News and horror from last council meeting

City Hall: Blue Dot Not (Yet)

“It’s not often we get such a respectful group of people, of young people as well as mature people, coming forward,” said Ward 8 Councillor Mike O’Donnell, referring to a series of delegations that came out to the Jan. 25 council meeting. They were all members of the Regina Blue Dot Movement who supported a motion brought forward by Councillor Shawn Fraser asking council to sign on to “The City of Regina Declaration”.

If signed, the city would commit to take action to protect Regina residents’ rights to a healthy environment. Council would also agree to pen letters to the provincial and federal governments, urging them to take similar steps.

But while council was widely appreciative of the Blue Dot delegations’ goals and stated repeatedly that they didn’t want to disappoint the group, disappoint they did, as council voted in favour of a motion put forward by Ward 2 Councillor Bob Hawkins to postpone making a decision on the declaration.

Hawkins seemed particularly concerned about the fact that, at the national scale, the Blue Dot movement seeks to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — something outside the ambitions of Fraser’s City of Regina Declaration.

Hawkins argued that leaves open the possibility of unelected judges forcing the city’s hand on environmental issues in the event of a legal challenge under the Charter.

“I’m worried about financial implications,” said Hawkins. “What if we have to make a choice between the environment and feeding hungry children, for example? I don’t know how we make those choices, but I do know that elected people have to make those choices and be held accountable for those choices by the electorate.”

In the end, caution ruled the day. And Regina city council, which Hawkins, in making his referral motion, described as “one of the most environmentally friendly councils in this nation,” handed the declaration off to administration asking them to prepare a report on potential ramifications and obligations that might come from signing.

It’s worth noting that typically, when council wants to make sure a motion they’ve referred to administration is dealt with quickly and doesn’t get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle, they’ll set a deadline for city staff to report back.

No deadline was set for the City of Regina Declaration on the right to a healthy environment. /Paul Dechene

City Hall: Convenient Parking, Part Nine Zillion

Council also approved an application to build a 43-seat Tim Hortons (with drive-through) at 860 Winnipeg Street, which is in a light-industrial area of the city’s northeast.

The Timmy’s in question will boast a 69-stall surface parking lot which exceeds the nine-stall minimum zoning requirement, making it almost eight times larger than required. But Regina’s city council, which Councillor Bob Hawkins had earlier described as “one of the most environmentally friendly councils in this nation,” felt such an expansive asphalt wasteland was warranted because of the volumes of car traffic that Tim Hortons attracts — and that a parking lot this massive will do nothing to discourage.

“I like the idea of this, because we know there are issues with some of the Tims in Regina for parking and for backing things up,” said Ward 10 Councillor Jerry Flegel. “This is a great thing because it keeps them off the streets.”

Ward 6 Councillor Wade Murray agreed that for a 43-seat restaurant, extra parking (amounting to 1.6 stalls for every restaurant patron) is needed, adding, “I don’t mind my Tims. I’m excited.”

According to the administration’s report, as the development provides a supporting service to employees in an industrial zone, it’s consistent with the Design Regina: Official Community Plan (which council had earlier held up as evidence of their commitment to the environment because of its inclusion of sustainability measures and direction on greenhouse gas emission reductions). How this Tims measures up with the Official Community Plan’s section 5.17 — which says the city should adopt “approaches to parking standards and management that encourage multi-modal transportation options” — is not mentioned. Nor how it stacks up against policy 7.1.9, which indicates buildings should be designed to enhance the public realm and at-grade parking should be limited.

Council, as further evidence of their enthusiasm for all things green, had also earlier noted that every administration report already includes a section about possible environmental implications of a decision. According to staff, there were “none with respect to this report.” /Paul Dechene

City Hall: Footballers Give City Good Facility

Regina Minor Football Association will be building a facility at Leibel Field that will include change rooms, storage space, a classroom and meeting room. And RMF will then donate the facility to the City of Regina.

Construction is expected to cost $3 million, all of which will be covered by RMF, as will the ongoing maintenance and operations. But, as the building will ultimately be owned by the city, RMF will not have to buy the land or pay taxes on it.

The new facility will also be available for any community group who wants to use it.

This is just the latest improvement to Leibel Field which is now being used 182 days a year — not only for football but also by the Regina Soccer Association, various school athletics programs, track-and-field groups and even birdwatchers.

According to city staff, since 2010 when RMF partnered with Regina Soccer Association, the city and the federal and provincial governments to construct an artificial turf field at the site, there has been $6 million invested in Leibel Field. Of that, the city’s portion has been a mere $2.5 million — $2.1 million for a support building and $400,000 as their part in the field upgrade.

And now they’ll be getting a $3 million building, pretty much for free.

So… at what point will it be safe to do a comparative analysis between the costs and benefits to the community of little Leibel Field versus the costs and benefits of the massive new Mosaic Stadium?

I wouldn’t bet on the professional stadium winning that contest. /Paul Dechene