On Tuesday September 1, 2015 Town Council hosted a delegation who wanted to talk about the current state of the Town of Slave Lake.
She was worried about the current and future state of Slave Lake, and the how the morale in Slave Lake is quite low and seems that with all the current vacancies in town and people moving away is due in part to the fact that the current town regulations do not promote a community that is open for business. The speaker seemed to have a lot of support as well as there were approximately 40 people in the audience which for a council meeting is huge as we usually have about 4.
The discussion between council and the delegate as well as a few members of the audience was a good one. One of the things I love about being a politician is the chance to debate and understand someone else’s viewpoint other than my own. A large portion of the discussion was around Slave Lake’s development fees and the development standards, (example, what you can or cannot do when it comes to developing your property) so what happened as a result of that meeting.
Council has decided at its committee of the whole meeting in October to spend some time discussing our bylaws. We are giving it a month because we want to hear what the public has to say. Councilor Plouffe said it best Tuesday night when he stated that we were elected by the people to listen and understand their concerns. Council has done this in the past and will continue to do so in the future. One of the things the seven of us know for sure is we don’t always get it right, we make mistakes, and there are better ways of doing things out there. In reality we make the best decision possible with the information we have at the time.
However, as new information comes to light, or we see things from a different perspective we may want to change things. So we want your help, your ideas and your solutions. If you check out the town website you will see we have posted some links to our current bylaws. They talk about what is allowed and what isn’t. They talk about the process and the fees associated with the process as well as the process for variances when things don’t go according to plan. I encourage you to check them out and tell us what you think.
Also go to the town webpage and fill out our survey. Any responses you send will be kept anonymous and shared with all of council and staff to be discussed and debated in October. If you have questions, solutions, ideas we want to hear them.
Some of the items to be discussed, at the October meeting, are variance fees. Ours are higher than a lot of other communities as at the time we wanted to discourage people from not following the rules, but maybe we are too hard. Another item discussed was you should be able to turn your front yard into a vegetable garden which has some great social and economical benefits but may not be aesthetically pleasing to all. We currently limit the amount of hard surfacing you can have in your front yard so that we have a spot to put snow. We also do it so that the utilities we may be accessing are easier to access and when we have to turn the ground back to what it originally was, it costs the least amount of money. Council heard Tuesday that was a bit archaic and we need to get with the times and maybe they are right.
In the end it’s an easy fix we just would have to budget additional money to remove snow and additional money to deal with replacing decorative stone, ashphalt, or concrete if we needed to access those utilities. As you can see the choices are not always easy and whether we change what we are doing or stay the same each has benefits and consequences.
Council believes in listening to people and making good choices. We want to understand all viewpoints. The tough part of our job is knowing what right is. We understand it is near impossible to make everyone happy but we should be trying to do what is in the best interest of the town and Tuesday evening we heard from a group we are not doing it. The other tough part about being on council is trying to know what do the majority of people want. One thing I know is that when a group is loud, passionate and has some concerns, council stands up and listens. So we want to know what you think and council’s policy decisions moving forward will be directly influenced by what you have to say. If you want things different tell us what and why. If you think things are good the way they are we want to hear that too.
At the end of the month we will tabulate the responses and council will discuss the matter in October. No matter what the outcome this is a great exercise in democracy and great chance for the community to get more involved in politics. I look forward to your comments and the debate with my fellow council. In the end we are all trying to make the community better and I love that we are doing it together!