July 9, 2019 meeting
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs
Signs dominated the first part of council’s July 9 meeting. The revamped sign regulations in the Land-Use Bylaw got passed. Then a policy on electronic signs was dealt with, and finally, a new set of rates for advertising on electronic signs got council’s blessing.
New sign regs in effect
First on the agenda was the required public hearing on the by-law change. Nobody showed up to speak for or against it, so it didn’t last long. Mayor Tyler Warman wrapped things up by sharing his views on the new regs.
“We’ve had some great buy-in from various groups in town. This provides more flexibility – increased options. The business community and not-for-profits should be happy.”
The background on this includes an approach a couple of years ago by the Slave Lake & District Chamber of Commerce. Some of its members felt the town’s sign regs were too restrictive, and wanted to work with the town in reviewing the bylaw with a view to making changes. A committee was struck, and over a few meetings, some proposals were hashed out. According to the written report before council, these were in three main areas: business directory signs and visitor information kiosks; off-site advertising on the above and on ‘community signs, and; including sponsorship information on signs.
The proposed by-law had come before council last month, and a few tweaks suggested. These were in the new version, and councillor Brice Ferguson was pleased with it.
“It strikes a nice balance,” he said. “Thank you.”
Electronic signs: more stuff allowed
The main change here is to allow third party advertising on town electronic signs. This was one of the changes recommended by the Sign Steering Committee – the same one mentioned in the previous item. Also allowed under the new policy will be non-partisan political advertising.
Not allowed, according to the written report before council, will be partisan political views, religious views, profanity, sexual content or anything deemed slanderous.
Councillor Ferguson asked for clarification on one of those points. Does the ban on ‘religious views’ extend to a church advertising an event, or service times. I would think those would be okay under the policy, said Christopher Brown, the town’s communications coordinator. But not any message promoting one religion over another (for example). Fair enough, said Ferguson, or words to that effect.
Sign rates up
Opportunities exist for advertising on town electronic signs. A new set of fees for such was presented to council. In many cases, they are higher than before, and offer more options for certain periods of time. Not-for-profit groups will pay less than other types of advertisers. Sometimes a request is made for fees to be waived. The new policy gives discretion in these cases to the town manager, rather than it coming before council.
CAO Brian Vance started off his update by directing council’s attention to several new summer employees – mainly high school students. Five of them are in the Summer Splash program; two others are looking after maintenance in parks.
Vance told council the town is paying special attention to cases of unfinished developments. These go back as far as 2014. According to the terms of the permits, developments are supposed to be wrapped up by a certain time. Phone calls are being made. Vance warned councillors “you’ll be hearing from people.” Some ask for extensions, he said. Some don’t respond at all.
Regional water line
The final tie-in on the regional water line from Wagner has been made, Vance informed council. The entire line was subsequently pressure-tested for the first time and passed. Now comes a commissioning period. The contractor who built the intake station in Wagner has to come back and do some final electronics work. If all that happens as hoped, raw water could be flowing down the line into the town’s treatment plant before long.
High praise for Daze
Vance made a point of commending town staff for helping with preparations (and more) for the Riverboat Daze events. It’s not a town project, but town staff helped quite a bit, he said – both on town time and on their own time. Operations manager Calvin Couturier had been praised by the Chamber of Commerce, particularly, for his help in getting the site for the amusement fair ready, and more.
Adding to that, mayor Warman praised the Chamber for putting on a successful event, adding that for whatever the town contributed, “it was pretty good bang for our buck.”
Beach clean-up day
Town manager Brian Vance said this is back on the town’s radar and a new date for it is being sought. It will likely be in late July, he said, but agreement from the provincial authorities is pending. The big community clean-up of Devonshire Beach was supposed to have been in early June, but was postponed due to a flood of evacuees from High Level.
Taxes: penalties apply
Vance reported that property tax payments are flowing in. Many people are setting up payment plans. As of July 3 a penalty for late payment is in effect. Vance said he was surprised to see so many people coming in a week late with their payments, given the penalty.
Green light for food trucks
The town now has a policy on food trucks. This came about due to a request from an operator of one of these units to set it up on town property. This sparked some research and a proposed policy on where food trucks can and cannot set up on public property and when and how they must behave and so on. For example, they will be expected to clean up around their truck at the end of the day. Councillor Darin Busk asked for clarification on that point. Would they be expected to clean up wherever customers dropped wrappers and such that came from the food truck? Because the same is not demanded of fast-food restaurants in town. Just around the truck, was the answer.
Council continued its recent custom of mid-monthly meeting reviews of service levels. This one was on development permits – something not many people are interested in until they need one. There’s quite a lot involved, and it is all nicely laid out in a town brochure, entitled, ‘Did You Know Our Service Levels on Development Permits?’ Anyone doing any property development would be well-advised to read it.
Councillors had a question or two. One, by Brice Ferguson, was what happens if somebody wants to do a development that is not contemplated in the Land-Use Bylaw. Apply to amend the bylaw is the answer.
What if somebody skirts the permit process and just goes ahead and develops? was Ferguson’s next question.
If the town finds out about, it, that person will likely receive a visit from the planning and development department, advising him or her about the proper procedure. Depending on the response, a ‘cease and desist’ order may follow.
Strat plan review
Council also went over the town’s strategic plan for 2019. The idea was to find out how things stood, i.e. is stuff getting done or not. Mostly it is, where budget constraints allow, and taking into account various delaying factors (wildfire disasters, for example).
Some of the strategic goals set last fall remained on the books but did not get any money allocated to them in the budget. One thing that did get money allocated was a marketing plan for the town. Something may still happen on this front in 2019, but the town is hoping for buy-in from its regional partners. On a related note, Community Futures is planning a survey of area businesses; it hopes to partner with the town on it.
Community Futures – councillor King said CF is working with high school students on business planning. The hope is to eventually make it into a credit course. Lemonade Day was a big success, she added.
Municipal Planning Commission – The MPC approved a new ‘fueling island’ for Petro Canada, King reported. Also an ‘occupying space’ permit was granted to the Slave Lake Gymnastics Association.
Airport – Revenues are “drastically up,” at the airport, reported councillor Busk. “Pierre’s (Gauthier, the manager) been a busy guy over there.”
Tri-council Health – The committee is “getting very concerned by the number of physicians and practitioners at the FCC (Family Care Clinic),” Warman said.
Warman finished things off by praising the organizers of the Riverboat Daze festival. He called it “a fantastic success.”
Warman also congratulated the people behind the Reed Churchill Memorial Ball Hockey Tournament. It was “really impressive,” he said.