Beautification, bylaws on tap

City beautification and additional bylaw clerical help were on the wish list for city planner Scott Smith’s budget presentation last week.

City beautification and additional bylaw clerical help were on the wish list for city planner Scott Smith’s public budget presentation last week.

Citing council’s desire to beautify the city, Smith recommended hiring a consultant to assist in a major review and rewrite of form and character development permit area guidelines at a cost of $40,000.

“A good portion of an inviting community and streetscape is the look of buildings, the form and character of the buildings,” Smith said.

While development guidelines do exist for commercial areas, they haven’t been reviewed since their inception in 2007 and are not very specific in nature.

“The community has changed [since then] and may have different directions,” said Smith.

“This would heavily involve council, the business community and the general public about whether we want to look at those guidelines and whether we want to create more specific guidelines about certain architectural features we would like to see.”

Coun. Jack McLeman said he agreed with the proposal.

“A couple of years ago, a couple of former councillors and myself went up and down Johnston Road and in the North Port area—[merchants] all had a good idea of what they wanted but they aren’t coming out to say so unless someone goes and asks,” McLeman.

Having architectural consultants on hand also allows for a visualization of what council, business owners and the public discuss verbally, Smith added, thus getting everyone on the same page.

Development guidelines wouldn’t make many immediate changes to the look and feel of the community, Smith added, because they only come into effect with redevelopment or new buildings.

“Does the community have a vision over the long term? Do we want to get more detailed about a vision that our community wants to see in the form and character of our buildings?”

The process would also allow the city to designate different design styles for different areas of town, thus differentiating Johnston Road from the Uptown area, he said.

Design guidelines weren’t Smith’s only option to make the city look more attractive.

In 2015, council voted to purchase the bylaw enforcement officer a new, specialized vehicle that includes a computer system that allows him to deal with bylaw issues onsite. The vehicle arrived in the early days of 2016.

“The dedicated bylaw vehicle will certain increase efficiency,” said Smith.

But with 368 new bylaw files opened in 2015—a fairly standard yearly amount—a dedicated vehicle might not be enough to keep up with the demand.

“While a second bylaw officer would certainly improve the service, the addition of a half-time clerical position would be a step that would allow the current bylaw officer to be out in the city more often,” said Smith. The proposed half-time employee would be able to take calls, open new files and prepare letters.”

Mayor Ruttan said that he would want to wait and see what efficiencies the new dedicated bylaw vehicle could create before investing more money into bylaw enforcement.

Outside of his wish list, the finances of Smith’s office—which covers planning, building inspection, parking fines and bylaw enforcement—decreased by about six per cent since 2015 and sits at $233,795.

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