City Council Highlights
Here are the top 5 highlights from the Council and Committee meetings in May.
Flood Control Strategy
The City has moved forward with plans to address flooding in some of the worst-hit areas of the city. The federal government recently announced that they would be paying for 40% of the total project cost of $54 million.
For years I’ve witnessed first-hand stories from visiting people’s homes and hearing people’s stories about the stresses caused by ongoing flooding. Floods impact homes, businesses, and traffic, but most importantly they impact people’s lives and can put serious strains on individuals and families. The strategy helps provide some relief and certainty, and it is a positive step forward for our community.
This is a nine-year project to address 10 different areas in the city. The first area addressed by this plan is around 1st Street East/Dufferin Avenue. The City will be constructing a dry pond in WW Ashley Park, and the City has worked with the public school division to relocate the sports field in this park to Aden Bowman Collegiate. This means that the school and the community will still have access to a high-quality sports field in the area and there can still be a slightly smaller sports field in WW Ashley after the dry pond is created. The field enhancements at Aden Bowman will begin this year, and the dry pond in WW Ashley Park will be constructed next year. This is a win-win for the neighbourhood, and thanks to all of the City staff involved for finding this creative solution.
Thank you also to our federal partners who are supporting this project as we do our work in adapting to a changing climate. For information on what steps you can take to mitigate the risk of flooding in your home, you can check out the City’s website.
Facility for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan
This month at City Council the plans for the permanent facility for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan were approved. This is an exciting project for our community and I’m happy that the City of Saskatoon is playing a role in bringing this vision into reality.
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan is making significant improvements along the riverbank near Kinsmen Park to add to this valuable public space. Renderings and plans for the facility can be found online.
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan will operate and maintain the new amphitheatre, and they will be making it available to other community groups when they are not using it for shows and programming. Over a year ago, City Council approved in principle partnering on this project to pay for the infrastructure upgrades to make the washrooms useable all year, and I’m happy to support this investment in our community. I want to thank Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan for their leadership and for helping to build community through this project.
Development in the Downtown
A year ago the City reported on ways to better facilitate and stimulate investment in our Downtown, and this month Council received an update on this work.
One of the keys to our city’s success will be encouraging smart and sensible growth, and this means making sure that we are making the best use of our existing infrastructure. In the past decade, over 80% of our city’s growth has been with suburban growth on the outskirts of the city. Our Growth Plan targets a balanced growth model of 50% suburban and 50% infill to better use existing infrastructure and achieve a more sustainable model. For this reason, we created a Mayor’s Roundtable on Downtown Development. This roundtable identified many opportunities to streamline development processes and reduce red tape, levelling the playing field between growth in the suburbs and growth in the city’s centre. A summary on this work from the past year can be found online.
We’ve been able to make progress in our planning for the Downtown over the past year, and there is more work to do.
One request that came forward at City Council was to investigate off-site levies and consider creating a wider area in which these levies are waived. Right now, the way that the levies are applied is a disincentive to smaller projects and the way they are implemented is inconsistent. Because of this, Council asked for a targeted report with a quick turnaround to identify an expanded boundary outside the Downtown where off-site levies could be waived.
The Downtown is the heart of any community. It is the hub of business and industry, a key commercial area, and a destination for residents and visitors. I look forward to continuing this work and seeing how we can build on the positive momentum in our Downtown.
Protection of the Northeast Swale
A committee of Council heard updates on work being done collaboratively by the City to work towards the preservation of the Northeast Swale. The full report can be found online.
The swale is some of the last remaining natural prairie in the area and it adds a tremendous amount of biodiversity to the region. As our city continues to grow and as neighbourhoods develop adjacent to the swale, we have to grow in way that respects and complements our green spaces, as a way to both add to quality of life and to have infrastructure that works for the area.
There has been some talk in our community about the impacts to the swale with the Province’s plan to construct the Saskatoon Freeway, as well as conversation about granting the swale heritage status as a means to protect it.
For me, this isn’t a conversation or an issue that’s “pro-swale” versus “pro-freeway,” as that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. Given that there are still several years until this project gets underway, my goal is to support a process for various stakeholders with different interests to come together to find creative solutions to ensure that the integrity of the swale is protected to the greatest degree while recognizing that it is within an urban area that will face development.
Ensuring the swale remains ecologically healthy will benefit everyone. The swale is already becoming a destination for the thousands of people moving into the area and it is helping to attract millions of dollars of investment in housing. It is a key wildlife corridor and preserve of prairie grassland, which is one of the most threatened habitats in North America.
Changes to Neighbourhood Parking
This month City Council amended the Traffic Bylaw to increase the city-wide on-street parking limit from 36 to 72 hours, changes that took effect immediately.
Previously, someone would have been in violation of the bylaw if they left their vehicle on the street in the city for the weekend or if they chose to walk, take the bus, or cycle for a couple of days in a row. For me, the 36-hour rule was overly restrictive and it didn’t align our goals as a City. However, to completely get rid of all parking restrictions there would be no mechanism to remove vehicles that have been parked for a long time or that are unlicensed or abandoned. Some degree of parking restrictions help to ensure parking supply is available by creating turnover. My intention is to see how this change goes for the first year, and if there are adjustments required we can explore that as well.
The 36-hour parking restriction can still be in effect for road work, such as reconstruction or street sweeping. You can find the street sweeping schedule online as well as a map of current construction work.