The Pulse: April 22, 2024

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 17°C: Clearing in the morning. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50. High 17. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Orange/Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit orange and blue for the Oilers Stanley Cup Playoffs. (details)
  • 8pm: The Edmonton Oilers play the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Place for Game 1 of the NHL playoffs. (details)

Councillors Sarah Hamilton, Erin Rutherford, and Ashley Salvador at a council meeting.

On the agenda: Potential tax increases, Windsor Park rezoning, supportive housing

By Stephanie Swensrude

This week, council will make adjustments to the city's operating budget, look at a rezoning in Windsor Park, and discuss supportive housing projects at risk of losing funding.

There is a city council public hearing meeting scheduled for April 22 and a city council meeting scheduled for April 23 and 24. There is a special city manager and city auditor performance evaluation committee meeting on April 26.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • Administration recommends 2024 property taxes to increase by 8.7% in the spring operating budget adjustment. That's 2.1% higher than what council approved last November, during the fall adjustment. City administration also recommends raising property taxes by 7% for 2025 and 6.4% for 2026, compared to the 5.3% and 4.7%, respectively, which council approved last fall. Stacey Padbury, Edmonton's chief financial officer, said expenses have grown faster than expected, but staff now have a "much better sense" of how much costs will increase in the future. Council is scheduled to debate the proposed budget adjustment at a council meeting on April 23 and 24. Previously, city council asked administration to find $60 million to cut from the budget and $240 million that could be moved toward council priorities — a process referred to as OP12. Council is set to decide on these changes this week. The proposed budget also includes $100,000 in 2024 and $146,000 in 2025 to establish a sergeant-at-arms position at city hall. This follows the Jan. 24 attack.
  • Westrich Pacific Corp. has applied to rezone a parcel containing three single-family homes in Windsor Park, near the University of Alberta. The rezoning, if approved, would allow for a building of up to six storeys with a minimum of 19 housing units. Some neighbours oppose the development, including many who say that it does not align with land-use guidelines, that the building is too large, and that the neighbourhood is already experiencing enough densification. Council has recently approved three buildings of between four and 11 storeys in the southwest corner of Windsor Park, but administration said it supports this application as it is near the university and can help provide additional housing.
  • City council needs to approve construction on two supportive housing projects or risk losing out on funding from other levels of government, according to city administration. In March 2023, council directed administration to apply for federal funding for three supportive housing developments in Holyrood, Canora, and Garneau. The province also provided $10.6 million for the developments, according to a report set to be discussed at a city council meeting on April 23. Only the Holyrood development was successful in securing federal funds. Administration said the provincial funding for the Canora and Garneau projects is at risk if the city doesn't start construction. The price tag to build the two projects is $33.4 million. About $22 million would come from an existing affordable housing fund, and administration would access the rest from funds held in abeyance. This was discussed at an executive committee meeting on April 10 where the committee recommended starting construction.
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Headlines: April 22, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The Katz Group says the development of an urban village north of Rogers Place in Edmonton's ICE District is delayed by at least three years. Construction of the development, including 2,500 residential units and a public park, was originally planned to start in 2024. Tim Shipton of the Oilers Entertainment Group said the delay is due to the pandemic's lasting effects on the market. Edmonton city council recently voted to allow the Katz Group to continue using two lots in the area for surface parking until Dec. 31, 2028, as an interim solution.
  • Hope Mission is set to open a new shelter this fall in Edmonton's west end to provide specialized services for an increasing number of unhoused newcomers, including refugees and immigrants. The shelter will offer language and culturally appropriate services, and assistance with asylum, employment, and housing. Last year, 199 newcomers sought shelter at Hope Mission, compared with 25 in 2022. "We recognize that it would be better to have people in one place to receive specialized support," said Tim Pasma, the organization's director of programs.
  • The Edmonton Interfaith Housing Society, which connects 23 different faith organizations, held an event at city hall to advocate for the Edmonton's more than 3,200 unhoused residents. Keynote speaker Lewis Cardinal, who shared his personal experience of homelessness in Edmonton in the 1970s, highlighted the need to understand the complexities of poverty to spur community action. Attendees of the event developed calls to action, including restricting housing as an investment, launching an education campaign on homelessness, and exploring tiny homes and transitional housing solutions.
  • Paths for People chair Shannon Lohner published an op-ed in Postmedia arguing that a proposed 8.7% property tax increase in Edmonton shouldn't be blamed on the City's investments in bike lanes. The $100 million for the Active Transportation Network Expansion amounts to 0.02% of the 2024 operating budget because the project's funding comes from the capital budget, Lohner noted. "People deserve access to amenities and infrastructure within their communities, and an effective, citywide active transportation network is a key piece of that puzzle," Lohner wrote.
  • The Alberta Railway Museum is now home to a nearly 100-year-old bronze picture window that was once in downtown Edmonton's Canadian National railway station. "It's a piece of Edmonton's history. It's witnessed many comings and goings," said museum president Stephen Yakimets. The window is all that's left of the former station, which was demolished in 1964.
  • The Edmonton Police Service says its recruitment is on the upswing, with an increase in applicants for 2023 and a 12.4% drop in attrition rates. The police service reported last year that about 100 officers had either left the force or announced their plans to do so in 2022. Staff Sgt. Leanne Kilb told the Edmonton Police Commission last week that the police service particularly struggled with both recruitment and retention in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic and the 'defund the police' movement, but that attitudes have since shifted.
  • As the Edmonton Oilers gear up to face the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the NHL playoffs, bars and restaurants in the city are anticipating a significant spike in business. The playoffs transform typically quiet nights early in the week into bustling periods of high sales. Data from Moneris, which operates point of sale systems, shows businesses near Rogers Place experience a 233% jump in activity on game days.
  • The Athletic published a look at a variety of factors that could impact the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs, notably the team's reliance on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and the need for increased production from Evander Kane and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. While goaltender Stuart Skinner's performance has improved under head coach Kris Knoblauch, he still has to prove himself in the playoffs, wrote journalist Daniel Nugent-Bowman. Meanwhile, Sportsnet journalist Mark Spector wrote that with Kane potentially sidelined in Game 1 due to a lingering injury, rookie Oilers winger Dylan Holloway has the chance to step into the spotlight. "Dylan has been playing outstanding, with his energy, his tenacity," said Knoblauch.
  • The Alberta government has forwarded an anonymous letter alleging ethics concerns within the City of Edmonton to the municipal ethics commissioner, Premier Danielle Smith said during her weekly radio show on 630 CHED. The letter contains "defamatory" allegations, said Smith, who did not elaborate further on its contents. "When we receive an ethics concern about a municipal council member, we forward that on to the ethics commissioner on the municipal level because that's the appropriate thing to do," she said.
  • The Alberta government has passed Bill 204, which grants it more control over decisions regarding national urban parks in the province. Leduc-Beaumont MLA Brandon Lunty introduced the bill to ensure provincial involvement in urban park plans, in response to Edmonton's exploration of a national urban park initiative with Parks Canada. Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi criticized the bill for creating more red tape and hindering collaboration between the City and other government levels.
  • Edmonton's Marco Arop clinched victory in the men's 800 metres at the Diamond League meet in Xiamen on April 20. Arop, the reigning world champion, achieved a personal best season-opening time of 1:43.61.
  • Residents of Saprae Creek Estates, about 25 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray, are preparing for a potential evacuation due to a nearby wildfire after an Alberta Emergency Alert was issued on April 21. Firefighters are battling the fire burning near the community, which was impacted by the 2016 wildfires that hit Fort McMurray and forced the evacuation of 90,000 residents in the area.
  • Edmonton's Himanshu Surukanti was among 20 students selected for the Vimy Pilgrimage Award to learn about Canada's military history firsthand in Europe. "The chance to go and learn about things in person instead of a textbook or a YouTube video was really exciting," Surukanti said.
An aerial view of Edmonton.

Podcasters poke plans for districts in Edmonton

By Colin Gallant

With district planning policymaking afoot at Edmonton city council, podcast hosts Troy Pavlek and Mack Male took a look at what the proposed plans mean for the city on Episode 260 of Speaking Municipally.

"This can be thought of as part two of the zoning bylaw renewal process," Pavlek said. "One of the big points of criticism that opponents had for ZBR was that it should be done in tandem with district planning."

The City of Edmonton shared its final draft of the District Policy and plans on April 17. A news release says this is an update to existing planning that will streamline and modernize planning to help realize the City Plan.

"I think it's a really good exercise to simplify the number of statutory documents we have that help us make these kinds of decisions," Male said. "The more we have, the more chance there is for ambiguity."

Specifically, a chief function of the plan is to determine whether existing plans, such as area redevelopment plans and neighbourhood structure plans, should be "kept, changed, or retired," the city release says. Pavlek said the plan is similar to ambitions for the Valley Line LRT in that it may not move the needle on density.

The news comes shortly after city manager Andre Corbould's departure. In a separate segment, the hosts discussed news that Corbould has landed a new gig — as executive advisor to Danchilla Consulting, a "partner of" Integrated. Strategic. Partners., a news release said.

While final, the draft district policy and 15 proposed district plans won't be put into action any time soon. The city is hosting three virtual public information sessions from April 22 to 24 before holding public hearings from May 28 to 30. Then, the draft is subject to approval by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board in the context of its Regional Evaluation Framework. And even after that, council won't make a final call until this fall. If the public hearings about zoning bylaw renewal are any indication, Edmonton should expect spirited debate at the end of May.

Hear more about district planning, an audit on Blatchford, the new CEO at Edmonton Unlimited, the proposed pedestrianization on Rice Howard Way, and more on the April 19 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: April 22, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.