5 ways the new city charter will change how Edmonton does business
The agreement unveiled a slate of new powers for the city, as well as more flexibility so they don't have to spend so much time on administrative tasks.
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Edmonton, Calgary and the province agreed to a sweeping new city charter Thursday that, if approved following public consultation, will give the cities the flexibility and authority to pave their own way on matters like affordable housing, land development and traffic safety. Here are five new tools in the city’s toolbox:
New funding framework
Instead of applying for grants for each project, cities will now get a share of provincial revenues they can spend on matters like roads or fire halls. A more predictable source of funding means cities can make their own decisions instead of relying on what Mayor Don Iveson called a “politicized grant cycle”.
It also puts cities on more equal footing with the province. “It makes us sort of a shareholders in the province’s growth, because we if we can help spur the growth of the Alberta economy, the return to the cities in the form of … that increase in taxation revenue, is a reward that helps us in turn deal with the costs of growth,” Iveson said.
Slashing red tape
A big part of the charter is devoted to increasing administrative efficiency. The city will now be able to send and receive assessment and tax notices electronically instead of through the mail, although citizens will have to opt in.
"These agreements have the potential to dramatically reduce red tape between governments making it easier for us to provide more efficient and better services to our citizens," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.
"It allows the cities of Calgary and Edmonton to do much better, much more efficient budgeting," he added.
Other significant changes include raising the maximum potential fine for serious bylaw offences to $100,000 from $10,000. Iveson said for large-scale developers, $10,000 is not an effective deterrent.
Cities will also be allowed to develop administrative tribunal systems for transit and parking tickets instead of sending them to provincial court.
Derelict and contaminated properties
Although the charter introduces no new taxing powers, it does introduce two new assessment sub classes for derelict and contaminated properties. The city can use these assessments to not only push someone sitting on a derelict property to develop it, but allow the city to tax at a higher rate to deal with matters like fixing sidewalks around the property.
“‘If you can tax them at a rate to generate sufficient funds to pay for clean up, then you have some different tools in your toolkit to deal with some of these derelict properties,” Iveson said.
Ability to regulate licensed establishment hours
The city will be able to vary the opening and closing hours of licensed establishments, although they can’t be outside of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission’s allowed hours of 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. The intention is to prevent crowds from exiting establishments en masse at last call in areas where there are a bunch of bars close together.
“In our busy entertainment districts, the ability to stagger the coming and going helps us with loading for transit, with demand for vehicle for hire, with orderly conduct,” Iveson said.
Tweaks to Traffic Safety Act
Calgary and Edmonton will be allowed to tweak various components of the Traffic Safety Act within their borders. That includes the allowance of back-in angle parking, expanded cycling infrastructure and setting the default maximum speed limits for residential neighbourhoods.