Regina city council addresses sustainability, addiction, Airbnb rentals

Regina City Council covered long-term sustainability planning and short-term rentals in its marathon eight-hour final meeting before the Nov. 9 municipal election.

Council covers wide-ranging agenda in final session before Nov. 9 election

In a marathon eight-hour session, Regina city council covered everything from truck traffic to development fees. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Regina city council covered long-term sustainability planning and short-term rentals in an eight-hour final meeting before the Nov. 9 municipal election. 

Among the decisions at the marathon Wednesday session was approval of a motion to remove the trucking transportation route on Ninth Avenue N., between Pinkie Road and Pasqua Street.

Members of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association said this decision will impact their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. 

"If this section of road were to be deemed a non-truck route, we would have to run our trucks up the bypass to Highway 11 and back in down to Pasqua Street, adding approximately 32 kilometres per round trip," argued a representative from Loblaws.

"Once you factor in the six stores and multiple deliveries per day, that becomes a significant impact."

However, neighbours said they had safety concerns about truck traffic on the road. 

"As this stretch of road is narrow, with no shoulder, it is obviously unsafe [for trucks], especially when combined with regular traffic, and thus is a recipe for disaster," said Julie Derby, who lives near Ninth Avenue on Thurston Crescent. 

Derby said neighbours were also concerned about the truck traffic decreasing their property values. 

The rule change will come into effect before the end of the year. 

Licence fees imposed for short-term rentals

Council voted unanimously in favour of implementing licensing fees and regulations for renting short-term accommodations, including Airbnb rentals.

Licences will cost $100 for a primary residence and $300 for a secondary residence — and there will be a $1,000 penalty for advertising without a licence. 

All short-term rental properties will be required to undergo a fire safety inspection. 

Tracy Fahlman, president and CEO of the Regina Hotel Association, said regulating short-term accommodations will help the hotel industry recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

"Hotel owners have suffered devastating revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and they are now dealing with overwhelming fixed costs," she said.

"Now, more than ever, we need competitive fairness within the short-term accommodation industry. While hotels welcome competition, it must be on a level playing field."

The new licensing requirements and fees will come into effect at the beginning of May 2021. 

Development fees lowered

Council voted to reduce the servicing agreement fee rate by 16.9 per cent. 

These fees — paid to the city by developers working in new areas — are used to fund services such as wider roads or improved sewage treatment.

The Regina Home Builders' Association said this change, which will come into effect in January, will reduce costs for home buyers during "the largest slowdown in the new home market since the mid '90s."

With the fee reduction, the city is planning to run a deficit in its servicing agreement fund by 2022, and expects the fund to return to a zero balance by the end of its current 21-year term, assuming the city continues to grow. 

Plans to address addictions crisis

Following a unanimous vote, the city will be taking a variety of steps to address the addictions and substance use crisis in Regina. 

The city will be partnering with community organizations for a needle cleanup program and to develop a harm-reduction strategy, with a particular focus on Indigenous inclusion in this process, and will be asking the provincial and federal government for funds. 

The crisis will now officially fall under the mandate of the local emergency planning committee. 

Leah O'Malley, a board member at White Pony Lodge, which co-ordinates volunteer patrols to clean up drug paraphernalia, said these measures are critical for the well-being of city residents. 

"During our weekly patrols we find anywhere from 10 to 200 needles each patrol, we offer assistance to those in distress, and we carry naloxone with us in case of overdoses," she said. 

Renewable Regina planning continues

The plan to see Regina become a 100 per cent renewable city by 2050 is maintaining momentum.

Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of developing a community-wide sustainability framework and action plan. 

The lone vote against was from Mayor Michael Fougere, who thought the matter should be handled by the next council and believed the public had not yet been sufficiently informed.

"I support the intent of the report, but I remain concerned about the costing that is not known," said Fougere, who is running for re-election. 

"Other municipalities — and I can think of Saskatoon — have already done that costing to some degree, so people can understand this."

City administration will now begin making plans, timelines and targets for meeting these targets.

"Action starts at home, in Regina, and it is in all our best interests to make meaningful progress toward a low-carbon future," said Regina resident Brian Brunskill.

"We have abundant renewable resources at our disposal, plus the ability to store this energy on a grid-scale basis."

Council was first presented in 2018 with a proposal to make Regina 100 per cent renewable in its energy use by 2050.