June 5, 2018 meeting
Five parcels rezoned
After nobody spoke up one way or the other at the required public hearing, council went ahead and rezoned five parcels of land. Two are owned by the town, one by Gordon Ferguson, one by Alberta Social Housing Corp. and one by a numbered company.
Two parcels went back to what they had been before the 2011 wildfire disaster. One is the former Sunset Place trailer park on 6th Ave. SE. The other is a lot on 2nd Ave. NE that once had a ‘recovery’ trailer on it.
Moving on, the former site of the Koinonia Christian School goes back to its earlier R1C designation. A fair-sized chunk of town land adjacent to Caribou Trail goes from UE – Urban Expansion – to RR1, to facilitate the expansion of the Big Fish Bay RV Resort.
Finally, the property the Big Lakes Inn sits on goes from C1 to C2, which is more appropriate for that type of business in that part of town, council was told.
Two requests from Flip Side, on alley paving and vendor license fees
Devon Phelps, the proprietor of The Flip Side in downtown Slave Lake, had a couple of requests for council. One was to consider reducing the one-day business license fees for out-of-town vendors. The other was to pave the alley that runs through the block behind his business.
On the first point, Phelps said he holds “flea market” events at his shop where he invites vendors in for the day. In one case – a lobster vendor – the fellow told him the town’s $200, one-day license fee for was too much to make it worthwhile. He asked council to consider a change to the system that would remove the obstacle.
Commenting, mayor Tyler Warman mentioned the reason for the higher fees is “because we don’t want to make it easier for out-of-town vendors.”
Councillor Darin Busk added, “We have to make sure we’re looking after our local businesses.”
However, Warman said maybe it’s time to look at the fees again, and made a motion to that effect, which passed.
On the alley issue, Phelps said it’s the only unpaved one in the commercial district and it gets a lot of traffic. The result is dust in dry times, mud and potholes otherwise.
He got no commitments from council.
“Roads are expensive,” said Warman. “There are a lot of roads we have to do.” He went on to note that there’s a 10-year priority list for roads that need attention. Putting an alley into that queue would be tough to justify.
Weed inspector appointed
Slave Lake will once again be the beneficiary of one-day-per-week weed inspection, provided by the M.D.’s weed inspector. This has become a regular item in the town’s annual budget, since it became aware of its obligations under the provincial Weed Control Act. Those obligations include the “control of noxious weeds and the destruction of prohibited noxious weeds,” according to the written report for council.
Presenting the report, Community Services Director Garry Roth said the town’s peace officers also needed to be appointed under the act, to authorize them to assist in enforcement matters. Lastly, an appeal panel needed to be set up. Council did all those things in one motion by councillor Busk.
‘Getting a little ridiculous’
Brian Vance’s CAO report included the news that there’s still been no action from CN Rail on fixing uneven crossings – or for that matter on the landscaping and sidewalk work that needs to be done to clean up after the signal installation of a few months ago.
Councillor Julie Brandle, who has been one of the more vocal advocates of getting the work done, said she appreciated the town continuing to put pressure on CN.
“It’s getting a little ridiculous,” she said.
Homeless and getting on people’s nerves
Councillor Darin Busk said he’d been hearing from some downtown business owners who are unhappy with homeless people hanging around and bothering their customers.
“We’ve got to do something,” he said.
After a bit of back and forth on the topic, Warman said: “Let’s get a group together and start a discussion.”
Busk made a motion to that effect
All good on the financial front
Director of Finance Roland Schmidt presented the financial statements for 2017, which have been wrapped up. It appears the finances (at least as of Dec. 31 of last year) are in decent shape. Allen Grykuliak, of the auditing firm Doyle & Company, backed that up, telling council the town is in “a very strong financial position.” Financial controls are solid, Grykuliak continued, adding that his firm has no recommendations for improvements or changes.
Summing up, mayor Warman said, “We did what we said we were going to do. We did not go over budget. There’s about a $75,000 difference to the positive.”
Joining forces for funding fairness
Council heard from regional fire chief Jamie Coutts on a new scheme to standardize the rates municipalities charge other municipalities when they send their resources to help out in an emergency. Twenty-six towns, counties, M.D.s and one city have joined the Northwest Alberta Emergency Resource Agreement so far. It costs nothing to belong, and it provides certainty as to cost.
Coutts told council the disparity in charges came to light in 2015 when High Level asked for assistance in fighting wildfires and several municipalities – including Lesser Slave Regional – responded.
“Some were outrageous and some were fair,” he said. Lesser Slave had used the same rates it charges Forestry, which Coutts considers fair. There’s apparently been a lot of talk subsequently, and the formation of this group and an agreed-upon schedule of charges is the result.
Council passed a motion granting its approval with regard to town-owned equipment. Coutts said he would be approaching the M.D. with a similar proposal.
‘They’re not lawyers’
The bylaw governing the establishment of the Municipal Planning Commission and how the MPC should run needed some adjustments, council heard. Planning and Development Director Laurie Skrynyk went through them point by point, having been advised by the town’s legal counsel some tweaking was in order. One change that did not please the mayor was the removal of the provision allowing for ‘e-polls’ of commission members, so as to speed up the process of decision-making. Polling members by e-mail was instituted post-disaster in 2011 to allow for quicker MPC action between regular meetings in a time when many applications were coming forward. However, the legal opinion is that the MPC (like council) should not be doing this. Decisions should be made in public meetings.
“But Municipal Affairs said it was fine,” said Warman.
“They’re not lawyers,” said Skrynyk.
Council gave all three readings to the new MPC bylaw.
Tweaks to permit process
The same legal review as in the previous item resulted in recommendations for a few changes to the Land Use Bylaw with regarding the town’s development permit process. Skrynyk presented those in the form of an amended bylaw change for first reading. She got it. She told council the changes clarify things that were (or might have been) confusing in the previous wording.
“We’re not asking for more,” she said, in response to a question from councillor Brice Ferguson. “Just clarifying. I can only impose conditions (on development permit applicants) that are in the bylaw.”
Big concept for Big Fish Bay
Council was asked to give its blessing to the ‘outline plan’ for expansion of the Big Fish Bay RV Resort. It’s an ambitious plan that calls for the addition of 400-odd campsites, several cabins and a marina in several phases. Skrynyk called it a “broad brush concept,” and that it didn’t tie the developer to exactly what is showed on the concept plan. “It gives direction,” she said.
One of the details in the plan – a water retention pond – drew a question from councillor Darin Busk. When the town’s overland runoff goes across country and ends up in the lake, which should Big Fish Bay be required to build a retention pond? Responding, town manager Brian Vance said, “We’re moving in that direction,” adding that Fournier Place has a retention pond, as does Gloryland. Skrynyk added that “at some point, the town is going to have to build a retention pond,” on the west side of town.
Commenting on the overall plan, Busk called it “very ambitious,” and thought it would be “great for the community.”
“We keep talking about needing more camping,” Warman said. He added that aspects of the plan required permission from other jurisdictions and wished the proponents the best of luck. Council passed a Julie Brandle motion to accept the plan as presented.
“We need to do something out there,” says Warman, leading off a late addition to the agenda on the state of some of the roads in the Gloryland neighbourhood. “There are some very ugly spots out there, for sure.”
Director of Operations Calvin Couturier said his people are doing what they can with small equipment. The drainage has improved a lot, he added.
Couturier had been looking into a product that might help to create a crust. It’s expensive, he said, but not as expensive as rebuilding the roads from scratch. However, that is the ultimate answer to the problems out there.
Councillor Busk said he’s tired of having the same discussion every year.
“We might have to bite the bullet,” he said.
“I think we are overdue to take a look at it,” said Warman.
Warman made a motion directing town staff to work with the engineering firm to come up with a proposal, with costs. Will do, said CAO Vance, but it’ll cost money to do it.
Warman reported on his recent activities, which included attendance at the Northern Lakes College convocation ceremony (“Always impressed by Northern Lakes College), the beach clean-up, the St. Francis grad ceremony and the visit by Jim Hoey and crew from The Dimestore Fishermen.
Warman said he was sorry to see the regional economic development person, Helene Klassen leave. Negotiations are underway with Community Futures to fill in to the end of the year on some of what she was doing (including the operation of the Visitor Information Centre).
Finally (and somewhat mysteriously), Warman spoke of an “epic” three-hour meeting of the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, which covered some interesting territory. He did not elaborate.