Saskatoon city council will vote on the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA)’s master plan for the Northeast Swale after it cleared the city’s planning, development and community services committee on Monday.
At 2,800 hectares, the swale covers an area just a little bigger than the city of Yorkton. It is one of the larger pieces of native grassland left in the province of Saskatchewan.
Conservation of the area in the face of a rapidly growing city has been the focus of years of work.
The MVA master plan calls for $14 million worth of upgrades – $6 million of that would be spent in the swale itself. The other $8 million would go into what’s called the greenway — a 25 metre wide buffer zone between the swale and other development.
The construction of various trails, recreation areas and storm water management systems is planned to be split up over five phases.
The MVA plan is still conceptual at this stage. Funding would still need to be rounded up for the project.
Louise Jones, chair of the Northeast Swale Watchers conservation group, was on hand for the MVA’s presentation to the committee.
Overall, she said the group was happy to see efforts underway to preserve the swale. But she said they have serious concerns about the North Commuter Parkway Bridge and Perimetre Highway projects. Both would see major roadways cutting across the swale.
“The reality is we need roads. But our questioning is: ‘is there a way of designing these roads so they have less impact?'” she said.
The group is proposing measures like minimal lighting and strict speed controls along the roadways. They also want consideration to wildlife crossings, in an effort to maintain the integrity of the swale ecosystem.
Jones said they’re hoping they can still get the route adjusted for the Perimetre Highway altogether.
“My proposal would be, the city’s growing very fast, why not put (the highway) outside of the swale? And maybe that’s a more effective place,” she said.
With Monday’s committee vote, the swale master plan goes to council for a vote on Oct. 26.
- The committee passed a recommendation to council to approve changes to Saskatoon’s Adult Services bylaw. The changes are meant to address problems with how the three-year-old bylaw applies to people who come from outside the city to work. The proposed changes would create a new licensing category for transient adult service’s workers that operate independently. They’d also extend the timeframe for applicants to get licenses from 21 days to 60 days. If council passes them, the changes would also allow police to mail out tickets the first time someone is caught operating without a license. The current system requires people to come to Saskatoon for a court date.
- The committee reviewed an administration report on ways the City of Saskatoon can help refugees from the crisis in Syria expected to come to Saskatoon. The committee passed along a series of recommendations from the report that wouldn’t cost any money in 2016. Those measures include things like having council adopt a formal declaration proclaiming that Saskatoon welcomes refugees. The recommendations also call for the city to get in touch with Ottawa and the provinces, both to co-ordinate efforts and to lobby them to bring more people in.
The committee also discussed the potential for offering refugees some form of subsidized transit pass for their first year here. The administration report outlined several different options, ranging from partial subsidies to outright free passes. The costs varied depending on numbers of refugees – Saskatoon gets between 100 and 300 every year. The proposal carried estimated costs ranging between $35,000 and $267,000. The committee instructed the administration to put together another report on the matter.