News and Horror from Regina City Council

13 Leopold: Doom Is Coming

Council’s interest in saving the Watchler Residence from the wrecking ball has faded.

Back at their Feb. 29 meeting, council refused to take the house off the list of Heritage Holding Bylaw buildings and thus stalled the owner’s application for a demolition permit. But when it came time to consider designating the property a full heritage property at their April 24 meeting, council backed off as it was clear they would have to impose the designation on the property against the will of the current owner.

And if there’s one thing this council don’t like, it’s imposin’ designations on property owners.

The Watchler Residence, which sits near Albert Street and College Avenue on the northeast corner of the Crescents neighbourhood, was constructed in 1944 and is notable for its glass block foyer and red metal roof. The current owner purchased it in 2015, planning to demolish it and put up a new, energy efficient home for their family.

The owner argued the property was in a state of disrepair and contained both black mould and asbestos. It would be prohibitively expensive to fix— the owner cited an estimate that restoration of the house could cost over $400,000.

And while a heritage expert who spoke in favour of saving the property said he had been in the house in 2014 and didn’t think it was in such bad shape, councillors who’d toured 13 Leopold in recent weeks agreed with the current owner about the building’s condition.

With the Watchler Residence off the Heritage Holding list, the owner is now free to demolish the home. He says the plan is to build a new home on the site for about $700,000.

Council noted that discussion of the Watchler Residence had brought to light many shortcomings in the way the city deals with properties with potential heritage significance — for instance, no one in city administration was able to explain in detail how buildings got put on the Heritage Holding list. As a result, Ward 2 Councillor Bob Hawkins passed a motion calling for a review of the city’s heritage rules with the aim to clarify and strengthen them. /Paul Dechene

School Zones: The Ensafening

Councillor Mike O’Donnell has been getting a earful about school zone safety.

“I have many schools in the area I represent and from every one of those schools I’ve had repeated calls from parents about the issues within school zones,” he told city council at their April 24 meeting.

And that’s why O’Donnell presented a motion calling for the resurrection of a school zone safety committee. Members will include city staff and representatives from the school boards and the Regina Police Service.

O’Donnell proposed that the committee consider reducing maximum speeds in school zones, better and more consistent signage, adding pedestrian signals or bulb outs from the curb and different times for when school zone speeds will be in effect.

Currently, the speed limit in Regina school zones is 40km/h from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

O’Donnell told the CBC that from March 2015 to February 2016, 21,543 tickets were issued to people who were caught on photo radar speeding in school zones — that’s 1,795 tickets a month

O’Donnell’s motion was passed by council. /Paul Dechene

P3 School: Disaster Averted

Do you have a pen handy? Good, because depending on when you’re reading this and how things have shaken out with the financing for a new public/Catholic school in Regina’s northwest, you may have to append a “(NOT!)” to the headline of this article.

But as of press time, Rosewood Park Alliance Church —the developer behind the Rosewood Park community centre that’s who have committed to providing infrastructure services for the new school — are confident they’ll be able to fulfill their obligations to the city.

The school in question is one of nine schools the province is building across the province through Public-Private Partnerships. Two other schools — one in Harbour Landing and one in Greens On Gardiner — have progressed without a hitch.

But the school slated for the city’s northwest has been plagued with problems.

In July 2015, the original developer, who had agreed to provide a site for the school in the Skywood community, informed the city it would be unable to make good on that commitment. Council then opted to give the school project to Rosewood Park over the administration’s preferred developer, Dream Developments, who had an available parcel of land for a school in their proposed Coopertown community.

The Rosewood Park Alliance Church is expected to provide full servicing — water, wastewater and road access — for the school.

As of March of this year, it looked like Rosewood would be in default on the project due to financial difficulties. If that had happened, then the city would have been forced to step in and take over the project itself. However, at the last minute, Rosewood was able to secure Westridge Construction as a partner on the project and now expects it will go forward, though it will require concessions from the city.

Thanks to an aggressive construction schedule imposed by the province and the difficulties the developer has faced, city administration have had to devote significant resources to the school project. According to admin’s report, they estimate they have spent 1,800 hours so far and expect that number to double by the end of the year.

This, along with the risk of default by the developer, had councillors frustrated over the province downloading its mandate to build schools onto the city.

Mayor Michael Fougere raised alarm bells that the provincial government was signalling it was considering making this procurement method for schools the rule instead of an exception.

“If it’s the intent of the provincial government to amend legislation to make this a permanent feature I hope this council will stand and say no to that,” said Fougere during his address to council. “We have enough responsibilities on our plate as opposed to dealing with schools. That puts a lot of risk on us, a lot of risk on taxpayers.

“We are not in the education business,” says Fougere.

Not yet, anyway. /Paul Dechene