Sept. 18, 2018 meeting
Please reconsider that setback distance
Heather and Harry Bartlett of Slave Lake made a presentation to council on the results of their research on setback distances for cannabis stores from schools, etc. This was apparently motivated by council’s recently-reported preference for 50 metres rather than the recommended 100 metres. Council’s reasoning on that was that it would be bad for business, with so much of downtown Slave Lake within a 100-metre radius of one school or another.
The Bartletts made a few points: one was that far from ‘sterilizing’ the downtown area, a 100-metre setback would leave 13 currently empty retail spaces available. Another bit of research: pretty much every other town Slave Lake’s size in Alberta they looked at is going with the 100 metres (or more).
“We’re asking you to re-look at it,” said Harry Bartlett.
Mayor Tyler Warman said he’s more concerned with where and how cannabis is used than where it’s being sold. He also spoke of the “huge variation” in views on the subject that he’s been hearing.
“There’s a group that can’t believe we’re doing 50-metre setbacks; there’s a group that can’t believe we have any setbacks and a group that can’t believe we’re letting it into town at all.”
Councillor Brice Ferguson – on the record as being opposed to the 50-metre distance – proposed a public survey on the matter – prior to the Oct. 2 council meeting when the bylaw is due to for second and third readings.
“I don’t want a 35-question survey,” said councillor Darin Busk.
“One question,” suggested councillor Rebecca King. “Fifty or 100 metres.”
“What if it comes back three votes one way?” asked Busk.
“It’s not going to sway me,” said Warman. “Ninety per cent? Different story.”
Warman made a motion to have administration prepare a survey. Council voted in favour, with Joy McGregor opposed.
First reading on cannabis consumption
The other area in which the town seeks to exert control on the cannabis question is consumption. A new bylaw was before council for first reading. As presented, it reflects the wishes of council to treat cannabis like alcohol – in other words, no consumption in public. An exception proposed in the bylaw would be in designated areas at certain outdoor public events (similar to a beer garden).
Councillor Ferguson said he foresees problems with such ‘cannabis gardens,’ given that the smoke wouldn’t be contained to those areas. Let’s leave it out for now, he suggested.
“I don’t see a problem,” said Busk.
There is a question about whether there should be an exemption for medical marijuana. Council heard that it is unclear where the courts are going on this, so for the time being, the exemption is not included.
“I think there will be legal challenges across the board,” said Warman.
As for apartments, it would be up to the owners to decide.
Council gave first reading to the bylaw.
Water meters arrive
A long-awaited shipment of water meters has arrived from the manufacturer. CAO Brian Vance told council these are newer models and are being tested. The town may have to hire temporary help to install them.
Cheques over $50,000
Council approved 30 cheques of over $50,000, which per policy have to come to council for that purpose. This was for a period from May to September. Thirteen are for capital projects, 16 are for operating expenses and one is for a development deposit refund. The operating expenses payments include ones for RCMP, library, schools and seniors requisitions.
Tax recovery sale for Jan. 25
The town has eight properties up for tax recovery sale. Three are empty lots and five are trailers – or ‘designated manufactured homes’ in the official parlance. These would be ones whose owners owe significant back taxes over a certain period of time. In such cases the Municipal Government Act allows municipalities to sell the properties at auction. Council passed three required motions on the matter, including one that sets reserve bids on the properties. Those range from $17,500 to $225,000.
During deliberations by council on the last round of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) grants, council had asked for more information on one of the applications. This was by Keepers of the Athabasca, which had requested support for a series of workshops at the Friendship Centre.
Having done the research, Haylie Millard of FCSS told council that five of the seven workshops did not qualify under the FCSS mandate.
Millard presented council with three options: award Keepers $1,750 and re-allocate $1,250 to the Boys & Girls Club, re-allocate all $3,000 to other areas in the FCSS budget or to re-allocate the amount into other areas of the TOSL budget. Option #2 was recommended.
Council went with that.
Warman finished off the meeting with his usual summary on his mayoral activities during the week. It included “quite a lot of feedback on cannabis,” he said, from a wide variety of viewpoints.
Warman also mention the two-day weekend strategic planning session council had with some members of town staff. We got “great feedback,” he said, and came up with “a new vision.”
On another note, Warman said the town had reached out to the mayor and council of Medicine Hat on the topic of homelessness. Medicine Hat has a reputation of having done a good job in that regard and Slave Lake wants to find out how they did it.
Council will be at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association annual conference much of this week.