June 21, 2022 meeting
he meeting started with something new for town council – a land acknowledgement statement. According to mayor Tyler Warman, this will become “part of our culture as an organization,” from now on. The statement goes like this:
“In the spirit of respect, authenticity and reconciliation, the Town of Slave Lake honours and acknowledges that we are situated on the traditional lands of Sawridge First Nation within Treaty 8 territory. Home to Indigenous Métis and Inuit people who have occupied these lands since time immemorial.”
The statement will also appear on town emails and letterhead, Warman said.
New town chief administrative officer (CAO) Jeff Simpson was at his first meeting, on just his second day on the job. He wasn’t asked to say anything or answer questions, but the mayor made a point of introducing him.
“Welcome Jeff,” he said.
Re-zoning hurdle overcome for developer
The owner of a lot on 3rd Ave. NW is over the first hurdle in his plan to develop a duplex on the vacant lot. After hearing little opposition to the proposal to re-zone the lot in a public hearing, council gave the bylaw change the final two readings.
This was the second crack at re-zoning for property owner and developer Corey Staab. His earlier application had been to re-zone the lot so as to allow for a fourplex. This proposal received some stiff opposition from people in the neighbourhood, expressed by letter and in person at a public hearing a few weeks ago. Council voted against the re-zoning.
This time around, a neighbour expressed similar opposition to the idea of having a duplex on the lot, but it wasn’t enough to sway council.
“We’re trying to grow the community,” said Warman. “And we can’t do that without housing.”
He acknowledged concerns in the neighbourhood – about parking, snow storage and such – but said those would be dealt with in the development permit stage.
There’s not much point in having development planning documents if they are allowed to get stale. They need updating every few years, but of course this costs money. How much money was part of a report presented to council by Laurie Skrynyk, the (recently re-installed after a brief retirement) director of planning and development.
The plans in question serve as guides for development and are a requirement for municipalities. These include the land-use bylaw, area structure plans and the municipal development plan. The recommended period for updating these is every five years, council heard, although that might not be realistic. Skrynyk presented a schedule for updating the plans she called “aggressive.”
Council accepted the report as information and asked Skrynyk to prepare another report with specific recommendations for updating the Municipal Development Plan and Land-Use Bylaw.
“You talk about being aggressive,” said mayor Warman. “I hope you also bring a proposal that’s realistic (budget-wise).” Having said that, he added, “it’s probably time to make sure we’re headed in the right direction.”
Looking at adding industrial land
Warman mentioned that town and M.D. councils have been talking lately about the idea of adding industrial lands for development – possibly on the southeastern edge of town. This topic was being discussed 11 years ago, just about the time of the wildfire disaster of 2011. It was shelved then and left there for a decade but now – with industrial activity again peaking – it is back.
Warman said maybe it’s time to “dust off” whatever was prepared back then in the way of information or documentation and get the ball rolling again. He made a motion to that effect, which was carried.
“Let’s get some baseline stuff,” he said.
Municipal tax exemptions
Council Brice Ferguson had added this item to the agenda. The provincial government, he said, looks as if it is considering an exemption from municipal property taxes for private, for-profit providers of ‘social’ housing. Ferguson said he is not in favour of Slave Lake taxpayers having to subsidize such for-profit enterprises. He made a motion to have the town send a letter to the Minister of Seniors and Housing, asking for clarity on the matter.
New hours at the MRC, etc.
After some back and forth, council voted in favour of a new set of hours of operation for the Multi Rec Centre, which will include keeping ice in Arena #1 over the summer of 2023. That will require an additional temporary position, for the spring and summer season, which was also approved as part of the motion.
What prompted some debate was the idea of making budget decisions for next year well before general budget discussions commence. Councillor Brice Ferguson, noting an expected cost increase of $43,000, said he’d prefer to defer any decision until then.
But Ferguson’s colleagues went with the recommendation, which was to make the decision now, so planning can commence. They heard user groups are already inquiring about spring and summer ice times for 2023.
“You’re going to see a large uptick in business, so you’ll reap rewards that way,” said councillor Shawn Gramlich.
The new MRC hours, which take effect Sept. 1, are as follows: During the months of September and April – Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.;
October 1 – to March 31 – Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
May 1 to Aug. 31 – Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 12 noon to 5 p.m.
Warman mentioned the shutting down and cleaning up of another homeless camp that had happened a week or so earlier. The landowner had “reached out” he said, asking for help in dealing with the situation. The town subsequently did some reaching out of its own – to government agencies, the RCMP and such. Many agencies were involved and did a good job, Warman said, although he acknowledged the circumstances that led to such camps being set up in the first place still exist.
Where things go next isn’t clear, Warman said, but the town continues to consult with the provincial government on the issue.
Great job by the Metis Nation on its Indigenous Peoples’ Day event on June 18 at the MRC, Warman said.
The mayor also congratulated the Spilak family on the occasion of its 50th year in business, operating as Spilak’s Tank Truck Service. Warman and a couple of councillors had dropped by the anniversary celebration earlier that day.