Your favourite bi-weekly recap of city council

City Hall | by Dechene Content Creation Inc.¹

You want a fortnight’s worth of city hall news? Dechene Content Creation Inc. can generate that for you. It all starts with a press conference announcing there might be a teensy spark of life in a project that for years has looked like a great big open grave.

Capital Pit

Saskatchewan’s tallest building, Capital Pointe, was supposed to open in the fall of 2012. On Sept. 18, 2017, city administration issued the company behind the project a building permit… to start work on the foundation.

The permit gives the company, Fortress Real Development,² six months to begin meaningful construction. And Fortress will have another two years to complete the foundation — just the foundation — before the permit expires. According to the city’s director of development services, Louise Folk, the city has a legal obligation to issue a permit when a project meets all regulatory requirements, which this, remarkably, does.

Mayor Michael Fougere, speaking after the Sept. 27 council meeting, says he is unhappy about how long this project is taking. But, while he agrees the gaping hole at the western gateway to our downtown is “an eyesore,” he also says the city is legally bound to allow Fortress to drag out this embarrassing ordeal take another crack at getting this prestigious tower completed.

“Frankly, we’re a bit frustrated and are concerned,” says Fougere, who was not yet mayor when the Capital Pointe project started. “But under the law, as written, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First of all, they own the land, they have a right to develop the land, so we have to protect their right to develop.

“We also have the right to protect the public and make sure the process is followed correctly,” adds Fougere. “No one is more frustrated than me.”

Adding to his frustration, no doubt, is the looming spectre of all the delicious property tax dollars the city should have been collecting from a completed hotel-and-condominium tower.

Total taxes for 2017 on Capital Pointe the Gaping, Unfinished Maw are a mere $44,571.

Compare that to functioning downtown hotels such as the Wyngate, which will pay $273,489 in 2017; the Quality Hotel which will pay $197,397; or, the Ramada which is on the hook for $410,463 in 2017. And Capital Pointe, as a proposed 12-storey luxury hotel connected to a 27-storey condominium tower, would likely pull in a lot more cash for the city’s coffers.

In other words, even if Capital Pointe was magically completed tomorrow, by missing its promised 2012 opening it has cost the city millions in potential property tax revenue.

Industrial Zoned Religion

Islamic Association of Saskatchewan members were overjoyed at the Sept. 25 council meeting, as they are now one step closer to building a mosque for their community.

The decision that makes this possible is a change to the zoning bylaw that will allow religious institutions to be built in the Tuxedo Industrial Park on the city’s east side.

“It’s a relief. It’s wonderful. [We’re] glad to call Regina home,” says Faisal Khan, president of the Association. “And today I have felt how welcome we are in this city. And the members of my community are as grateful as they can be to the members of this council.”

While one might imagine a residential neighbourhood as more suitable for a religious institution, the IAS says they needed to look to industrial areas to find a building large enough to serve their 13,000-strong community. Cost and parking were also factors in their decisions.

Since 2012, the IAS has been trying to get approval from the Rural Municipality of Sherwood to build a mosque on a piece of property the association owns just outside the city’s limits. But the RM has been reluctant to approve the project — one might even call them “phobic” in the face of a proposed community centre and mosque. In the end, the RM turned down the Islamic Association’s proposal due to traffic concerns raised by two neighbouring landowners.

Khan says the next step for his community will be to purchase the building in Tuxedo Park they have their eye on and then begin retrofitting it for use as a mosque. He says their plan is to open its doors in time for next May’s Ramadan. Longer term, he hopes that they can demolish the retrofitted warehouse then build something from scratch.

Bi-weekly Trash

Council finally pulled the trigger on bi-weekly garbage pickup. The move was teased as cost-saving measure during the city’s second budget deliberations this year. You can expect to see the city’s white garbage truck half as often starting in November and through to spring (with a brief return to weekly pickup over the Christmas season).

The move is expected to save the city $132,000 in labour and fuel costs.

Several councillors welcomed the reduction in service, saying bi-weekly waste pickup is an overdue strategy to encourage recycling in the city.

When asked if the city is modernizing its waste management system too slowly — and if perhaps the city should consider moving to bi-weekly garbage pick-up permanently — Mayor Fougere replied, “I would agree that it has been slow.”

“I think the diversion rate has been slower than anticipated,” says Fougere. “So we’ve been aggressive on our ad campaign to explain and encourage on social media to do that. So we’re taking it one step at a time. This may be a permanent thing. I don’t think we’re suggesting that this is temporary for one year. We’ll look at it after the first year, and see how it goes.”

Sereda Park

Finally, city council voted to name a park in the Westerra Community after Curtain Razors founder Michele Sereda. Sereda, a dynamic performer and powerful advocate for the arts, died in a 2015 automobile crash.❧

  1. We should all incorporate ourselves before Morneau’s tax changes go through. #corporationsarepeopletoo
  2. Presumably the permit was for Fortress Real Development, the project’s lead developer since 2014 (but has been involved in the project since 2011 through its sister company, Fortress Real Capital). However, Westgate Properties Ltd are still listed as the owners of the property on which Capital Pointe is to be built.