Protecting Ravines, Revitalizing Communities, Adapting to Climate Change...

There was lots of exciting action at today’s Executive Committee, and I’d like to explore three of the big ticket items

Top of Bank Regulations

We received a report recommending two new mechanisms to help regulate development in top-of-bank areas. Ravine banks are sensitive areas that can be easily impacted by development, and that can have big consequences - a few homes in Ward 10 have had to be vacated due to bank instability in the past few years.

The policy changes that Administration recommended today will help us to better protect the integrity of our ravine banks. The first step would be adding regulations that would allow the City to review, permit, and enforce any construction activity, like building fences and decks, that we previously haven’t been able to regulate. These seemingly small projects can have impacts on the drainage and stability of ravine banks, so adding regulations to this type of development is a welcome addition to our regulatory powers.

Second, we will look at placing covenants on title on ravine bank properties that would regulate the development of:

  • swimming pools and other water holding structures

  • above or underground sprinklers or irrigation systems

  • roof leaders, downspouts and sump pump discharge spouts

  • water lines constructed without an engineer

  • inappropriate fill construction, grading, or vegetation removal at or near the top of bank.

Residents have raised concerns about infill subdivision in top of bank areas. We certainly need to take a great deal of care in how we manage development of our banks, but ultimately the issue lies with the geotechnical issues rather than lot subdivision. In many cases, two smaller homes would have a less drastic impact on the integrity of the bank than one very large house.

Community Development Corporation

Most of our morning at Executive Committee was spent discussing the proposal for a Community Development Corporation (CDC). CDCs are a type of community organization that started in the United States during the Civil Rights movement, and focus on bringing a holistic type of community development including and local business developments to neighbourhoods that are struggling.

The CDC concept is a big part of our EndPoverty Edmonton strategy. The proposed CDC would be housed in the Edmonton Community Foundation until it developed a strong enough internal organization to stand on its own, and would be funded by a variety of partners, including social agencies, businesses, and the City.

But in setting up an organization like this, we can also run the risk of duplicating efforts. This issue was well discussed today and I have little worry about it. We have many fantastic agencies like the Capital Region Housing Board and Habitat for Humanity, that are supporting housing reinvestment in troubled communities. The framework of the CDC should be set up to require them to collaborate with these organizations and help them build more housing.

So we have to be careful and prudent when we examine this, and avoid getting swept up in the possibilities without considering the downsides. Today we referred the item to next week’s Council meeting, where we will discuss a proposal for a business case and budget that would be presented in the fall. This is a good first step, one that will allow us to be better informed before making any sort of decision in the fall.

Climate Change Adaptation

At last but not least, we passed the Terms of Reference for the Council initiative on Climate Change Adaptation. The report on the Terms of Reference is available here, and you can read my previous blog on the topic here. I think today was a good step forward on this project, and I’m looking forward to seeing the stakeholder committee come together to start the real work of this project.