June 24th, 2024

Land use bylaw reform advanced in City budget priority

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 15, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Council initiatives dominated the first day of city budget deliberations. Council, acting as the Economic Standing Policy Committee, will continue budget deliberations today through Friday starting each day at 9:30 a.m. in council chambers.

The SPC made it through 10 initiatives before ending the meeting for the day.

This morning, the SPC will address the final council initiatives, all being put forward by councillor John Middleton-Hope before it addresses other new initiatives.

After a lengthy debate, council agreed to move a $1.2 million initiative to rewrite the land use bylaw forward along the budget process.

Sponsored by councillor Belinda Crowson, the initiative says that administration has identified that a comprehensive review of the land use bylaw is needed. The work would also help facilitate the approval of affordable housing projects in the city.

The initiative requires hiring of 1.5 non-permanent staff at a cost of $355,000 in 2023, $455,000 and 2024 and $355,000 in 2025. 2024 is the most expensive year because that’s when most of the work would be done, the SPC was told.

SPC was told the cost could be higher. Solicitor Brian Loewen said while administration has the legal staff with the capacity to examine the bylaw, it doesn’t have the staffing capacity to do that review while continuing with its own work.

Crowson called it a huge project that needs to get done. The SPC voted 8-1 in favour of moving it forward with councillor Middleton-Hope providing the lone dissenting vote. This will be the first review of the land use bylaw in about 20 years.

Another Crowson motion, calling for a development project coordinator and housing initiative, was defeated by a 5-4 vote. The initiative called for the hiring of a permanent staff member over the four-year term of the budget at a cost of $91,200 in 2023, $112,500 in ’24, $116,100 in ’25 and $119,900 in ’26.

By a 7-2 vote, council also defeated a motion put forward by Crowson to meet the pre-development costs of the Affordable and Social Housing Capital Grant. The initiative would have cost $412,500 annually over four years. This initiative, C5.3 in the draft budget, took a couple of hours for council to debate. An amended motion by councillor Jeff Carlson was defeated by a 5-4 vote before the vote on the main motion.

Crowson said the money was needed to remove barriers to the City receiving grant funding for affordable housing in the city and that the money would be “cheaper than removing encampments each year.”

She said if council doesn’t take action to help developers and other groups build affordable housing, the city would not get the grants other communities are receiving. She said groups and developers are facing barriers and council needs to remove them. SPC was told developers and groups would have to come to the City with plans that meet eligibility for available grants.

Crowson said it’s a major issue and the City knows it’s not getting available grants for affordable housing projects.

The SPC voted unanimously to move ahead with a motion put forward by Middleton-Hope which would double the price of parking fines in the city from $25 to $50.

Middleton-Hope said parking fines here are lower than in other similar-sized municipalities across Alberta. If approved in the final budget, the $15 reduction for fines paid within seven days would remain intact. Acting mayor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel said it will be important to emphasize to the public the costs of parking isn’t increasing, just the fines.

SPC passed a resolution to move along in budget talks put forward by Crowson calling for $200,000 to be spent in each of the next four years on a fee assistance program for transit users. It would include the purchase of transit fares for families and individuals who meet several criteria. It would allow four 30-day adult passes a year to a maximum of $150 per funding cycle.

Councillors Middleton-Hope and Rajko Dodic voted against the motion.

By a unanimous vote, council approved a motion put forward by councillor Nick Paladino to spend $10,000 each year on membership to the Highway 3 Twinning Development Association.

SPC voted unanimously against a motion to bring back the city-wide spring cleanup which an initiative put forward by councillor Jeff Carlson called for once every four years. The program would have cost $242,785 in each of the next four years.

SPC also voted unanimously to support a one-time allocation of $15,000 in 2023 from the Municipal Revenue Stabilization Reserve for fire hydrant drinking water fountains at several parks which would create filling stations for water bottles.

By a 6-3 vote, SPC has moved along an initiative to hire a non-permanent employee at a cost of $63,000 in 2023-24 to generate new revenue throughout the City in a city-wide sponsorship program. This initiative, if it gets through the budget process, will work toward the goal of generating new revenue to reduce Enmax Centre tax support and assist other departments in adding new programs or reducing the cost of programs.

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