council update, 8 May 2010
Thanks for all your comments on my last update. Here are some highlights of what's going on now -- as always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR INPUT
You've probably noticed the sample signs that are up in the area near Town Hall, Nesters and the library. (These are just samples -- the posts of the final versions will be much chunkier and more rustic looking). The town is looking for feedback on whether the signs are clear and readable (font size, contrast, etc.) By clicking on this link:
you can go straight to the survey to express your opinion.
Land use bylaw, phase 2
The planners are working on phase 2 of the bylaw revisions, and this phase will be of great interest, because it deals with commercial development. There will be public input opportunities in May and June, and I will do my best to get notices out to you when these are available.
Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you!
Council was really impressed with the success of the neighbourhood "hot chocolate tent" discussions held by planning and community services folks last year, and wants to try something similar. Over the next couple of months, as a pilot project, different councillors and the mayor will go out to neighbourhoods to answer your questions and to listen to whatever you wish to tell us about the town's plans, priorities and operations. I will do my best to get notices out to you about when and where these sessions will be happening, and I do hope you will take the opportunity to chat with your councillors. If these sessions turn out to be popular, I hope they will become part of the way the town works over the longer term.
The best opportunity of all -- the municipal election
Just another reminder that this fall is municipal election time. Nominations will be taken on September 20th, and the election will be held October 18. If you or someone you know is interested in running, Municipal Affairs has a website that will give you all the info you need:
Please think about getting involved in this election, as a candidate, or as the active supporter of a candidate -- and, of course, as a well-informed voter.
BIG ITEM NEWS
If you're like me, you probably find that you sometimes miss the Town's "large item garbage pickup" offer in the spring and the fall, and end up storing that large item until the next one comes around. Now, you can have your large items picked up for proper disposal any Friday between May and November, just by making an appointment. Read all about it at: http://www.banff.ca/locals-residents/social-services-programs/waste-garbage/unwanted.htm
COUNCIL ON MONDAY
You can read the whole council package for Monday at this link:
Here are a few highlights from the agenda ...
Bottled water in municipal buildings
Council will be asked to make a decision on banning bottled water from municipal buildings. As I mentioned in my last update, I support this initiative as long as we make sure that access to our excellent municipal tap water is made practical for people (in other words, pitchers and glasses at meetings, re-usable water bottles available at the Rec Centre, lots of drinking fountains, etc.), and as long as we review the decision one year after it's implemented, to make sure we haven't seen adverse effects. Several of you expressed similar opinions in emails to me, although I have heard from a couple of people who said that they would like to see bottled water continue to be available at the Rec Centre. You can read the whole report starting on page 11 of the agenda package.
Tax rate bylaw
This is the time of year when council sets the mill rates, in order to collect the taxes needed to fund the budget that was approved earlier in the year. You can read the entire report about this starting on page 25 of the package. Two major things have changed since the budget was approved.
First, our estimates of what the education taxes would be and what the Bow Valley Housing requisition would be turned out to be a bit high -- both those sets of taxes are coming in slightly lower than expected. Over the past several years, council has had a policy of using "taxing room" provided by opportunities such as this to increase our contributions to capital reserves. Capital reserves are the town's "savings account", by which we prepare for all the capital projects that need to be done now and in the future -- repaving roads, replacing utility lines, planting trees, building the rec centre, etc. etc. Council is being asked to do the same thing this year, and I am inclined to agree, because I think it is prudent for us to have money in place for projects, and use borrowing only as a last resort. But it is important to be clear -- the alternative to putting this extra money into the capital reserves is to choose to provide a slightly lower tax rate instead. Council has to make this choice on Monday.
Second, because of the tough economic climate, property assessments have dropped across the board, but they have dropped more in the commercial sector than in the residential sector. This means that if we stay with a 4:1 tax split, residential taxes will go up noticeably, and commercial taxes will go down very slightly. For this reason, admministration is showing us the alternative of a 5:1 tax split to consider. As I mentioned last year, I believe that residents were promised at least a 4:1 tax split at the time of incorporation, so I have trouble when it goes in the other direction, say 3.5:1. But splits above 4:1 are within what residents were promised, so I am keen to look at this option.
Cave Avenue, BHC and Parks Canada
You've probably been reading in the paper about the discussion between Parks Canada and the Banff Housing Corporation board about the value of the lots on Cave that were proposed for value-priced, small-unit multi-family housing. Starting on page 35 of the package, you can read the history of this discussion, as seen by the BHC and also as seen by Parks Canada. It will be interesting to see in the meeting if there are any suggestions for a way forward.
THE FINE PRINT
As always, this blog entry represents my personal point of view and does not purport to represent the position of the Town of Banff or its Council. I welcome your comments and questions.