Council update, April 27, 2008

Hello everyone:

 

Here’s a quick update on the heavy agenda that’s coming to council on Monday.  As always, any opinions that I express about the topics are my opinions alone, and do not purport to represent the position of the Town of Banff or the rest of council.  I welcome your thoughts!

 

PARKING OPTIONS

 

As you’ll probably remember, after the parkade was turned down, staff agreed to come back to council with more detailed information about costs and timelines for a range of ideas in tended to increase parking supply and reduce demand.  These ideas are coming back to Council on Monday.  They include:

  • Change parking duration from 12 hr to 3 hr at Bear Street Parkade and relocate long term users to Cascade parkade.  I think this is a good idea, because locals – who tend to be the longterm parkers – can find the Cascade parkade, and visitors don’t seem to be able to.
  • High School parking lot for July and August.  According to the report coming to council, the school board has kindly agreed to allow this for no charge.  This provides 31 more longterm parking stalls.  To alleviate neighbourhood concerns about noise, this parking lot will be closed after 10 pm each night.
  • Acquisition of lot adjacent to Beaver Street parking lot.  This would be a very expensive option – approximately $31.5K per parking stall – but still a much, much lower cost per parking stall than a parkade. I certainly think this could be a good idea, but I want to ask some questions on Monday about how the value of the lot was determined – it’s hard to figure out market value for a house in that position, because it’s very difficult to point out comparable sales...
  • Pay Parking Feasibility Study.  I think we should go ahead with a relatively inexpensive ($14K) updating of the pay parking study from a decade ago.  Technology has changed so much in this field that some of the concerns about “rows of parking meters”, etc may be less of a factor this time around.  As I’m sure most of you know, I’m in favour of paid parking as a demand-side parking management tool, and a way to help fund better public transit.
  • Free one-way one-time transit passes for hotel and campground guests.  We’re considering this as a way to get hotel and campground guests to use their base as an “intercept parking lot” and take the transit from there on in. 
  • Increased transit frequency.  Infrequent buses make people less likely to use transit.  However, to increase the frequency on routes, we would need more transit buses, and more bus bays in the new facility at the Compound.  The good news is that we have that recent grant of over $410K from the feds for this program.  The bad news is that it would cost more than this to increase frequency.  But it’s still lower cost than a parkade.

 

PURCHASING POLICY

 

As I mentioned in my last update, we will be looking at the part of the policy that relates to purchases from councilors, staff members, and their immediate families.  The recommendation in the report to council is to change the wording of the policy to make it clear that – as long as the price is competitive and the transaction is one that would normally take place in day-to-day business – purchases from councilors, staff members etc should be treated just like any other purchases.  As I’ve mentioned before, I feel that we should be a bit more scrupulous than this, and require that at least a listing of such purchases come to Council on a regular basis, so that the information is public.  I also feel that the process of checking to ensure the price is competitive should be documented – in other words, managers should need to keep on file the names of the other vendors that they talked to about the same purchase.  It will be interesting to see how this discussion goes.

 

PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE

 

As I’ve mentioned before, the Glulam arch turned out to be an inappropriate design for the span and shoreline conditions.  The new recommended design is something called a “haunched steel girder”, which is still low-profile and quite attractive.  Although the Municipal Planning Commission was told that this bridge would be more expensive than the Glulam proposal,  the report to council suggests that it can be built within the original project budget of $2 million.

 

I know that many of you think this bridge is a great idea, and many of you do not.  My own feeling is that it will not do the job many people imagine it will:  the job of reducing bike/pedestrian crowding and increasing safety on the current bridge.  The reason is that the vast majority of south side residents and tourists, because of their normal route of travel to go to downtown, will hit the existing bridge before they come to the pedestrian bridge.  The current model supposes that those people will stop at the lights, cross the crosswalk on the existing bridge, then ride or walk down past the Luxton to get to the new pedestrian bridge, then back across Central Park to rejoin Banff Avenue.  I know that many people have said they will do this – but it just doesn’t sound like human nature to me. 

 

I’m concerned that we will borrow $900K to build a bridge that essentially links Central Park and the Rec Grounds, and then find that what we really needed to increase pedestrian and bike traffic was a bridge in a different location.  Then, in order to try to make the bridge function the way everyone hoped, an additional $200K will be spent creating a trail from Middle Springs to the Rec Grounds – a trail that, because it is on a steep north-facing slope, will be snowy/icy much of the year. Then, after all of that, there will still be demand for a pedestrian bridge – downstream from the existing traffic bridge.

 

SETTING THE TAXATION RATE

 

Council will be asked to set the residential and non-residential mill rate on Monday.  As you’ll recall, Council voted in the 2008 budget last December, including an approximately 5% tax increase.  So, if your property has increased in value at the average rate for a Banff property, your taxes are likely to be around 5% more than last year.  If your property has increased in value more than the average Banff property, your increase will be more.   If your property has increased in value less than the average Banff property, your tax increase will be less. 

 

LT ABSENCE

 

If all goes well and I manage to fight off the flu virus that is making merry in my respiratory system right now, I will be leaving on April 29 to go hiking in Spain – for those of you who know about my 800-km hike last spring, this is the 700-km part that I didn’t get to finish.  I will miss two council meetings in May, but will be back for the first meeting in June.  Because I will be out of email and voicemail reach during my vacation, I’ll be donating my paycheques for May back to the Town on my return.  This is a personal choice of my own and does not mean that I think councillors shouldn’t take vacations!