On the agenda: Edmonton's shrinking share of non-residential taxes, infill damage, construction impact

· The Pulse

This week, council committees will meet to discuss options to attract non-residential investment, programs to compensate homeowners negatively affected by infill construction, and grants for business owners near major city construction.

There is a community and public services committee meeting scheduled for June 17, an urban planning committee meeting scheduled for June 18, and an executive committee meeting scheduled for June 19.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • Administration is warning council about the city's shrinking share of the non-residential tax base, caused by business owners increasingly choosing to locate in other municipalities in the region. From 2010 to 2022, the non-residential tax base grew by nearly $30 billion across the region, but Edmonton realized just 41% of that growth. Edmonton's share of the total regional non-residential tax base is in decline, falling from 72% in 2008 to 60% in 2022. The non-residential tax base is important for the City of Edmonton's financial viability, as businesses typically pay higher taxes than residential property owners and consume fewer services, administration said in a report that's scheduled to be presented at an executive committee meeting on June 19. Administration has updated the industrial investment action plan in hopes of attracting more industrial businesses to Edmonton to grow the non-residential tax base. If council approves the plan, administration said it will improve business processes for industrial development, identify incentives for industrial sectors, and collaborate with Indigenous communities to advance Indigenous industrial development, among other actions. The plan is set to be discussed at the same executive committee meeting, where the committee could recommend council approve it. If council approves the plan, administration will create a detailed implementation plan.
  • Administration recommends the city should not get involved in disputes where an infill developer damages adjacent homes, according to a report that's scheduled to be discussed at an urban planning committee meeting on June 18. Councillors asked administration to look into how the city could help homeowners whose properties are damaged by infill developers, but administration said doing so would come with financial and legal risks to the city. The city also examined whether it should require shoring when builders are creating a typical basement, and estimates it would extend construction timelines by about two to four weeks and cost up to an additional $50,000 per new house. Administration said it's working on a construction accountability program to target builders who repeatedly create non-compliant conditions at construction sites.
  • City administration does not support establishing a financial assistance program for businesses affected by major construction. In a report that's scheduled to be discussed at an executive committee meeting on June 19, administration said financial support would be provided after losses occur and may not help in time. The assistance program would also assume that construction was responsible for any financial loss rather than external factors like changing market conditions, increasing costs, or inefficient business models. City staff estimate the program to cost $225,000 per 100 businesses, plus $200,000 in administrative costs. Administration has also presented the option of establishing a grant program, where the city would proactively give money to businesses near major construction projects. The proposed financial assistance program is scheduled to be discussed at an executive committee meeting on June 19.
A bus drives near construction on 101 Street and Jasper Avenue.

Administration advises against the city creating a financial assistance program for businesses affected by major construction. (Stephanie Swensrude)

Here are some other items on the agenda:

  • Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation is applying to expand its footprint in the Edmonton Research Park. A proposed lease for an additional lot is scheduled to be presented to council's executive committee on June 19. If approved, API would pay $1 per year for 10 years and fair market rent for an extension term of 10 years, if extended. The lease stipulates that API can purchase the leased land from the city at any time during the term at a price negotiated when signing the lease. The executive committee is also scheduled to receive an update on the Edmonton Research Park advisory group, which was formed in May 2023 following outcry from some of the park's tenants when council approved selling two buildings within the park. The advisory group created a vision statement and six action items, including establishing a steward for the research park. API has created a part-time position for this role.
  • Administration has compiled a list of actions to prevent and address homelessness that are under municipal jurisdiction. The plan aligns with the broader Community Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Pending council approval, the plan would see administration create basic amenities like bathrooms throughout Edmonton for people who are homeless, increase training for staff who interact with people who are homeless, and convene providers who deliver homelessness prevention services.
  • Council's urban planning committee is set to discuss a strategy to curb urban sprawl at its meeting on June 18. The substantial completion standard could discourage construction in new neighbourhoods until existing neighbourhoods have all the amenities they need to be "complete." Administration would track residential development, commercial services, and the number of parks, and only when those metrics reach a certain threshold would it approve a land use plan for new greenfield neighbourhoods. Since the last time the committee looked at the framework, administration has added new tracked metrics, including the amount of affordable housing in the neighbourhood.
  • Administration proposes extending its contract with Industrial Scientific Canada for two years while it undergoes a competitive procurement process for gas detection and monitoring services. Industrial Scientific Canada has been providing such services for the city since 2012. The proposed non-competitive extension is valued at $1.5 million.
  • The city's clause that all contracted employees are paid a living wage has resulted in challenges and unintended consequences, administration said in a report scheduled to be presented at an executive committee meeting on June 19. The requirement can increase the cost of a contract or cause barriers for small businesses, startups, and diverse or Indigenous businesses, the city said. Administration instead recommends including a living wage as one of several factors to be considered when awarding contracts. Changes to the living wage policy require council approval.
  • The city is at the halfway point of Connections & Exchanges, its 10-year arts and heritage plan. The Edmonton Arts Council has made progress on 28 of the 35 actions it has sole responsibility for. The organization has awarded more than $14 million in grants each year to artists.
  • Administration has prepared amendments to the business license bylaw to regulate the sale of bear spray. Administration recommends prohibiting the sale of bear spray to those under 18 years of age and requiring businesses to record a buyer's identification number or date of birth, which is already required by some manufacturers. These changes, among others regulating bear spray, are scheduled to be presented to council's community and public services committee, and will require council approval.
  • Council's executive committee is scheduled to review annual reports and audited financial statements for 13 business improvement area associations.
  • Council's executive committee is scheduled to receive a private update on an emergent option agreement at a meeting on June 19.

Meetings stream live on YouTube on the Chamber channel and River Valley Room channel.