On Monday at 9 a.m., Council meets as the Finance Committee.  These meetings are open to the public, and you are always welcome to attend.  You can see the agenda package at this link:

Here are the highlights of the agenda:

Solid waste utility rates

As you’ll recall, we have been phasing in a user-pay utility for garbage and recycling.  At this point, we are all paying for 75% of this utility through our user fees, while 25% continues to be tax-supported.  A report starting on page 4 of the package asks the finance committee to consider the rates for the next couple of years, and also to consider whether we should stay at the 75/25 split instead of going all the way to 100% user pay.  The thinking is that separating waste into streams such as organic, cardboard, etc. is good for the community’s environmental goals, but businesses might find it easier and cheaper to just contract a private company to pick up all their waste, without separating it.  This would mean that our tonnes of organics might go to landfill instead of into the composting system.  Keeping part of the fee as tax-supported could provide a financial incentive for businesses to separate and recycle.  I think this is a good point, and I’m willing to consider this approach.

I will also be asking again in this part of the meeting whether we can do anything to extend the seniors’ utility discount to those seniors who are tenants but pay their own utilities.  At present, the discount goes only to property owners who are seniors.

Second quarter forecast

At Q2, admin is forecasting a deficit of $26,686 at year-end.  This is not a big percentage of the town’s budget, but it is a bigger miss than was forecast at Q1, so the trend is worrisome.  I will be asking some questions about the figures and checking to see whether we can postpone some proposed new expenditures into the new year.  You can see the entire forecast report, starting on page 8 of the package.

Financial plan 2014

Every year, council reviews and approves the Town’s Financial Plan.  This isn’t the budget for next year.  Rather, it is a statement of some of the context and principles that help to establish the draft budget.  For example, it explains the town’s approach to debt, to staff salaries, and to setting aside capital reserves.  It’s a helpful document, written for the non-financial reader.  You can delve into it, starting on page 28 of the package.

The big challenge, in my opinion, is the capital reserves.  We were *SO* close to having our 100-year infrastructure replacement plan funded, and we had a clear roadmap on how we were going to get there.   Then, without warning, the province took away our preferential education tax rate, and now we are a lot farther away from the goal than we thought we were, and a new road map is needed!  During the election, we will all need to let the council candidates know how we feel about these capital reserves.  I, for one, will be saying that the Town needs to continue to pursue this goal, even if it means that we all pay a bit more in property taxes.  Our roads, parks, recreation facilities, water pipes, sewage treatment plant and other infrastructure are central to our comfort and quality of life.


Council meets at 2 pm on Monday, and you are very welcome to attend.  Here’s a special invitation to those who are thinking of running for council – get yourselves to a meeting!  You can see the whole agenda package at this link:

Highlights from the agenda include:

First reading of the Land Use Bylaw amendment for the Railway Station lands

As many of you know, Caribou Properties has sub-leased from CPR the railway station and the big parking lot around it.  They are interested in redeveloping the station in keeping with its heritage status, and in commercial development of the surrounding lands.  This would require a major change in the uses and building coverage presently allowed on the site.  You can see the complete report and the proposed amendments starting on page 44 of the package.  As I’m sure you’ll remember, voting for first reading does not mean supporting the bylaw.  Voting for first reading just gets the bylaw on Council’s table and allows us to schedule a public hearing.  Second and third readings are when the debate takes place, amendments are proposed, and the bylaw is eventually approved, changed, or defeated.

Proposed changes to Council’s procedures bylaw

You can see the report on this, starting on page 60 of the package.  It is on the agenda for three readings.  While I appreciate the effort to make council’s proceedings easier, I will be proposing several changes to what is being presented.  For example, I don’t think that we should make it more difficult for a Banffite to apply to be a delegation at council, and I don’t think that staff should be mandated to decide who gets to be a delegation at council and who does not.  The elected representatives are directly responsible to the citizens of Banff and the procedures should reflect that.  Yes, you can phone your councillors at home or talk to them at the grocery store.  But Banffites should also be able to speak to a council meeting without jumping through too many hoops.

Recreation fees and charges

A report, starting on page 83 of the package, details some proposed changes to recreation user fees.  Our underlying philosophy remains the same:  adult programming is at 100% cost recovery, programming for children is at 50%.

Ped bridge usage

Starting on page 89, you can read about how spectacularly popular the new ped bridge is, as shown by automatic counters on the bridge.  What I find fascinating is that movements on the old bridge have not decreased all that much.

Land Use Bylaw Clause 8.16.1

Some weeks ago, an alert Banffite complained to me about the parking variances allowed for a new apartment building.   At first, I thought that this was just our new Land Use Bylaw coming into effect, because we had approved a provision (clause 8.16.1(v)) whereby apartment buildings that meet “alternative transportation” provisions (they’re near transit, they provide extra bike parking, they’re aimed at tenants who don’t normally have cars, etc.) could provide less on-site parking than we traditionally required.  But when I looked into the development further, I discovered, to my amazement, that the relaxation that council had approved in clause 8.16.1(v) was being treated as the “new normal”, and then further variance – quite substantially further --  was being allowed beyond that.  This was certainly not my understanding when we voted on this, and I have therefore asked for this item to be on Council’s agenda, so that we can determine what Council as a whole intended with this clause.


Community Housing Strategy Committee on Thursday afternoon.  The committee is in the midst of having Skype conversations about “best practices in affordable housing” with housing experts from around western Canada.  This is to help us discover good ideas that can work in Banff.


This is Issue 121 of my council update, with two more to go, as I will be missing the second council meeting in September (apologies in advance!).  Past issues can be seen as posts on my blog at  These updates reflect my personal observations and 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