APRIL 2024

City Council Highlights

Below are some of the highlights from the April 2024 Council and Committee meetings. The full reports can be found at saskatoon.ca/meeting.

Housing Accelerator Fund – Development of City-Owned Land

With population growth at historic rates, it’s important that Saskatoon is strategic in how we accelerate housing supply. The Housing Accelerator Fund gives our city the opportunity to be creative and try to address what our recent Civic Survey results show. Affordable housing is a top priority of our residents. Having Saskatoon Land gives us an opportunity to utilize City-owned land to respond to this need, which many other cities do not have.

As part of the effort to accelerate affordable housing, Council asked the Administration to bring forward a proposal for one City-owned site for sale at no cost for an affordable housing project. Administration was also directed to develop a policy framework for affordable housing on City-owned land. The framework will include the possibility of long-term-lease options for future City-owned sites.

Community Energy Loan Programs

Council approved a program that will expand on the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP), allowing multi-unit residences and commercial buildings to participate.

This program is a win-win-win for the community. It will create local jobs and help residential, multi-unit residences, and commercial buildings make improvements to become more energy efficient. In turn, that saves money for building owners and operators. It would not impact our City borrowing limit or increase taxpayer dollars with a mill rate impact. And ultimately, the program also helps us reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions and play our part to try to mitigate our impact on the climate.

We know the success that HELP has been for single family residential homes. We’ve had high demand to continue the success of HELP by extending and expanding to other building types.

An internal borrowing loan of up to $25 million will be allocated, subject to public notice and an internal borrowing report. Administration will also submit an application to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Green Municipal Fund – Net Zero Transformation Pilot Program.

Saskatoon Freeway Planning Study – Phase 2 Endorsement Request

Council approved a deferral motion requesting information on how a future environmental impact assessment will be implemented, and possible mitigation efforts to protect the swales, wetlands, and wildlife species.

Phase 2 of the functional planning study addresses the bypass route between the river and Highway 11 south of the city limit. There is no timeline for a final decision from the Province on if this project would proceed. Construction is likely 15+ years away.

This freeway route is a challenging decision for sure. We are trying to plan for future growth north and east of the City, which is the only direction we can grow. Yet this is where the North East Swale runs through. Planning ahead requires big decisions today about the shape of neighbourhoods, transportation routes, and also to provide certainty for anyone in the path of that potential route to make development decisions.

The Plan for Growth that we have developed for the region has been essential in providing a more coherent and sustainable growth plan. At the same time, we have also been mindful of the value of the Swale and the ecological sensitivity of it.

At this stage of the planning for the Saskatoon Freeway, the Provincial Government has planned a route that is deemed to have the least impact on the Swale. Although, there is much more detailed work to be done if and when the Saskatoon Freeway moves forward. This is likely more than a decade down the road.

As the region grows beyond 500,000 people, transportation patterns and options may change, and we may not need another bypass route like this. Because we can’t predict this today, I have been in favour of getting this alignment approved in order to make important planning decisions in the interim in the region.

Wiggins Ave and College Dr Intersection Changes

A road safety audit was initiated following the tragic death of cyclist Natasha Fox. Council voted to implement a number of recommended road, sidewalk, driveway, and curb changes to improve safety at the intersection. 

Through this process, it has been identified that Wiggins and College is the highest used intersection for cyclists and the second highest for pedestrians. It is also very narrow and congested.  Council approved changes to attempt to reduce the conflict between cars, bikes and pedestrians. These included the installation of a green ‘bike box’ and a northbound bike lane on Wiggins Ave between College Dr and Elliot Street. There will also be right-turn-on-red restrictions put in place. 

Administration will also report on opportunities for the City and Council to support changes to commercial vehicle standards that could reduce driver blind spots. The report will include potential opportunities for a pilot project to retrofit some City vehicles with enhanced visibility measures. 

Even though it is not typical for the City to establish motor vehicle regulations, we want to do what we can to support changes that improve safety for all road users.

Housing Accelerator Fund – Accessory Dwelling Units

Council made a number of changes that will permit more Accessory Dwelling Units to be built on residential lots throughout the city. The changes will permit a garden or garage suite on a site with a semi-detached dwelling or a two unit dwelling.

I recognize the unusual way the Housing Accelerator Fund has come forward. Cities across the country are sorting through how to proceed with meeting the objectives of this new Federal program that can also be done in a logical way. 

I live in Nutana and over the last 15 or so years, a lot of changes have happened. There have been infills, basement suites, apartment buildings, and a church-event space that wasn’t there before. While some of that development seemed questionable at the start, it’s become crucial for students going to University, seniors downsizing, and those who need a place to live. 

In a time where we are in a housing crisis, we need housing. The ability to increase density has been one of our stated goals and this will increase our capacity for that. If I thought a decision like this would be overly disruptive to the existing communities, I wouldn’t support this. But I believe it will be of benefit to us all. There will be more reports in the coming months that deal with additional proposed changes. 

For more information on the City’s proposed Housing Accelerator Fund Action Plan, go to www.saskatoon.ca/HAF

Long Term Organics Processing

The original contract for processing organics collection was made with a private partner. However, since the operator was unable to meet the terms of the contract, the City has been in a temporary contract with Loraas to process the collected organics at their composting facility north of Saskatoon. 

Council approved the City to build a City-Owned Processing Facility to manage the long-term processing of organic materials collected. The proposed site is south of the landfill, already City owned, and has proper zoning. 

The current estimates indicate that the City can process the materials at a far lower cost than a third party provider, potentially up to $1.5 million cheaper per year. If costs are found to be higher through detailed design, Council will have an opportunity to reconsider the path.

There will be an additional report coming to Council regarding the first year of the Organics collections. There have been a number of inquiries regarding collections during winter months and this will be an opportunity for Council to consider initiating changing the frequency of collections.

And more…

  • Council made a change to the number of Taxi Licences that are offered. Going forward, there will be 16 Enterprise Taxi Licences available in the draw, and 14 additional Temporary Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Licenses will be added to increase the number of accessible rides meeting the maximum 15 minute wait time.
  • The Pleasant Hill Village Project has been completed with budgeted money remaining. Remaining funds will be distributed to the Pleasant Hill Rink Project, public washroom initiatives, and to the Affordable Housing Reserve. The Pleasant Hill Rink project is an amazing initiative developed by the community and City working together to bring a gathering place to one of the most challenged neighbourhood in our City. 
  • Drake Meats Inc. will receive a 5-year incremental property tax abatement as they build a new plant in Saskatoon to fulfil the expansion of their business. The new 53,000 sq ft facility will create more than 200 new full time jobs by year five of their operations.

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