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Month: September 2012

Building Up – Discussing Density in Edmonton

Pulled from the CarbonTalks.ca, Density in a City of Neighbourhoods – Dialogue Report, I’ve put together a survey based on the report’s discussion guide. The report was obviously written with Vancouver in mind, but with civic policy such as the Residential Infill Guidelines, Transit Oriented Development Guidelines, and The Way we Grow (municipal development plan), the questions are very much relevant to Edmonton as well, as the city looks inward and upward for future growth and development (enter any sarcastic comments about on-going urban sprawl or the state of the developing “Growth Coordination Strategy”, here).

The survey is a personal research project for myself and my volunteer commitments to my Community League and other community-oriented organizations. Whether you complete all the questions, or just a few, your feedback and ideas on this subject are very much appreciated. Thank you.

Click here to begin!

Dizzy

The City of Edmonton says it can’t ‘affirm’ his economic claims, Councillors say they don’t know what he wants, and to date we’ve been threatened with relocation to Hamilton, Houston, Quebec and Seattle by two different owners of a team that’s been rebuilding for 20 years. If anyone wants the ride stopped so they can get off, I don’t think you can be blamed. The Mayor has set an October 17th deadline for Mr. Katz or representatives to appear before Council, although what would happen if they’re no-shows as the deadline comes and goes is..undefined. I’ve written on the arena a few times before, so until something actually moves other than politicking and posturing, I think I’ve said my piece.

The comments from the Mayor about the two sides being ‘far apart’ despite the existence of an approved financial framework are interesting. To that end, I went looking for old news articles from the time of it’s approval for comments from the Katz Group. Just to try and glimpse their level of support for the framework at the time. Anyway, in the process I compiled a number of articles from the past several years. Time clouds details, and it’s interesting too see the specifics that have been washed out from memory. If you’re interested in some arena-saga nostalgia, check out the collection below.

More confusion over Katz plan

Skepticism, tough questions must stick to arena debate like glue

NHL commissioner adds his say about downtown arena

Research on downtown arena has cost Edmonton $450K

Oilers bid makes arena plan more feasible: councillor

Mandel sets Oct. 17 deadline for Katz Group to spell out arena demands

Concern grows over the future of Rexall Place

NHL’s Bettman asks mayor for meeting on arena – Edmonton – CBC News

Angry taxpayers protest arena

Ex-NHL owner disputes arena economics

Mayor, Katz Group to meet with NHL commissioner in New York

Arena funding model mulled

Edmonton arena deal within reach, mayor suggests – Edmonton – CBC News

Alberta looking at funding Edmonton arena – Edmonton – CBC News

Stelmach, Mandel meet to discuss proposed downtown arena

Oilers owner Katz drops arena non-compete clause

Arena funding hot topic at public hearing – Edmonton – CBC News

Katz sets the record straight in a letter to Edmontonians

Edmonton, Katz Group agree to $450M arena deal | Hockey | Sports | The London Free Press

Oilers talking about move to Quebec City?

Downtown arena framework approved – but not all convinced

Arena decision reaction

Katz Group postpones public hearing

No federal money for downtown arena

Edmonton mayor wants vote on downtown arena

 

 

 

Base of Operations

Earlier this week the city’s Sustainable Development dept and Fire Rescue Services held an open house in the west-end regarding a proposed Fire Station in Suder Greens (Lewis Estates) and a related amendment to the Neighbourhood’ Structure Plan.

The map in the presentation below shows a growing gap in the west-end’s fire coverage, and based on coverage, public safety, projected growth, integrated response, and several other factors, Fire Rescue clearly sees a need a to move ahead with providing a base of operations for it’s services in the area.

The Google map below shows another gap in emergency response in west Edmonton. The stationing of Emergency Medical Services responders. Three stations (Glenora, Glenwood, and Callingwood) from 142st west-ward, are responsible for providing EMT and ambulance services up to the city limits. As with Fire Rescue, no stations exist west of the Anthony Henday.

A worthy question is; why, with the city making an investment to fill a service gap and place additional first responders in the west-end, is the Province of Alberta, and AHS, not taking advantage of an opportunity to co-locate at the proposed facility? It’s a question which was posed at the meeting by Councillor Linda Sloan. Officials in attendance responded that AHS had in fact been contacted but had declined the colocation opportunity.

With a growing service gap, and the opportunity to reduce costs by working jointly with the city, why not take advantage of potential cost savings during difficult economic times and work with the city to add ambulance capacity to the site, even if there is a hesitancy to station ambulances and EMTs at the facilitie’s immediate opening?

Both services are intertwined, with dual responsibilities and joint responses. Not taking advantage of this opportunity, could and does appear to be very much a short-sighted, or grossly overlooked opportunity to provide care to a continually growing section of the city. This in addition to the effect on established areas as their existing ambulance services are stretched out into the west-end and beyond the Henday.

A need exists, as does the opportunity for AHS and the province to help fill it. What could be better than to do so jointly with both groups of first responders and the municipality, and in a timely and cost-effective manner?


View Edmonton EMS in a larger map

Suder Greens Fire Station

Community Day

“Very quickly however, the community league’s focus advanced beyond its district infrastructure to include social and recreational needs. The league organized social functions and conducted sports events that brought residents closer and fostered their sense of being part of a community” – Ron Kuban (Edmonton’s Urban Villages – The Community League Movement)

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Car shows, corn roasts, BBQ’s and more, over 90 communities held events across Edmonton for today’s iteration of the now annual Community League Day. This on top of events such as Glenwood’s Party in the Park which have already or will take place as summer comes to a close.

The Community League movement got its formal start with the creation of the Crestwood Community League in 1917. Community and resident groups are a staple of community life in cities and municipalities across North America, however few can claim the uniqueness and the role in the creation of a city, the way Edmonton’s Community League system, and the thousands of volunteers over the past century can.

Events like those today, help foster community. They’ve always done so, however when the demands on our time are greater than ever, when volunteer ranks and connectivity between neighbours in a community easily can and do become strained and detached, their importance can only increase. In the early days of our city, these events helped to build neighbourhoods. Now they serve to reconnect and even revitalize the same.

So as Edmonton’s population inches ever closer to the million mark, as new neighbourhoods develop, as older ones find themselves in need of care, revitalization, and reinvestment, and as the City of Edmonton finds itself having to adapt and provide a greater number of programs, projects, and services; How does a community league system with a century of experience mold itself to these changes and a new generation of Edmontonians?

The value of community leagues in advocacy and reaching into politics from the grassroots level is unchanged, and perhaps carries even greater importance with current public policy being pulled upon in multiple directions by more entities than ever before.  The role, the duty of civic government, for both elected representatives and public servants is that of openness and transparency. If volunteers hit a wall, if public consultation is neither accessible, proactive and rewarding, volunteers will burn out and fade away. The same is true if that grassroots voice finds itself unheard, rather than represented in civic governance and direction.

For league’s themselves, the cost of building and maintaining amenities, and providing services to a community cannot be done without municipal support. It’s not just capable Community Recreation Coordinators to work with and support volunteer boards, but making resources to repair, revitalize and if necessary help rebuild older halls, or facilities in new communities. As well as to allow the EFCL to explore avenues such as volunteer training, and new methods of connecting with Edmonton’s now 150+ leagues.

Finally is the outreach at the most local of levels. For individual boards, the tools for doing so have never been more plentiful. Digital outlets; a website, Twitter account and Facebook are simple to use, require diligence but minimal time to maintain, and are wide reaching. It’s hard for a community member to become engaged when information is limited, out of date, or just simply unavailable altogether.

And when community residents do make the decision to volunteer, whether it’s for a special event or by making the commitment to join the board or a sub-committee, it’s so important to offer a welcoming environment.  I joined the Glenwood Community League as it’s Civics Director with no first-hand experience with the community league system, and with the support and encouragement of my board, within the year I was representing the league at public hearing, maintaining our digital presence and moderating town hall meetings. It’s a privilege to be able to serve one’s community and all voices, ages, and backgrounds should be allowed and warmly welcomed at the table. Differing opinions are a fact of life. They should be respected and lead, not to closed doors, but to healthy debate within a league and/or between the league and civic government.

The community league system is strong, but fragile. Experienced but having to continually adapt itself to the times. Blessed with numerous dedicated and excellent volunteers but always open and need of more. Community league day is a snapshot and a reminder of the value of this movement, lets make sure its future is sustainable, and its value as a service provider, as an advocate, and as a city builder isn’t forgotten or allowed to wither.

For Immediate Release – Please, sir, I want some more.

The Katz Group is back to City Council (not in front of City Council though, once again City Admin has to play middle-man), with financial concerns with the proposed arena’s contentious financial framework.

Major stumbling blocks threaten Edmonton’s downtown arena project

“The Katz Group’s concerns have grown as it’s become clear, to them at least, that to building a proper arena is going to make more than the $450 million for the arena and $50 million for the Wintergarden pedway.”

I think we all know $450 was unrealistic, a number produced and clung to mostly for political reasons. The missing millions have always been the elephant in the room, somewhat covered up by a room divider with “Province of Alberta” and a happy face scrawled on it with a sharpie. The province was never going to do more than leave some MSI money on the table for the city to re-purpose towards the arena.

So to get to $450, on the city’s end, it channels $100 million from the province, $45 from a CRL, $80 from *other sources*. As well, outside of that, it spends, an estimated, $25 million on land purchases, up to $25 million on a pedway, and up to $17 million on LRT connections. In addition, if other levels of government are willing to help out, the city will spend *an estimated* $7 million on a community rink. Above this, the City of Edmonton will spend $20 million over ten years, entering into ‘marketing/branding partnership’ with the Oilers. It also surrenders operating revenue from the facility, as well as its naming rights.

I certainly don’t see a lack of will here by Council to have a deal done. In reality it very much appears to be the Katz Group, through strategically placed third-party opinion, and requests behind the veil through city admin and ‘in camera’ discussion that’s the stumbling block, as it attempts to nickel & dime a better deal for itself, or for some other reason we haven’t yet stumbled upon.

And, as per the letter in the article, Councillors are once again denied the opportunity to speak directly with the Katz Group. Why City Councillors, the directors of the corporation of the City of Edmonton, don’t have the business partner with which they’re choosing to enter into a multi hundred-million dollar project, at the table with them in their choosen forum is beyond frustrating for this Edmontonian and politico.  Just as I’m sure it is to some Councillors, having to watch the City Manager and staff shuffle messages back and forth.
I’d like to see a downtown arena and surrounding district develop…in the “nice to have” as the coliseum ages and we focus on downtown development sense. Not in the ‘we absolutely need this to grow and create a vibrant city’ one, a turn onto a road which can leave a city with a bad financial deal and debt for a long time.  To quote from a book I’d highly recommend to any urbanite “The folly of building-centric urban renewal reminds us that cities aren’t structures; cities are people.”  These things are amenities, they play a role in local economies and civic pride, but the life, rise and growth of a city extends well beyond it’s rink, and place on the pro-sports map.  The same is true for our downtown, which comprises obviously more than just an ‘arena district’ and will grow and under-go revitalization and reinvestment regardless.

The onus is on Council to create the best arrangement for the city. They’ve clearly made a commitment and offered up/sacrificed significant political capital to put a financial framework in place.  Expecting other orders of government to step in a make-up the difference was politically expedient but a structural failure point to which no alternatives were put in place. The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, with somewhat convienient timing, has leaned on government to make-up the difference. As has our city’s partner in this arrangement, today. It’s time the Katz Group put it’s financials on the table, and itself at microphones in front of Council so our civic decision makers can finally see if our partner here has the cash or even the will to fill in the blanks in financing and make this thing happen. At that point, we can begin to plan what happens next. As per today’s motion, Council may be ‘committed’ to the existing funding model. But that doesn’t mean it’s not….insufficient to the point, that without a partner willing to answer the cash call, we should perhaps move on to alternate visions for the area, rather than wittling the project down just to make it happen in any form.

Vetoneuve

Edmonton City Centre Airport a Done Deal

Krushell said medevac is a red herring.


“We want to ensure there’s a system in place that addresses that, but International (airport) has plenty of capacity and so does Villeneuve,” Krushell said.


Mandel mum on details after Smith meet-and-greet

“He assured that they’re not going to close the city centre airport until there is another option” at Villeneuve airport, now undergoing upgrades west of the city.

 

Quarterly Update of the Redevelopment of the City Centre Airport

Edmonton Regional Airports Authority advises that land is available at Edmonton International Airport and at Villeneuve where a tenant/Medevac could design and construct a new hangar sufficient to replace their existing space at Edmonton City Centre Airport, within one year.

 

Kim Krushell – City Centre Airport

Training pilots do not pay landing fees in the same way as other users of the ECCA that contribute to the operational revenues of ECCA. Furthermore, the training pilots take off and land from ECCA, but they do most of their actual training at Villeneuve or the International Airport (EIA).


There are 21 aviation-related leases in place at the City Centre Airport, which includes businesses like the Edmonton Police Services and the Flying Club. All of these businesses can be accommodated at either the Edmonton International Airport or the Villeneuve Airport.


Economic Impact Study of Villeneuve Airport and Cooking Lake Airport – 2006

Villeneuve Airport is the primary flight training facility of the Edmonton region. Businesses

offer flight training in a range of aircraft, including helicopters, and the site is often host to

air cadet glider training.


Villeneuve and Cooking Lake Airports generate direct employment in the Edmonton region

and contribute significantly to the Alberta economy. The significance of the airports in

terms of the provincial economy is demonstrated by the direct economic impact of the

airports’ employment on GDP and output; of $8 million and $20 million respectively – total

impacts of $18 million and $43 million using economic multipliers.


Villeneuve and Cooking Lake Airports are also important generators of taxation revenues

to all levels of government. Total taxes paid on an annual basis, by employers, employees

and airport users, are estimated at $2 million. Combined tax contributions for the two

airports amounts to $1,300,000 to the federal government, $500,000 to the provincial

government, and $200,000 to their municipal governments.

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If I’m a resident of Villeneuve, I might be mad or at least perturbed that future development in my small community was vetoed at the Capital Region Board level by Edmonton and St. Albert. I might find some humor in the fact that St. Albert’s airport closed several years ago, and that Edmonton’s City Centre Airport is soon to be redeveloped (a good thing if done well, worth some grumbling if fumbled). And I might be prepared to ask why Edmonton, having made the case for Villeneuve’s growth itself, now chooses to stand in opposition.

The quotes and news picks above could easily be thrown in with clippings from the ECCA closure debate, which made the case for Villeneuve as a home for flight training, aircraft movements and even medevac operations moving from the City Centre.

The Capital Region Board’s Land Use Plan establishes residential density targets of 30-45 units per hectare.  Ensuring sustainable land use, that a municipality has the density required to afford it’s infrastructure, services, and the viability of local amenities is a shared responsibility in the region.  And an area plan that contravenes reasonable targets for density and housing options should indeed expect to be met with opposition at the CRB level.

And In Villeneuve, a case could well be made for a variety of housing types, outside of single-family units with rolling back yards in a proposed plan that falls outside of the region’s land use planning mandates.  Affordable/rental townhomes or apartments for pilots in training who won’t be in the community long-term.  Options to accommodate a growth in population that’s going to be tied to increased usage of Villeneuve airport, and the industrial/commercial amenities which arrive to support it.

The case now becomes, should the municipality and developer reapply with a plan that accommodates multple housing and density targets, what is the board to do?

But staff at the Capital Region Board recommended against the project because Villeneuve doesn’t sit in any of the board’s designated priority growth areas.  

Villeneuve may not be in previously established priority growth area, but with the emphasis placed on their Hamlet through the closure of the ECCA and St. Albert airports, Villeneuve residents who don’t pay close attention to politics or civic policy could probably be forgiven for thinking that they were.

The CRB shall review the priority growth areas in conjunction with, or subsequent to, the approval of: a.   Changes to the routing of Light Rail Transit (LRT) or regional bus service in the Capital Region Intermunicipal Transit Plan; b.   Creation of new or significant adjustments to major employment areas in the Plan area; and c.   New alignments or changes to alignments and/or location of major regional infrastructure.

Villeneuve airport is a piece of regional infrastructure, under the management of the Edmonton Regional Airports Association. It’s been placed into a position where it can expect an increase in usage, a demand for improvements and investment, and potential spin-offs to the area in terms of housing demand and supportive amenities. Perhaps it’s time to draw a circle in the CRB’s priority growth areas around Villeneuve. We want individuals to be able to “live locally” in their communities, and we’ve placed Villeneuve is a position to expect some form of influx of demand.  It’s only good planning, to plan to accommodate it.