City Council in Brief - April 2021

FB_-_Ward_Update_-_April_2021.png

In brief, this post highlights six items of public interest that were discussed during the April 2021 City Council meeting. 

Highlights include:

  • a progress report on the Climate Action Plan
  • information on the Victoria Avenue bikeway, pedestrian and traffic safety improvements. 
  • next steps in envisioning Downtown's Entertainment District and Bus Rapid Transit
  • presentation of 2020 local government election disclosures.
  • approval of the University Sector Plan.
  • Extension of temporary asphalt parking patios.

Other items that were discussed during the meeting include:

The full agenda for April 26, 2021 can be accessed here.

Please note that in line with the City of Saskatoon’s request for citizens to assist with controlling the spread of COVID-19 we encourage you to email a letter at saskatoon.ca providing comments or requesting to speak as an alternative to attending the meeting. This meeting of City Council took place through teleconference and was recorded, as per any other City Council meeting.

Furthermore, Internet Explorer will no longer work to view agendas. Please use another internet browser.   

Climate Action Plan Progress

The Climate Action Plan provides a roadmap to achieve the climate change mitigation and adaptation goals over a 30-year timeframe, once fully complete. This progress report charts the actions, milestones, and timeframes from the Adaptation and Low Emissions Community (LEC) Plans, and details initiatives that have progressed over 2019 and 2020.

A comprehensive report is attached to the agenda, but highlights include:

  • From 2014 to 2019, Saskatoon’s community GHG emissions decreased by 2% or by approximately 80,000 tonnes CO2e over the 5-year period. Analyses indicates that the reduction is primarily due to improved accuracy of data, rather than reductions in activities that generate emissions.
  • The GHG reduction goals are based on absolute emissions, which have remained relatively constant over the 5-year period. However, despite an increase in Saskatoon’s population, per capita emissions have decreased by 15%.
  • The City’s Corporate emissions increased by 5% or by approximately 5,000 tonnes CO2e over the same 5-year period.
  • The community-focused initiatives which progressed in 2020 include: the Home Energy Loan Program, Aspen Ridge net-zero homes, SaskPower Energy Assistance Program, Bus Rapid Transit planning, cycling improvements, sidewalk improvements, active transportation education campaigns, the Official Community Plan adoption, expansion of the landfill gas collection facility, utility-scale solar feasibility study, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) program progression, water conservation strategy underway, continued planning for city-wide organics program, and Solid Waste Reduction & Diversion Plan finalized. 
  • The corporate-focused initiatives which progressed in 2020 include: replacement of 5,000 streetlights with LED fixtures, High-Performance Building Policy & Administrative Guidelines developed, IT print optimization, electric vehicle pilot, electric bus pilot, GPS fleet optimization, and solar assessment for civic facilities. 
  • In the Corporate Adaptation Strategy, 20 of the 30 initiatives identified have been initiated. Of those 20 initiatives, seven are classified as ‘moderate progress’, one is classified as ‘significant progress’, and one is considered ‘complete’. The remaining 10 initiatives have not yet started.
  • While many Actions have been initiated, the City and community are not currently on-track to meet the interim GHG emissions reduction targets of 40% and 15% by 2023, respectively.

A comprehensive report, including a more robust assessment of the LEC Actions and milestone targets and replacement or accelerated Actions needed to meet GHG goals, is planned for 5-year intervals with the next report scheduled for 2025. Annual progress reports will continue to be produced.

The Standing Policy Committee on Environment, Utilities and Corporate Services directed further reporting on the feasibility of implementing the City of Edmonton's carbon budgeting approach.

Victoria Avenue Project

The report on the Victoria Ave cycling network prepared quite a few options for consideration. While each has their own merits, based on the information provided and the feedback to date, I supported Option 4.

A very detailed report is available here, that discusses all the options thoroughly, provides information about why Victoria Avenue was chosen, engagement summaries and provides visuals. In short, here are a few highlights of this project:

  • improves safety for cyclists and pedestrians, with traffic safety improvements
  • continues the AAA cycling network from the Traffic Bridge and Victoria Avenue (from 11th St to 8th St)
  • Just like with any transportation network, major network gaps, lack of appropriate intersection treatments, and route deflections in a cycling network can discourage people from choosing cycling as their mode of transportation. This project provides a well-designed cycling network that is direct and avoids weaving through neighbourhoods.

The report approves a design in principle and is currently unfunded. The report does not show the detailed designed (needed before a project proceeds), nor a funding plan. As such, this report would provide support in principle but still has more steps needed before the work could proceed. Many of our Active Transportation investments have been funded in large part by grants, and the City would continue to seek opportunities to fund this work at the appropriate time. Council has asked Administration to further refine the cost estimate for Option 4. 

In general terms, investment in active transportation infrastructure remains important. In accordance with the Growth Plan and Active Transportation Plan we are strategically preparing for the growth of the city. These plans lay out strategies for moving towards an integrated transportation network that is safer for all modes of transportation. Part of this plan recognizes that all modes of transportation operate differently and may require different infrastructure to do so safely. Motorists, pedestrians and cyclists all operate at very different speeds and it makes sense to me to not have them moving in the same spaces, especially on very busy roadways. There is still a lot of work to do on education about how all these modes interact together. There is even more work to do in designing these spaces, such as bike lanes or multi use paths. We have good examples to look to and can build on those successes, such as Meewasin Trail, 14th Street, 33rd St, and Victoria Avenue.

Downtown's Entertainment District and BRT

The City of Saskatoon has several capital priorities aimed at building new amenities and improving existing current assets that enhance Saskatoon’s competitiveness, attractiveness, and quality of life. Central to this is finding the path forward that will bring life to the vision for Downtown Saskatoon that incorporates new public amenities to act as catalysts for future long-term growth and vibrancy. A suite of transformational projects has been identified over the past four years. Three main projects stand out as potential catalysts for Downtown development, namely an arena, a convention centre and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

The suite of projects mentioned above offer a range of new amenities to the residents of Saskatoon. However, the price tag associated with achieving this vision has been a legitimate barrier to advancing actions on each of these projects. To move forward with these amenities, a comprehensive funding strategy needs to be a primary focus. Intergovernmental financial support is a fundamental component of this strategy, as explained in the report. Some of the projects may have greater policy appeal to one order of government (e.g., federal) relative to the other (e.g., provincial). Creative solutions are needed to overcome this potential barrier. The report goes into further details about various funding opportunities to explore.

Considering all factors, the Administration estimates that over the life of the projects and through a combination of new revenue sources, government transfers, and existing revenue sources, there would be sufficient revenues to pay for the core projects without any property tax contributions other than the amount already committed to fund the City’s portion of the primarily ICIP funded BRT. However, this is conditional on receiving expected provincial and federal fiscal support, the legislative authority to enact alternative revenues, and using education property tax revenues in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. The aim of this funding/financing strategy is to minimize contributions from property taxes to pay for the bundle of sub-projects within this transformational project. It also attempts to generate revenues from those benefiting from the amenity by exporting some of the costs to non-residents who tend to benefit from tourism-based infrastructure.

Based on the information above, City Council gave the following direction to Administration:

  • to pursue a Downtown Entertainment District and BRT transformational project. 
  • to work with stakeholders and other levels of government on achieving a detailed funding plan, investigating all funding opportunities that include information on potential bonds for the arena, with the goal of constructing the entertainment district with no contributions from property taxes.
  • that a key objective of the transformational project be to provide public benefit to all residents of Saskatoon.
  • that a public process map outlining the anticipated reports and decision-making milestones be created.
  • that the Administration lead an analysis of industry forecasts related to events and tourism related to the planning of this future project.
  • report on options for incorporating Indigenous placemaking and partnerships in the development of these projects.
  • that as considerations are made for planning and design of the downtown entertainment district, the Administration report on opportunities to align these projects with the City’s High Performance Building Policy and provide leadership by pursuing carbon neutrality in the district.

As has been shared with many residents before, my priority remains to find a financially sustainable way to fund this project that does not rely on the mill rate. 

Disclosures for 2020 Election

Bylaw 8491, The Campaign Disclosure and Spending Limits Bylaw, 2006, requires that each person that was nominated in accordance with The Local Government Election Act, 2015 to be a candidate in the civic election, submit a public campaign disclosure to the Returning Officer. Disclosures for candidate for mayor are required to be completed and submitted within four months of the date of the election and candidates for councillor within three months. The Returning Officer is required to forward to City Council, for its information, a report summarizing campaign contributions and campaign expenses of each candidate.

Section 34 of The Local Government Election Act, 2015 permits a Council to establish disclosure requirements respecting campaign contributions and expenses and to establish election campaign spending limits. Appendix 1, Bylaw 8491, The Campaign Disclosure and Spending Limits Bylaw, 2006 (the bylaw), contains those provisions.

Each candidate is required pursuant to section 5 of the bylaw to complete and file a Statement of Campaign Expenses / Contributions with the Returning Officer which consists of the following:

  1. Schedule A - a statutory declaration indicating total campaign contributions and total campaign expenses
  2. Schedule B - a fundraising events income statement listing details of any fundraising events held and revenues received
  3. Schedule C - a list of cumulative campaign contributions from contributors with names and amounts for each contributor of $100.00 or more
  4. Schedule D - a statement of campaign contributions and expenses, including a statement of auditor for candidates for mayor only

Statements for candidates for councillor were required to be filed by February 16, 2021 and statements for candidates for mayor, by March 15, 2021. Details of the filings made by each candidate are set out in Appendix 3 of the report.

Section 24 of the bylaw states that every candidate who contravenes any provision of this bylaw is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $5,000, which can continue on a per-day basis until compliance is achieved. Penalties are at the discretion of the court. As the Returning Officer is afforded the authority under the bylaw there is no role of City Council for violations under section 24 of the bylaw.

In the case of an elected official who has contravened the bylaw, section 25 is applicable and establishes an additional process to be followed. The report outlines that he violation under section 25 of the bylaw requires direction and action from Council related to Councillor Hill, who was elected, failed to meet the disclosure requirements, and has not yet resigned as is required under the Bylaw.

City Council resolved the following:

Whereas Councillor Darren Hill has contravened The Campaign Disclosure and Spending Limits Bylaw, 2006 by filing an incomplete Statement of Campaign Contributions and Campaign Expenses after the date required;

And whereas it is recognized that Councillor Darren Hill has been a long serving member of Council who should be aware of the campaign disclosure rules;

And whereas it is important that Council hold its own members to a high standard of public accountability;

And whereas Councillor Darren Hill has not resigned as required by Section 121(1) of The Cities Act and Section 25 of the Bylaw;

And whereas the contravention of the Bylaw has caused uncertainty as to whether Councillor Darren Hill has ceased to be qualified to remain a member of council;

And whereas there is merit in having clarity on this issue for the City, Council and Councillor Darren Hill;

Be it resolved that the City Solicitor’s Office be instructed to cause an application to be brought in the Court of Queen’s Bench to determine whether Councillor Darren Hill has ceased to be qualified to remain a member of council.

The bylaw can be access here.

University Sector Plan

This item was considering during the Public Hearing portion of the meeting. The agenda can be found here.

The University Sector Plan responds to objectives of both the Official Community Plan 2020, Bylaw No. 9700 (OCP) and the Growth Plan to Half a Million (Growth Plan) and the direction included in the Strategic Plan by outlining the development framework for future growth within the University of Saskatchewan endowment lands. The University Sector Plan (the Plan) is a comprehensive report outlining high-level strategies for land use, open space, utilities, servicing, environmental considerations, mobility and phasing.

Sector plans serve as a development framework for future growth and are based on policies contained within the OCP. To comply with The Planning and Development Act, 2007, a sector plan and any amendments must be approved by City Council. Sector plans are future oriented preliminary planning studies. No specific timeframe for development is applied to sector plans. The policies outlined in the University Sector Plan will guide future development in the sector. Landowner(s) in identified areas can begin to develop concept plans and the City can prepare budget and work plans based on the submission of future concept plans.

The vision for the University Sector is for these lands to become complete, vibrant, sustainable and distinct urban communities which support a walkable, transit-oriented lifestyle, connected with USask, while harmonizing and integrating with surrounding communities. They are intended to become neighbourhoods of the future, housing Saskatoon’s growing population, while sharing a unique relationship with one of Canada’s leading universities.

The University Sector can accommodate decades of urban growth, in alignment with the strategic infill targets identified in the OCP, Vision 2057 and the Growth Plan. The projected population for the University Sector is 57,147 people at full build-out. This projection represents a higher average density level than most areas in the city. Land uses are strategically located based on density levels, creating a framework for land uses to complement one another and interface appropriately with surrounding areas.

The Sector Plan provides more details on vision, land use, open spaces, heritage resources, mobility, transportation, utility servicing, phasing and shared principles for development. 

Further information can be found at here.

Temporary Asphalt Parking Patios

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have looked for innovative ways to provide safe alternatives for their customers to shop, meet and dine. The existing parking patio program allows for restaurants to provide outdoor seating on the public right of way by constructing a temporary deck or boardwalk. Due to construction costs, a parking patio may not be a viable option for some businesses. City Council established a Temporary Asphalt Parking Patio Program for the summer of 2020, with relaxed requirements for parking patios.

The Temporary Asphalt Parking Patio Program is proposed to be reinstated for a six-month period in 2021, providing more flexibility for businesses to operate during the pandemic. Under the Temporary Asphalt Parking Patio Program, businesses are permitted to provide a seating area, retail space or other extension of their licensed commercial business on the sidewalk, with a pedestrian pathway in the parking lane.