Starting in January, all Regina property owners will be required to clear their sidewalks within 48 hours of a snowfall.
City council passed (nine to two) a bylaw nearly five years in the making on Wednesday afternoon. Ward 5 Coun. John Findura and Ward 10 Coun. Landon Mohl were the only ones to vote against the measure.
During the debate leading up to the vote, Ward 2 Coun. Bob Hawkins touted it as a "bylaw about kindness."
"It says we as a city — acting in a neighbourly, civic way — will be kind to the users of our sidewalks. And that, I think, is enough reason to pass it," Hawkins told his fellow councillors.
The bylaw's first year will be spent on public awareness with a city-wide campaign and no fines issued.
Ward 7 Coun. Terina Shaw said she supports starting out with education.
Having a daughter with a physical disability, Shaw told council she recognizes the importance of clearing sidewalks. However, she noted, most people need time to understand the value in it, like her own neighbour did, years ago.
"He said, 'What does it matter?' And I said, 'Do you see my daughter coming out of the house?' ... His face dropped and he felt so terrible. Then he goes, 'I never even thought of your daughter or people like your daughter,'" Shaw recounted. "I never asked him to clean his sidewalk again; his sidewalk was clean."
Shaw added it's incumbent on councillors to have conversations about the new bylaw and share details about it on social media to raise awareness.
Specifics around the bylaw, such as how wide of a path people need to clear, are still being decided, Mayor Sandra Masters noted.
"We want to make sure that walkways are passable to folks in wheelchairs or with walkers or parents walking with children, but I think some of those details will be worked out as we get through this first year," she said. "That's part of the education process."
LISTEN| Mayor Sandra Masters joins host Stefani Langenegger to discuss the latest out of Regina's city council:
Masters added money will be set aside to get community organizations to help people, like seniors and people with disabilities, who face barriers in shovelling their sidewalks.
With no fines expected at first, council chose not to dip into next year's general budget to pay for extra bylaw enforcement officers, and positions in the administrative bylaw and legal services branches. That works out to a cost saving of roughly $510,000.
City administration said the need for those positions will be determined based on residents' compliance and will be reassessed in 2023.
A final reading of the bylaw will go before council when it reconvenes Oct. 27.
Provincial loan for Rapid Housing Initiative program passed
Council unanimously agreed to borrow $783,000 from the province for the federal Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) program.
That funding will be added onto the $7.8 million from the federal government and $1 million the city chipped in from its social development reserve earlier this year.
The RHI program is set to build a minimum of 29 new affordable housing units in Regina.
"This is a very timely issue," Ward 8 Coun. Shanon Zachidniak told council at Wednesday's meeting. "There's a tent community set up in Pepsi Park ... so it's important we're pursuing this work right now."
Masters said the pandemic and supply issues are throwing a jolt in the exact timeline on when the housing units will be built, though she estimated it would be in about a year's time.
"The reality is: the housing need is now," she told reporters after Wednesday's meeting. "I think everybody has a strong sense of urgency about this."
Once the units are up and running, council has also agreed to partner with Silver Sage Housing Corporation, a provincial non-profit, to help manage them.
Harbour Landing West voted down, new school moves ahead
Council decided — in a 10-to-one vote — to deny a new Harbour Landing West subdivision and move forward with developing a new joint-use school site, as per city administration's recommendation.
École Harbour Landing and St. Kateri Tekakwitha School, which share the same building, opened in 2017. Both are now at capacity with some students, including those in French immersion within the public system, being bused to other schools in the area.
Dream Development had proposed an amendment to the city's official community plan bylaw to build another joint-use school in the new subdivision to alleviate that strain.
However, all but one councillor — Ward 4 Coun. Lori Bresciani — decided to vote that idea down.
"What the residents want is not a new subdivision, they want a new school — and they need it. I support them 100 per cent," Hawkins, whose ward covers Harbour Landing, told council.
Masters said the next step is to further talks between the city, Ministry of Education and the owner of the land at Gordon Road and Campbell Street, the current location eyed for the school to be built.