City Planners Expect More Permit Requests

City planners expects more permit requests
By Laura Tester – Red Deer Advocate

The City of Red Deer’s Planning Department is expecting to be busy with more building permits while it also works on more downtown initiatives. Planning staff presented its draft operating budget to city council on Tuesday. Kim Fowler, director of Planning Services, said some service levels need to increase in Inspections and Licensing to deal with rising permit requests.

“Luckily, we’re seeing a recovery from the recession and an increase in building permit and planning applications,” said Fowler.

“Basically, we’re going back to some service levels pre-2008.”

Fowler was also seeking a project manager for 12 to 14 months, to be funded from the city’s land bank and not from property taxes.This position would help move the Riverlands development forward. Riverlands is considered to be Red Deer’s preeminent project and will create the future identity of the city and its downtown. The financial impact of the new position is just over $76,000 in 2013, a little over $83,000 in 2014 and nearly $12,000 in 2015.

“It’s a really great opportunity in the west end of downtown to redevelop land that’s been vacated or under-utilized or in some cases contaminated,” said Fowler.

Coun. Frank Wong said he was pleased that city planners would begin working on a North of Hwy 11A Neighbourhood Area Structure Plan.He was told it would start in June and would be finished in early 2014.

“We’ll be doing the work with Engineering Services as part of the whole North Highway Connector project,” said Fowler, referring to the major ring road project slated to take several decades.

“With residential growth rates, we need to go into the northeast sector.”

Planning Services also wants to bring back the Ross Street Patio project in the centre of downtown, where lanes were shut down along one block to accommodate a number of patio tables. The total cost of downtown initiatives is $105,000 — $60,000 of which will be funded from the downtown reserve. Some of the money will be used to program public spaces including Veterans’ Park and the downtown farmers’ market.

Staff has also recommended that the Ambassadors program, involving red-hatted employees walking around downtown and providing any information to visitors and others, be put on hold after being around for several years. It may be brought back if there’s greater focus to link tourism with the downtown.Fowler said they may come back in the summer with an additional money request to extend the patio program through the winter. City manager Craig Curtis said the Ross Patio project received mixed reviews last fall. As well, Inspections and Licensing will restore some service levels in animal control.

“We reduced the enforcement in the parks area so we had some complaints from the public,” said Fowler.

The financial impact over a three-year period is just over $108,000. This will provide for one additional officer to improve the contractor’s ability to meet performance standards for response times; resume patrol of the parks system; focus on licence renewals; and provide better officer coverage and safety for dealing with aggressive dogs. Staff is also suggesting that a three-per-cent increase be given this year to the Red Deer Regional Airport Authority to help with its operations. The total impact would be $190,550. As well, the city is recommending a three-per-cent increase to Tourism Red Deer to the tune of $6,649.

In total, the Planning Services division budget for 2013 is $11 million. The City Manager’s Office also presented its draft budget to city council. Its 2013 budget is proposed at $4.5 million. Some of the requests within this division include spending $25,000 on holding a celebration around the City of Red Deer centennial of March 25. It is also seeking $11,000 for having a 24/7 communications phone line to deal with issues after hours.Human Resources are also seeking $35,000 for leadership development to prepare and equip staff who would take on leadership responsibilities.

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