Council email update, July 12, 2008

Hello everyone:

Before I go into the highlights of what's coming to the council meeting on Monday, here's a link to a new feature on the Town's website:

Various Town staff are going to contribute to a blog about their jobs, the issues they deal with -- behind-the-scenes stuff from Town Hall.  There are some good entries already.  I hope you'll take a look and perhaps leave a comment!


You'll all have noticed that Banff Avenue is open again, and you'll probably be pleased to hear that it is scheduled to stay open until after the Labour Day weekend.  At that point, there will be a short closure to finish off the last two sets of crosswalks.


I Roamed last week ( a trip out to the Springs).  The bus was clean and comfortable, on time to the minute, and I had a lot of fun chatting with tourists from Florida and from Australia.  I recommend it!



As you may recall, the Central Park to Rec Grounds pedestrian bridge was awaiting $500,000 in fundraising and $900,000 in borrowing.  It's coming back to council because the lowest bid was $620,000 above the pre-tender estimate, and the fundraising effort has come up with $114,000 so far.  The report therefore recommends that we put the project on hold pending the fundraising of a further $1,006,000.  The total of the project would now be $2.7 million.  As I've mentioned before, I have not supported this bridge project because I feel that, while it will be a nice recreational connection between the two park areas, it will not accomplish the goal of making the foot/bike commute from the south side safer and easier for the majority of south side residents.   You can read all about the project by clicking on and scrolling to page 16.


For some time, staff have been working on the design of a building to house the fleet services mechanics' shop, provide a centralized location for shipping/receiving/parts storage and inventory, and provide garageing and washbay for the town's transit buses.  The building is intended to be LEED silver -- which means that it has to meet stringent environmental standards in its siting, construction, and energy and water efficiency.  The project is coming back to council because it looks like it will cost $4.994 million, rather than $3.5 million, as was estimated at budget time last fall.  A suggestion is being made that we could use the Federal transit grant we've recently received and the provincial transit money that has recently been announced to help make up the difference.  However, I feel that those grants are intended to support expansions and improvements in our transit, not pay for cost over-runs.  I think we should look for the dollars by cancelling and postponing lower-priority capital projects.  You can read about this project by clicking on: and scrolling to page 22.


You've probably read quite a bit by now about the proposed bylaw amendment to increase density on Cave Avenue.  This proposed amendment is coming at the request of the Banff Housing Corporation, who would like to build a housing project on six lots they have acquired near the junction with the road that goes down to the stables.  At the last meeting, Council held a public hearing and listened to input from many people, mostly Cave Avenue residents.

This is a very difficult decision for me.  Of course, we all know that affordable housing is an important issue, and I would like to do the right thing to help make sure that projects are put in place.  However, the particular parcel of land in question has a lot of challenges.  And this bylaw wouldn't just increase density for that parcel of land, it would increase density for the whole of Cave Avenue - a district where the density is already almost twice the town average.  It is important to think of this as an overall planning decision, regardless of who is proposing it, or for what good purpose.

I'm not one of those people who thinks that density is a bad thing.  Our town density is already unusually high for a small town (according to StatsCan, we're eight times as dense as Canmore, for example).  Our density is part of what makes our town vibrant, compact, walkable. 

But, to be good density, density has to be well-planned, it has to be planned with positive neighbourhood involvement, and it has to be put in the right places.  We're just about to embark on a review of the Land Use Bylaw that may well put more density in many locations around town.  Cave Avenue may turn out to be one of those.  But I'd like to look at it in context with all the other options, and make decisions based on the overall picture.  For that reason, and after a great deal of soul-searching, I believe that the proposed bylaw amendment is premature, and I will be asking Council to postpone this proposal and make it part of the overall review.


Fortis is planning to do some upgrades to their powerlines along this popular walking route, and staff is suggesting that we partner with them, get them to contribute the money they would have spent above ground, and make up the difference to get the lines buried.  This utility burial project is presently in the capital budget for 2010.  By moving it up, we get Fortis' $102,000 as a contribution to the project.  Sounds worth doing!  You can see the report with pictures of the affected area by clicking on and scrolling to page 70.


As always, this blog entry expresses my view and opinions only - it does not in any way pretend to represent the official opinion of the Council or the Town of Banff.