OCTOBER & NOVEMBER 2023
City Council Highlights
Below are some of the highlights from the October and November 2023 Council and Committee meetings. The full reports can be found at saskatoon.ca/meeting.
Vehicle Noise Mitigation
As a City, we have been trying to come up with better tools to address vehicle noise for many years. A new policy from the Provincial Government has allowed municipalities to make changes to better enforce and reduce excessive vehicle noise. This new policy is a big step forward to help alleviate the concerns of residents and bring greater peace of mind to neighbourhoods.
In Saskatoon, we have already taken steps to align with the provincial policy. We have made changes to Bylaw No. 8244, The Noise Bylaw, to include a noise level limit for motor vehicles, update the noise level limit for motorcycles, allow police officers to order sound testing, and to create a corresponding offence for failing to comply with the regulations.
304 3rd Avenue North – Heritage Designation Bylaw Amendment Request
An amendment request by St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church (formerly Third Avenue United Church) to remove the church’s Casavant Organ from the heritage designation of that property, failed to gain approval.
Our goal is to preserve and make sure buildings with strong history remain and have life to carry on with some adaptations. It is important to balance the preservation of heritage buildings with being operational in today’s world.
A decision to not allow the amendment was based on what’s been heard from the community, how irreplaceable the organ is within any other building in the city, as well as Council’s original decision to include the organ in the heritage designation.
Building Safer Communities Fund
The City of Saskatoon was invited to apply for funding from the federal Building Safer Communities Fund. This funding will grant the City $2.74 million in total funding. The City had previously been granted $212,850 in operating funds for the creation of strategy to bolster gang prevention and intervention programming.
The additional $2.5 million in funding will go towards the implementation of the strategy once that is completed. Initiatives that can be included in the strategy are wide ranging including mentoring and counselling, awareness and education, improving data systems, and direct intervention initiatives.
As the next steps unfold in developing Saskatoon’s strategy it will be important to involve youth as we talk about gangs and violence. When we did the smart cities challenge, we had a circle of youth that played a very valuable role in shaping what we were doing. Saskatoon has a number of organizations and networks of youth that could be invaluable to this. It would be great to see us create better conditions in our city that lead to better pathways that don’t involve gangs or violence for our youth.
Neighbourhood Land Development Fund Allocation of Profits
$3.9 million of profits were allocated from the Neighbourhood Land Development Fund to the Bus Rapid Transit Funding Plan. Bus Rapid Transit will help to make Saskatoon Transit a more reliable system that improves both capacity and efficiency for a growing city.
The Neighbourhood Land Development Fund has helped to provide money to various projects. Since 2007, more than $130 million of investment returns have contributed to projects including the Chief Mistawasis bridge, the Affordable Housing Reserve, Fire Hall projects, The Property Realized Reserve for future land acquisition, and the Paved Roadways Infrastructure Reserve. The Neighbourhood Land Development Fund continues to help fund priorities in Saskatoon with profits that are made from investments through Saskatoon Land.
Application for Emergency Residential Shelter – 1701 Idylwyld Drive North
The Provincial Government recently applied for the establishment of an emergency residential shelter. As the building was already owned by the Province and a permitted zoning use, City Council was asked to set the length of time this shelter would be able to operate. City Council approved the use for 18 months. This facility will have 15 beds, specifically for people who have complex addictions or mental health needs, and will be by referral only.
I understand and can appreciate the anxiety and concern from residents and nearby business owners. There is no location that would not raise some concern from neighbours. But we need places for people to stabilize and receive the options for supports.
We know emergency shelters are not a long term solution. We’ve been asking for collaborative solutions that help address the growing homelessness, addictions, and mental health crises that Saskatoon and other communities are facing. We have been growing our collaboration with Police, Fire, community service providers, and the Provincial Government and are beginning to see a whole-community approach.
We need to continue to work collaboratively to ensure there is appropriate housing, facilities, programs, services, and supports to address the full continuum of needs.
Housing Accelerator Fund Application Amendments
City Council discussed a letter from the Federal Minister of Housing requesting improvements to our application that could accelerate housing construction. Our city is growing fast. Our population grew by 14,000 people last year and we have an average of 3000 new housing starts per year.
Council passed motions which:
- Direct staff to prepare amendments to planning regulations to: Permit “as-of-right” development for up to four residential units on a property in a residential zoning district with appropriate development standards, including regulations such as the lot size and servicing capacity, and to report back to a Public Hearing in the first quarter of 2024;
- Permit four storey multiple-unit development within 800 metres of the bus rapid transit system corridors, with appropriate development standards, including servicing capacity and report back to a Public Hearing in the second quarter of 2024;
- Remove parking requirements from areas that are within the defined Corridor Areas and report back to a Public Hearing in the first quarter of 2024.
- In addition, City Council directed Administration to continue working with the University of Saskatchewan to increase density and create opportunities for student housing in the College Quarter.
I recognize that having these motions come forward happened very quickly and without the kind of public notification and engagement that we would typically have with zoning changes. This is an extraordinary situation given the way that this Housing Accelerator Fund has been rolled out across the country and the way cities have responded across the country.
I also recognize that there are processes underway and/or completed that could be impacted – such as the Corridor Planning and Local Area Plans.
To be clear, these changes have not yet been made. City Council has directed Administration to bring back bylaw proposals for both four units as of right zoning in the first quarter of 2024 and for the permission of four storey dwellings within 800m of BRT corridors in the second quarter of 2024. This time will give the opportunity for engagement and further analysis and evaluation of the implications of these proposed changes.
We are also able to learn from the experience of other cities who have made similar changes and have had time to see the impact on their neighbourhoods. One thing that we are learning is that in cities that have implemented similar changes over the past 5-10 years, this has not led to rapid or dramatic changes to neighbourhoods. Kelowna implemented as of right zoning in 2018, Minneapolis in 2019 and Edmonton has allowed for higher density within 800m of transit for the past few years as well. There is more to evaluate in the months ahead.
Veteran Parking Program
City Council voted to make the Veteran Parking Pilot Program permanent policy. The City undertook a pilot program in November of 2022 that expanded Veteran Parking to all veterans with veteran parking plates.
Previously, veterans would have to register for a pass with the city. Under the pilot project and the upcoming permanent policy, any veteran with Saskatchewan Veterans plates will be allowed to park in paid parking zones for the length of the posted time. As of August 2023, nearly 500 veteran plates were registered in Saskatoon and 2400 total in the province. The pilot program was set to expire in February of 2024.
Use of Civic Square Policy
It is important that there is a clear policy for the use of Civic Square outside of City Hall. City Administration has regularly been put in a difficult spot, trying to determine the clear and fair way for civic square to be used.
Council directed the Administration to amend the Bylaw so that there are fewer restrictions for applications to use Civic Square for events. The main points guiding this policy include: respect for rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; recognition that the space is for public benefit; prohibition of illegal or discriminatory activity; and permit requirements for activities such as setting up structures.
As there will be fewer conditions for approval, there will be adjustments made if needed. We don’t want to see unintended consequences for more groups being able to use the Square. Groups interested in applying to have an event at Civic Square can do so on the following webpage.
Incentive Applications for incremental 5-year tax abatements were approved for both Great Western Brewing Co. & Three Farmers Foods Inc. Both of these local companies are expanding their presence in the community providing good jobs and continuing to put Saskatoon on the global map.
City Council approved funding from the Government of Saskatchewan to build a Zebra Facility at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo to house Zebras throughout the winter months.
As part of last month’s highlights about the addition of a Shaheed Minar monument to be placed in Mahoney Park, it was mentioned that the Kensington neighbourhood was home to a large and growing Bengali population in close proximity to the temple where the community worships. This was an error in reference to the nearby Gurdwarda (temple) which is a place of worship for the Sikh community, not the Bengali community.
City Council confirmed many appointments to the various Civic boards and committees. There are some openings that still exist that can be filled. If you are interested in filling a vacancy you can find more information here: https://www.saskatoon.ca/city-hall/city-council-boards-committees/boards-committees
Municipal Ward Boundaries were established for the 2024 Municipal Elections. Thank you for the work of the Commission in determining boundaries within provincial legislation that creates the least impact on the community. The City will continue to advocate with SUMA and partners to the Provincial Government that a larger buffer would be more beneficial so we do not have to go through this exercise every election.