Licence lotteries, space bachelors and healthy Halloweens, oh my!

City Hall | by Paul Dechene

Fall is here. The trees already look like bony grasping hands as all the green things in Regina wither. But there’s no season of autumnal retreat for city hall. No, like an arctic wind Regina has unleashed extra cab licenses for the blustery months, draft infill guidelines and plans to pervert Halloween, that most sugar-fortified of holidays! So do not lay down and slumber among the crispéd and browny leaves! The city is alive and demands your attention!

Sometimes A Cabbie Just Can’t Catch A Fair Shake

Last month, local taxi drivers scored a big win at city hall when council voted to distribute 60 per cent of seasonal taxi cab licenses through a lottery system.

But now it seems that not all cab companies are contentedly accepting the decision.

It’s not surprising considering all the city’s taxi companies, which in years past directly received 100 per cent of those seasonal licenses, were outspoken opponents of the shift to a lottery system.

And according to a press release from the United Steelworkers, one company — Regina Cabs — is not accepting drivers who’ve won seasonal licences through the lottery system.

The United Steelworkers is the union representing drivers at Regina Cabs. According to union rep, Leslie McNabb, she has been informed that Regina Cabs is calling it a “business decision” to not accept seasonal licence winners.

McNabb says Regina Cabs cited “the amendment under the bylaw that requires brokerages to collect data on the lottery winners” as the reason behind not expanding their fleet this year with lottery-winning drivers.

Dawn Schikowski, Regina’s manager of licensing and business support, says city administration is aware of the situation but she was careful when discussing details.

“That information has been brought to our attention,” says Schikowski. “However, we do know that the brokers have the ability to determine the size of the fleet that they need to meet the needs of their customers. The decal owners [the seasonal-license holders] actually have until Oct. 30 to put the vehicles on the road. So we’re not sure whether they’re holding off because of the weather or other reasons at this point in time.”

Schikowski says that under the new distribution system, 19 licences went to cab companies (a.k.a. taxi brokers) and 28 were issued through the lottery.

She also notes that cabs with seasonal licences are being put on the road right now at a rate consistent with previous years.

The taxi industry in Regina, as in most other cities, is tightly regulated, with the supply of licences controlled and distributed by the city.

Does that put a responsibility upon the city to ensure that that supply isn’t abused or that lottery-licence holders aren’t treated prejudicially by companies that opposed the lottery?

“I do hear what you’re saying,” says Schikowski. “But I think there’s some speculation on that because what we’re seeing is that the other brokers are accepting the licence holders into their fleets. So what we’re seeing is that the ability to affiliate with a broker is there for each of these licence holders.”

And while it’s true that all the other taxi companies in Regina are accepting drivers who’ve won licenses, Regina Cabs is the only unionized cab company in the city.

Filling In The Infill Details

On Oct. 12, the city finally dropped a long-awaited draft of their Infill Housing Guidelines. Put together with the help of Brook McIlroy consultants, it’s 103 pages of passages like, “Where 4.5 metres is used as the median height of a pitched porch roof, no portion of the porch roof shall exceed a maximum height of 5.5 metres.”

The excitement just keeps coming.

The Infill Housing Guidelines are a fussy list of parameters that will govern the way existing neighbourhoods change as vacant lots are built up and old dwellings are demolished and redeveloped.

But for those who are looking around aghast at how their urban environs are shifting and hoping for a policy bludgeon they can use to stop that transformation dead, these guidelines will likely disappoint.

For one, the guidelines don’t lay out any rules around where infill can and can’t happen. While they acknowledge that infill can lead to increases in population density (which is desirable), the Infill Housing Guidelines are silent on where in the city is most appropriate for intensification. For that, you’ll have to wait until the still-gestating zoning-bylaw rewrite is released or for the yet-to-be-started revamp of the neighbourhood plans.

But what’s likely to elicit the loudest howls of “We waited two years for this?!?” is that the Infill Housing Guidelines do not make any value judgements about the aesthetics of the infill they will enable. Any mention of how an infill development should fit with the character of its surrounding neighbourhood only refers to the dimensions of the construction and where on a lot it should sit. Colour, shape and architectural character are, as always, left up to the developer.

Hoping to keep the blocky, ultra-modern, space-bachelor pads away from your peaked roofs, gables and enclosed front porches? Sorry, but the Infill Housing Guidelines will be no help.

You may just have to accept that the space-bachelors are inevitable.

The Real Halloween Horror

From the “Sometimes Alliteration Doesn’t Make Things More Fun” file: the city is selling “Healthy Halloween Passes” that neighbourhood killjoys can hand out instead of candy.

“Lucky” little recipients will be able to exchange these passes for admission to any city recreation facility, public skate or leisure swim. They cost $5 for a package of 10 and can be purchased at the Sportplex, North West Leisure Centre and the Sandra Schmirler Leisure Centre.

Hopefully, city staff will be keeping a list of everyone who buys these Healthy Halloween Passes so they can publish a list of houses kids would be best to avoid.