But oh, it was a nail biter of a vote.
I may have been the only person in the gallery keeping track but after all the speeches were done, it was clear that four councillors were going to vote to open the plaza to cars. Five, including the mayor, were planning to keep it car free. Only Councillor Findura hadn’t tipped his hand and with Councillor Hutchinson not in attendance, if Findura voted for a walker’s paradise, then it would happen, if not, there’d be a tie.
And I’ve never seen a tied vote before! Oh, the suspense!
Then Findura voted to keep the cars off the plaza and it was all over with a quick raise of the hand.
Kind of anti-climactic, truth be told. They really should do something to draw these votes out more. Ramp up the tension. Maybe get councillors to raise their hands in slo-mo. Or get a sound effects board. Or hire one of those organ guys who used to do the music at hockey games. Those guys are all unemployed now. They could use the work.
True story: My sister almost married one of those hockey organ guys. Last I heard, he was recording audio for nature documentaries on the tundra.
And they say piano lessons won’t get you anywhere.
Anyway, like the council vote, apparently comment into city hall has been pretty split over the “Plaza: Should There Be Cars/Should There No Be Cars” question. But the delegations before council were pretty much all saying let there be motoring, their argument being that business downtown is being killed by the traffic snarl-ups, the twisty routes people have to take to get anywhere and the dead ends the plaza has formed.
On the other side, it was pointed out by city staff that they can see the plaza being closed 200 days a year for events of one form or another anyway (festivals, farmers markets, a skating rink, the list goes on). And Councillor Fougere — who says he wants the plaza open to traffic but just not now — says that winter — what with the ice and the snow and the slipping and sliding, oy — is the wrong time to spring a new street form on motorists.
Anyway, as I said, the pedestrian friends won out with Councillors Fougere, O’Donnell, Browne, Murray, Findura and the Mayor voting to keep the plaza as it is. Szarka, Bryce, Clipsham and Hincks voted against.
Staff did say that they will immediately be reopening the right turn from Scarth onto 12th Ave and they would be putting handicap parking spots on Scarth just south of the plaza to help some of the clients of the Workers’ Compensation office in Hill Tower 2.
Beyond that, we’ll have to wait until June 1, 2012 when the traffic study is done to find out if staff think the plaza should stay closed forever or not.
We’ll have more on this in the upcoming prairie dog.
After the plaza debate, council considered the report about the province’s latest housing policy. Council seemed to agree that the new policy really wasn’t an affordable housing policy, and while it might help with the availability of housing, it wasn’t going to address the problems faced by many low-income renters.
It was pointed out that city staff are on the hunt for a consultant to help them put together an affordable housing strategy for the city. But beyond that, it was reiterated that according to the legislation, housing is the province’s responsibility and Wall’s government is going to have to do more on that score.
The last big issue on the agenda had to do with the Rural Municipality of Sherwood. And I have to admit, as I was listening to the discussion on this topic I was like, shit, I haven’t been following this at all and I really don’t have a clue what anybody is talking about but it sounds REALLY IMPORTANT.
But here’s what I could glean, keeping in mind I’m fuzzy on the details.
So the Rural Municipality of Sherwood represents people who live in the rural area surrounding Regina. When Regina’s border expands, we’re buying up the RM of Sherwood’s territory. Up until now, when the city wants to expand or when the RM wants to develop, the two municipalities have hashed things out through a shared District Plan process.
Well, the RM of Sherwood has let it be known it wants to go rogue and set up its own Official Community Plan and just ditch the whole shared process. Their goal being to increase development around Regina. Which, naturally, has our council steamed because that will stymie our ability to grow in the future and it will also undermine planning efforts within the city.
To thwart this, council will be getting in touch with the province and the RM and saying, “Hey, we like the Planning District! It works! Don’t ditch the Planning District!” Or words to that effect.
Anyway, that’s what I was doing for three and a half hours this evening.
OH! Back up a step. I should point out that among the ideas contained in the Rural Municipality’s proposed OCP are to boost residential development around Regina and to set up a big commercial corridor south of the city on Highway 1.
But nowhere in there is there a plan to build a Robin Hood Theme Park. Come on RM of Sherwood! You’re passing up a chance to bring a wee taste of ye merrie olde England to the prairies!
Yeesh. Do I have to think of everything?
So. To sum up: Hockey organ guy at council. Robin Hood Theme Park. Sharks in the city hall fountain.
And that’s your city council wrap-up for this November 9th.