April 23, 2024 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Council’s April 23 agenda was a hefty one; it took 2.5 hours to get through the public portion, after which council went in camera to discuss things that were not listed on the agenda. They’d spent considerable time before the public meeting having other discussions, which according to Councillor Ali Mouallem (apparently by way of explaining why he and his colleagues appeared tired), had been going on “all day.” The meeting began with three public hearings on re-zoning applications.

Re-zoning on 11 St. SE

The owners of a residential lot in the southeast want to remove the old trailer that’s on it and replace it with a ‘semi-detached dwelling,’ which apparently means a duplex. This would require a zoning change, council heard, since semi-detached is not a permitted use in the R1D – Detached Dwelling/Mobile Home District. The proposal was to change the lot to R2 – Medium Density District.

Council heard none of the neighbours were opposed, and that the Municipal Planning Commission was okay with it. Councillor Steve Adams made a point of first stating (or re-stating) his dislike of ‘spot’ zoning. But in this case, he added, it makes sense.

“We do need an increase in density,” he said.

Council (minus Mouallem, who had declared an interest) voted in favour of the bylaw change.

Re-zoning for 2nd Ave. NW row houses

A decades-old row house development on 2nd Ave. NW got the green light from council for the re-zoning it needs to bring it into compliance. The person in the process of buying the property, council heard, discovered that such a housing development is not permitted in the R2 District it is in, and wants to bring it into compliance. This requires a zoning change to R3 – High Density Residential District.

“We’re just correcting something that should have been done a long time ago,” department director Laurie Skrynyk told council in her presentation.

Adding ‘places of worship’

A property owner in downtown Slave Lake wants to rent out a space to a group for a place of worship. This use is not on the permitted list for the C1 – Downtown Commercial Mixed-Use District. The proposal is to added as a ‘discretionary use.’

Council heard that the Municipal Planning Commission had reviewed the proposal on April 8, and recommended the change be approved, but not for first-floor commercial spaces.

“I have an issue with this one,” said Councillor Steve Adams, who said he thought such uses okay on the “periphery” of downtown, but not taking up commercial spaces.

Weighing in, Councillor Shawn Gramlich said restricting it to second-floor spaces would mean, “you’re not taking storefronts away on Main St.,” and it would be “helping out a landlord fill a space that’s been empty.”

There’s nothing in the bylaw that says it can’t be on the main floor, Adams said.

“I think you should have confidence in the MPC to make the right decision,” observed Councillor Brice Ferguson.

Council voted in favour of the bylaw change, by a count of six to one, with Adams casting the dissenting vote.

Cheques over $50,000

Council is required to approve any cheques the town issues of over $50,000. Twenty-two of those were up for approval, totaling $3.2 million.

Six were for capital projects/purchases, including $640,000 for a new grader. The two other big ones were $386,000 for a software upgrade and $323,000 for a sewer project. Eleven of the cheques had to do with payroll and benefit expenses and came to $647,000.

Vending on public lands

In accordance with the 2017 Downtown and Main Street Area Plan, the town has gradually been adopting new policies aimed at bringing downtown into alignment with the vision outlined in the plan. The latest for council’s consideration is called the Vending on Public Lands Policy.

This policy, council heard, encourages “opportunities for local businesses to establish and operate sidewalk sales, vending carts, sidewalk cafés and parking patios.”

Councillor Kim Hughes made a point of asking if the new policy applied to big, established events such as Riverboat Daze or the Block Party. It doesn’t, said Skrynyk. Also, if you, as an individual or business, have a permit for a vending site when one of those big events happen, you don’t have to move.

“Interesting!” was Hughes’ response to that.

Councillor Adams called it “a great place to start,” and made the motion as recommended, approved by all.

Rec user fees

User fees, admission fees and rec facility rental rates are reviewed every two years, and council had some recommended changes to consider.

Generally, ice rental fees for youth activities are “significantly lower” than other communities, council heard. A ten per cent increase, spread over two years, was proposed.

On the other hand, the going rates for sports field rentals are higher than the other municipalities Slave Lake compares itself to. So no increase was recommended there, or for summer ice rentals.

For pool rentals and drop-in fees, a four per cent increase was proposed over two years.

Councillor Ali Mouallem asked about getting the most out of the users of the MRC – particularly the field house and play area. His impression is that some are getting away with not paying the fees. Would it help if we moved the front desk closer to the doors? he asked. “How do we make sure we’re getting all the revenue we can?”

Jillian Hutchings, the town’s Community Relations Manager, said she didn’t think that would work. As for keeping an eye on who goes in and out, she said the MRC staff are doing a pretty good job.

Council approved the fees and rates changes as proposed.

Coun. Ali Mouallem

5th St. NE road re-hab

Rehabilitation work on 5 St. NE is scheduled for this year, with $1.5 million budgeted. The street, says the report in council’s agenda package, “suffered significant road base failure over the years, due to inadequate drainage infrastructure.”

As well as rebuilding the base and paving, the project is to include sewer line spot repairs and manholes.

Two bids were received, very close in dollar amount. The decision came down to the matter of one company providing the resumé of the proposed project foreman. This proved to be the tie-breaker.

The job goes to E Construction, in the amount of $1,4149,40.

More downtown revitalization

Phase 3 of the Downtown Revitalization Project had been budgeted at $650,000. It completes the conversion of the sidewalks from the brick surface to concrete, on both sides of Main St.
Two bids were received.

Council accepted the recommendation to award the job to Duro Contracting, for $344,890. This is the same company that did the downtown concrete work last year, as well as sidewalk upgrades around town.

An artist’s view of a revitalized downtown Slave Lake.

Wildland urban interface trailer

Council had approved in the 2024 budget funds for the purchase of a trailer and associated equipment for structure protection from wildfires. It’s called a Wildland Urban Interface Type 1 Trailer.

Council was being asked to award the contract for supplies for the new trailer.

According to the report by Fire Chief Alex Pavcek, three proposals were received. Two were almost identical in price; the third was less, but it was incomplete.

The recommendation was to purchase the supplies (pumps, mainly) from Seahawk Services, for $207,886.
Asked when the trailer would be fully operational, Pavcek said he hoped by mid-May.

Council passed the motion as recommended.

State of the Lake

Councillor Mouallem had three items to plug.

  1. The Roland Michener School graduating class cake auction fundraiser, that was happening that same night.
  2. Spark the North, happening April 25 at the Legacy Centre
  3. A circus at the Multi Rec Centre on April 29.