City Briefs: The Latest Civic Action

Encroaching on the lake

The principal topic of discussion for Municipal Services Committee this week was a motion to offer a lease to construction company RTL-Robinson Ltd. for their “currently unauthorized,” usage of land next to properties they are leasing on Old Airport Road.

The city recommended a 10-year lease be offered to RTL for usage and development of the property.

Their original leased space was three adjacent lots on the road, covering almost 23,000 square metres. The space they’ve subsequently encroached on is almost half again as large, covering around 32,000 square metres. RTL pays property tax on all the land, but does not pay lease fees for the area they’ve since taken over.

Councillor Adrian Bell wasn’t thrilled about establishing a precedent for this type of encroachment. “I’m concerned that we’ll be saying ‘It’s ok to encroach on city land. We’ll sign a lease afterwards that makes it legitimate,’” he said.

City director of planning and development Jeff Humble responded by pointing out that the city hadn’t always owned the land, and it had been developed quite extensively by RTL prior to the city acquiring it. “We need a window to provide the process,” he added.

Bell added, “A 10-year lease, that’s really just a lease. Why not give them a five-year window?”

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There was some discussion of RTL possibly moving their operations to the Engle Business District. However, the memo provided to MSC states that this was not “feasible at this time.”

Councillor Konge drove the nail in that coffin by pointing out that over the decades the company has been developing the land, “they’ve made significant investments. I’d estimate it would cost them $10-$15 million to move. I don’t see them moving.”

The discussion went on to raise a number of other possibilities, including a one-year lease, and an environmental assessment completed for the end of it. Concern was raised by councillor Dan Wong about the possible environmental impact of the property, especially given its proximity to Frame Lake.

Administration will collate the recommended changes to their recommendation and return with them in a few weeks.

Measuring downtown metrics

Also before MSC this week was a memo about measuring economic, socio-economic and demographic changes to the downtown area. It had originally come before MSC with administration posing the question of whether or not to do it at all. Council said yes, and asked administration to return with some recommended metrics.

The proposed list mostly met with approval from council, though several additions were suggested. “Since we’re doing a homelessness count with Point-In-Time, homelessness should be one of, if not our most important, metric,” said councillor. Dan Wong. He went on to add that the count should be broken down into individual streams, rather than being a simple headcount of the homeless population.

The memo to council establishing these measures came with a second component: that if the department was unable to collect certain outside information, the senior administrative officer would be able to remove it from the list of metrics. “I think it should come back to council,” councillor Bell said.

Another addition to the list came from councillor Cory Vanthuyne. “I’d like to add on-street and off-street parking, and developable land. I’d also like to track the amount of businesses that leave downtown, go out of business, or enter the downtown.”

Administration will make their changes to the list and bring it back to council for consideration.

Sunday drinking looks set for June, and more council biz

Council was a flurry of activity, whipping through motions at breakneck speed.

Here are the biggest things that got approved last night.

The city gave out a little over $3 million in water and sewer contracts to RTL-Robinson and NWT Construction to install sewer lines under Horton Crescent and Forrest Drive, respectively.

There was some debate previously in council about approving the contracts, as the first one for Horton Crescent is around $300,000 over budget. The Paving Program is expected to provide the absent funds, with an expected surplus from that project of around $850,000.

The motion passed unanimously.

A plan to vitalize the downtown passed through council as well. The Residential Intensification Incentive, originally a broader project aimed across the city, passed at council with only the Primary Area (downtown) being included in the project.

New buildings and buildings adapted for new purposes will be eligible for first year tax abatements, and then possibly for grants in subsequent years at the discretion of city council.

The motion passed with Councillor Bussey opposed.

It’s looking like the weird and twisted path of Twin Pine Hill has definitely taken a residential turn. The City approved the proposed rezoning last night, which in essence will allow the longtime developer of the property, who originally sought to put in a hotel, to construct living areas on the land.

The motion passed with Councillor Konge opposed.

Finally, the Licensed Premises bylaw amendment hit second reading. A statute within the NWT’s liquor regulations means that the earliest it can get to third reading is in thirty days. At the earliest, it will come back to council by mid-May.

After first reading the city was required to send copies of the amended bylaw to the Minister and Board of the NWT Liquor Commission, but “that’s just an FYI,” says Councillor Dan Wong. The Liquor Act of the NWT requires that the copies be sent, but contains no stipulation on ministerial approval. “The bylaw will be continuing with its process,” added Wong.

In addition, the by-law only comes into effect 30 days after third reading, so bars and clubs (not to mention the drinking public) won’t be reaping the rewards until mid-June. Just in time for summer, we can hope.

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