I hope everyone’s May is off to a great start! As we head into the warmer months, I wanted to take the time to provide you with an update on some important topics happening at City Hall.
Phase 2 Engagement: Naturalization
During the Election back in October 2021, I heard from many residents about the City’s naturalization plans, particularly concerning the spaces around storm water retention ponds. Based on that feedback, I lobbied for a delay in those plans and a much more comprehensive engagement plan.
For the remainder of 2023, the ponds will be maintained in the same condition as last year. However, the City is contemplating future naturalization opportunities around drainage ponds and in other areas in the City.
Following is important information regarding your chance to share your feedback about these greenspaces.
In Summer 2022, the City conducted a survey to gather feedback on Edmontonians thoughts on naturalization. The purpose of this survey was for City Administration to assess understanding and levels of support for naturalization as a whole and identify further naturalization opportunities.
Now in May 2023, the City is conducting a second phase of engagement for Naturalization and tree planting. Here are the details on how to get involved:
- Complete the 8-10 minute survey by clicking here. You have until May 29th to complete the survey.
- Attend any of the City’s pop-up events listed here.
- Attend the online public meeting on May 24th from 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm. Register by clicking here.
- Pin a location on the map to show how you currently use certain green areas. Click here to pin a location on the map.
Your feedback will contribute to the development of the new Naturalization, Reclamation, and Restoration Plan (NRRP) and mapping database to determine where to plant. I strongly encourage you and your neighbours to complete the above survey and engage in additional engagement activities.
Consideration of naturalization is warranted. More naturalized spaces will assist in less runoff entering the drainage system, and will aid in the filtration of the water that does. A naturalized space is less expensive to maintain, and we must explore ways to reduce property taxes and spending. And these spaces will provide significant education opportunities for our collective youth. But these plans should only proceed once you have had your chance to provide your feedback.
Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative
The Zoning Bylaw Renewal team is updating Edmonton’s Zoning Bylaw—the city’s “rulebook” for development—rethinking how, what and why the City regulates in terms of land and development.
Edmontonians are invited to share feedback on the draft Zoning Bylaw until May 31 as the project enters its final engagement phase. The final draft bylaw will be presented at a Public Hearing in October 2023.
Visit engaged.edmonton.ca/ZoningBylawRenewal to review the bylaw and rezoning map. An online guided feedback tool, one-on-one 'Chat With a Planner' virtual meetings, online information sessions (May 18th and May 24th from 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm) and the 'Ideas' tool are all available.
Transit safety continues to be a discussion topic at Council. This issue as it affects so many of us on a daily basis, and continues to be a point of emphasis for me.
At the Community and Public Services Committee meeting on May 1st, Committee members received an update on the enhanced Transit Safety Plan and the work currently underway to address this matter. Current actions and work ahead include the following:
- Transit Community Action Team foot patrol program;
- Transit Safety Working Group and Downtown Pedway Working Group with external partners (Integration / Collaboration);
- Audits of LRT Stations & Transit Centres;
- Renovation of 101 Street Bus Shelter using CPTED principles;
- Permanent COTT (Community Outreach Transit Team) model with a total of 7 teams;
- Bystander Awareness Campaign;
- Continued collaborative focus on addressing root causes of safety concerns that are felt more acutely in transit spaces;
- Joint deployment of police and at transit facilities.
These are just some action items underway to address this important matter. However, I know more needs to be done. I have written a variety of blogs regarding transit safety. You can review these blogs by clicking here.
The next conversation at Council regarding transit safety is scheduled to occur on June 1st at Urban Planning Committee. This will be a chance for City Administration to provide a progress report on the above points. If you have feedback to share with me ahead of this conversation in June please let me know.
Municipal Development Corporation Motion
On April 25th, I presented the following Motion to City Council:
That Administration engage a third party consultant to form a working group:
- To determine the potential mandate, if any, of a Municipal Development Corporation in consideration of Council Policy C511A and other Council city building policies and objectives; Due Date Fourth Quarter 2023, Executive Committee
- Pending the outcome of Part 1, to develop a business case for the formation of a Municipal Development Corporation, including startup and operating cost estimates, assuming:
A. A governance structure with the City of Edmonton as the sole shareholder and a shareholder appointed Board;
B. mandate to develop City owned land identified in Part 1 and provide an industry standard financial return to the City of Edmonton;
C. An operating environment that does not benefit from preferential lending rates, government guarantees or property tax assessments, and;
D. An expectation that, like any other private sector entity, the Municipal Development Corporation will comply with all City Plan goals and all zoning and related land development policies and bylaws.
However, my motion was not supported by City Council, as the Motion was defeated in a 5 to 7 vote (with Mayor Sohi not in attendance).
I was disappointed, and frankly disheartened that many of my Council colleagues continue to vote against examining potential process improvements to deliver our shared goals and objectives. Anyone passing by Blatchford, as an example, might wonder if a different approach might see development progress more rapidly. This is but one of many parcels of land that the City owns for development purposes.
Past Councils examined whether or not to transfer our power generation, power distribution, water, drainage and wastewater departments to a new, City-owned, private sector company. This led to the formation of EPCOR, which today delivers these services across North America and returns an annual dividend in excess of $180M-equivalent to a 10% property tax increase.
A city-owned private sector company is a proven model, and one I thought worthy of consideration for the development of all that city-owned land. A recent example of such models include the University of Alberta Properties Trust, while Canada Lands is a government owned example.
The essence of the motion above was to examine whether a similar approach to city land development might have similar advantages. It was a motion to get information. That a majority of Council was not even willing to get an outside opinion of the advantages and disadvantage of such an approach is extremely disappointing. In the past, even when skeptical or reluctant to consider a particular action, Council and Councillors would at least be willing to seek and receive objective input, information and advice.
As always, any municipal questions or concerns you have in the future, please do not hesitate to share them with my office. We are always happy to assist you with your concerns.
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