The Pulse: June 27, 2023

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  • 25°C: Sunny in the morning and early in the afternoon then a mix of sun and cloud with 30% chance of showers late in the afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm late in the afternoon. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. High 25. Humidex 27. UV index 7 or high. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for NAIT's 2023 Convocation, which runs June 26-27 at the Edmonton Convention Centre. (details)

People stand outside Twice Cream on a winter's day

Opposition to zoning bylaw renewal draws writer into the fray

By Nathan Fung

Seeing people begin to organize against the city's Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative made Edmonton writer David Berry decide to speak out about why the changes are necessary.

"I'm all in favour of people getting involved in municipal affairs as much as possible," he told Episode 224 of Speaking Municipally. "I thought it was important for them to hear from the other side, too."

Berry, who volunteers with the Westmount Community League, wrote an op-ed published in the Edmonton Journal on June 16 in support of the new zoning changes, and spoke in favour at city council's urban planning committee on June 20. He's now part of a new group called Grow Together Edmonton, which aims to better communicate the benefits of the city's proposed zoning revamp.

The Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative is the city's first major zoning overhaul since the 1960s. Some proposed changes include allowing developments of up to three storeys in residential areas without requiring a public hearing, and introducing new mixed-use zones to support main streets like Whyte Avenue.

Kevin Taft, a former leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, spoke against the initiative at committee, pointing to a survey of 300 people that he and fellow citizens hired Pollara Strategic Insights to conduct. The survey indicated 3% of respondents said they would be able to explain the changes to another person, while 11% had a general idea of the changes, and 62% had never heard of the initiative.

"A bylaw like this can do more harm than good," Taft wrote in an op-ed criticizing the proposed changes and the process, part of which city manager Andre Corbould rebutted in a letter to the editor.

Berry said he has sympathy for many of the concerns raised, but some seem to be based on misinformation.

"I just thought it was important to tell people, 'Look, this isn't the end of the world, these are pretty minor things that I think are going to make our city a lot better,'" he said. "It's not just the development industry that wants to see this… As a pretty regular person, to the degree that that's possible in Edmonton, I think these are good, and I want them to make these changes."

The city first started collecting public feedback on the zoning renewal in 2018. Edmontonians can still provide input on the proposed changes until July 30 through the city's public engagement website. Additional public hearings are scheduled for October, with the proposed implementation date set for Jan. 1, 2024.

Hear more about the zoning bylaw renewal, including Speaking Municipally co-host Troy Pavlek's own experience speaking in favour of the changes, on the June 24 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

Continue reading

Headlines: June 27, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • TransEd, the company building the Valley Line Southeast LRT expansion, has identified 140 kilometres of oxidized copper signalling cables that need to be replaced, which will delay the project further. In a news release, TransEd said replacing the cables now will allow it to run the line more reliably and reduce "future operational impacts." The company will cover the costs as per its public-private partnership contract with the city. Spokesperson Dallas Lindskoog said the repairs are expected to take six to eight weeks and that while the oxidized cables don't present a safety issue, the company is investigating why new cables are already corroding. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he was beyond frustrated by the latest discovery. "This LRT project should have been in service in 2020 and here we are in 2023, and that's absolutely unacceptable," Sohi said. There is still no launch date for the line, which has already been delayed four times.
  • Global News took a look at whether the housing crisis can be helped with laneway houses, a type of backyard housing that has been increasing in popularity in Edmonton and will be easier to build if the city's Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative is passed. Matti Siemiatycki, a planning and geography professor at the University of Toronto, said gentle densification can bring units into areas with pre-existing infrastructure and service access but noted laneway houses are expensive to build due to rising costs, especially if undertaken by a homeowner. "Laneway houses will help with housing supply, which is a piece of the puzzle of affordability, but laneway houses in and of themselves will not necessarily be affordable," he said.
  • Edmonton Public School Board trustees voted 5-4 for Ward I trustee Jan Sawyer to take on the responsibilities of the adjacent Ward H, which former trustee Nathan Ip vacated on June 6 after being elected MLA for Edmonton-South West. The vote came after the board received a recommendation to select a successor to Ip from among sitting trustees rather than hold a byelection, which would have cost between $230,000 and $410,000. Sawyer, who had already been representing Ward H for the past two months, will continue to cover it until the next municipal election.
  • The Gateway, the University of Alberta student newspaper, reported on 600 dissertations dating back to 2000 that were improperly disposed of by the Faculty of Education in May and later retrieved and put in storage. The faculty's dean, Jennifer Tupper, told The Gateway that it was a "completely regrettable situation" and that someone likely threw out the dissertations while making space for a student support centre. Before 2014, the university required graduate students to pay to have seven to eight copies of their thesis or dissertation bound for a cost of $14.18 each. "I think this feels like a kick in the stomach to people who had to go through all of this and had to pay for certain things just to have them thrown away," said Roberta Lexier, one of many alumni who commented on a now-deleted viral tweet with a picture of the dumpster full of dissertations. "I think it represents something bigger about the graduate studies process that's really broken in our country."
  • Global News spoke to Ward papastew Coun. Michael Janz about the effectiveness of the city's vehicle noise regulations, which were amended in February to give police the authority to issue fines up to $1,000 and to target loud vehicles in addition to motorcycles. Residents who spoke to Global News said vehicle noise remains an ongoing issue for Whyte Avenue, which is in Ward papastew. Janz, who first requested the changes last year, suggested there hasn't been an impact because police are not doing enough to enforce the bylaws. He added that, before the recent provincial election, the city asked the Alberta government to provide Edmonton with cameras equipped with sound metres that can detect whether a vehicle is exceeding noise limits.
  • A resident sent CTV News a video of a moose on the loose in downtown Edmonton near the ICE District around 6am on June 26, although the animal was spotted in the city as early as 5am. A provincial government spokesperson said the moose likely made its way into the river valley after its sighting. The province has guidelines online about what to do if you encounter a moose.
  • Residents have until July 4 to to submit a nomination for Front Yards in Bloom. Nominees will get a yard sign and a chance to be recognized in one of six categories.
  • Edmonton's 124 Street appeared on The Globe and Mail's "It-List" of the coolest Canadian neighbourhoods. According to the list, the area has "exploded with an interesting cluster of shops in the past few years" and is especially lively on street market days. May, Tiramisu Bistro, Zwick's Pretzels, and Remedy were among the businesses highlighted in the piece.
  • Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid won his third Hart Memorial Trophy at the National Hockey League Awards in Nashville on June 26. The trophy is awarded to the league's most valuable player to his team, as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. McDavid finished the season with 64 goals, 89 assists and 153 points.
  • The Edmonton Elks announced on June 26 that they have released quarterback Kai Locksley following the team's loss to the Toronto Argonauts on June 25. Locksley played in the first three games of the season for the Elks, but was pulled after he fumbled on his first play in the game against the Argonauts. The Elks also announced that they have signed fullback Mario Villamizar and linebacker Josiah Schakel.