Tuesday, February 20, 2018

As Rocky Ridge Recreation Facility Opens, Work Continues at Seton Facility

[From Left to right: Kurt Hanson, Manager of Community Services for The City of Calgary; Mark Asberg, Director of Service Delivery for the Calgary Public Library; Michael Connolly, MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood; Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi; Shannon Doram, President and CEO of YMCA Calgary]

On February 1, 2018, the Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge celebrated its grand opening, with guests including Mayor Naheed Nenshi, MLA Michael Connolly, Councillors Ward Sutherland, Joe Magloiocca and Sean Chu, YMCA Calgary President and CEO Shannon Doram, and citizens from the area.

Initial response to the new facility has been overwhelming – since opening, the facility has signed up over 9,400 new YMCA members, justifying The City of Calgary’s research that a recreation facility was sorely needed in the area.

Mayor Nenshi speaks at the Grand Opening of the Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge.

The Shane Homes YMCA is the third of four new recreation facilities to be built in underserved areas of the City. The Great Plains Recreation Facility and Remington YMCA opened in Calgary’s southeast in 2016. The City has overseen the planning, design and construction of all four new recreation facilities – a total investment of $480 million. A portion of the cost was contributed by the Government of Alberta as part of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). In all cases, there were few recreational opportunities in the area before construction of the new facility.

The last of the four new facilities, in Seton, is currently under construction. This facility will open in early 2019 as a community hub in a dynamic area surrounded by a future high school and regional park. The new facility was designed with input from a thoughtful engagement process with local community associations and area residents.

Within the walls, construction on the 330,000 square-foot facility is moving briskly, on-time and on-budget. Amenities will include a 50-metre, 10-lane competition and diving pool, a water park and leisure pool, a surf simulator, two ice rinks, 3 gymnasia, a fitness centre with studios, a 200-metre running track, art-making and studio space, a 250-seat theatre, and a 25,000-square-foot full-service library.

The facility will be managed by the Calgary YMCA, who won a competitive bid to operate and maintain the space. This innovative model ensures the sustainability of the facility without the need for additional tax dollars to fund staffing, maintenance or other operational costs.

For more information and a full amenity list, please visit calgary.ca/recreationprojects.

Photos of Seton:

View of the main atrium and the future 25,000 square-foot library

View down the main hallway, toward the main atrium. The competition pool is on the left, and the twin arenas to the right

Looking down on the future competition pool

View of diving platforms. A temporary floor has been erected over the deep end of the pool.

The future recreation pool area, including the recreation pool (R), lazy river (centre) and posts for a waterslide (L). Behind the lazy river is the foundation for the surf simulator.

A view from the top of the future waterslide

One of the two arenas under construction

The future gymnasium space on the lower level, surrounded by the running track on the upper level.

Seton Recreation Facility – exterior under construction (October 2018).

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

FAQ: 2018 property/business assessments and Customer Review Period

On January 4, 2018, The City mailed over half a million property and business assessment notices. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the process and how it may affect you.

Where can I find my property’s assessed value?

You can find the assessed value of your property or any other Calgary property online using Assessment Search. You do not have to log in to search for assessed values, however, for more detailed information (including your previous year's assessment, your tax information and specific property details) you can log into Assessment Search using your City myID account.

For more information on how to use Assessment Search, see the help guides for property owners and business owners.

How is my property assessed?

Your property assessment notice sent in January is based on your property’s market value, the amount it likely would have sold for last July 1, and improvements to its physical condition as of Dec. 31.

Assessors look at many factors including your property’s details such as age, location, lot size, additions or renovations and sales of similar properties in the neighbourhood in the last three years.

Your assessed property value goes through internal checks and balances and a provincial audit before the notice is mailed to you in early January.

What if I don’t agree with the assessed value?

If you have any questions or concerns about your assessment, contact Assessment at 403-268-2888 during the Customer Review Period from Jan. 4 to March 12, 2018.

Your assessor may be able to resolve your concerns without the need to file a formal complaint.

Changes can only be made to your 2018 property assessment if you inquire about it during the Customer Review Period.

Changes cannot be made to your tax bill mailed at the end of May.

If you still disagree with your assessment, visit the Assessment Review Board for more information and/or to file a complaint online.

Formal complaints with the Assessment Review Board can only be made between Jan. 4 and March 12, 2018.

How does my assessment affect my property taxes?

Your property assessment is used to determine your share of taxes, relative to all properties in Calgary, to meet The City's budget needs.

Once Council has set the tax rate, your assessment is then multiplied by the tax rate and the result is your share of property tax shown on your tax bill.

Assessments are based on the fair market value of your property last July 1. Real estate data on all properties sold in Calgary in the previous three years are analyzed. Your individual assessment comes from the analysis of sold properties in your neighbourhood that are very similar to yours.

Your property tax can change from year to year if your property’s assessed value increases or decreases greater than the change in the overall assessment base or if additional revenue is needed by The City to provide services.

You can search for your current property assessment using Assessment Search.

Learn how your property is assessed.

More information

Where can I get more information?

If you have questions about property tax, contact 311.
For tax related FAQs, visit Property tax and assessment Frequently asked questions
You can learn more budget, assessment and taxes at calgary.ca/ourfinances.
Assessment information – calgary.ca/assessment
Property tax information – calgary.ca/propertytax
Tax Instalment Payment Plan (TIPP) – calgary.ca/TIPP
Property Tax Assistance Program (PTAP) – calgary.ca/ptap

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Why China’s role in the recyclable market matters to Calgary and what you can do (Hint: Keep recycling!)

There has been a lot of talk about China’s ban on foreign recyclables. But what does this mean exactly for Calgary and the Blue Cart recycling program? We break it down for you below.

What exactly is going on with recycling in China?

Materials like plastic and paper are recycled by manufacturers around the globe. Just like oil and precious metals, recyclables are commodities and their markets go up and down depending on supply and demand. China is one of many places where recyclables go to be turned into new products and packaging. Globally, China represents the largest recycling market. Approximately 50 per cent of the world’s recyclables have traditionally been made into something new in China.

For many years, some companies that did not sort their recyclables properly have been sending low-quality and contaminated recyclable materials to Chinese mills and manufacturers. This behavior prompted the Chinese government to implement the National Sword program, which is aimed at improving the quality of recyclables being imported by Chinese manufacturers. Loads of recyclables are being closely inspected under this program to ensure that quality standards are met.

While the initiative officially took effect on January 1, 2018, many third-party brokers that handle the shipping and import of recyclable materials knew it was coming and began to stop shipping materials to China in the fall of 2017. With a lot of uncertainty about how China will enforce the program, third-party brokers are reluctant to ship materials, even if they are sorted properly, for fear that the shipments will be rejected. As a result, third-party brokers are looking for other recycling markets where the rules and quality standards are clearer for them to understand. This has created a buyers’ market for certain recyclable materials around the world.

How does this affect Calgary’s Blue Cart recycling program?

The City works with Cascades Recovery, a private third-party company that sorts and markets the recyclables collected through City recycling programs. Some of The City’s plastics are recycled in Western Canada, whereas other materials are recycled overseas, including in China. Just like others around the globe, we are affected by this situation.

The City is not considering putting the stockpiled material in our landfills. Even though the market is in a downturn, these materials are still highly recyclable. Just like commodities in other industries, we frequently stockpile during downturns in order to seek a better price when markets recover. Over the life of the Blue Cart program, a portion of recycling revenues have been set aside to allow The City to address volatile market conditions and situations such as this one.

We are working with Cascades Recovery to locate new potential buyers. This includes working with them to make sure The City’s end-product is as high a quality as possible. In the meantime, we are storing the affected recyclables.

The City can not speculate on how long the market will fluctuate but we will continue to monitor this evolving situation and adjust in the future if needed. Currently, we have been able to find enough storage space. What is important to remember is that it is a market fluctuation and we want citizens of Calgary to stay in the habit of recycling and keeping these materials out of the landfill.

On a positive note, The City has shipped several loads of mixed paper to alternative markets recently.

What can I do to help with recycling?

Keep on recycling acceptable items in your Blue Cart! Follow these best practices to help make sure your recyclables can be sorted properly and improve the quality of the recyclables:
  • Bag your plastic bags before recycling. Stretchy plastic bags must be bundled into a single plastic bag and tied closed before going in the blue cart. Loose or single plastic bags jam sorting equipment and end up landfilled. They can also get into our mixed paper, making it harder to sell. 
  • Know what can be recycled in blue cart. By putting only the right things in the recycling, it makes it easier and more efficient to sort recyclables. See the list of acceptable Blue Cart items.
  • Place items in your blue cart loose. The only items that should be bagged are bundled plastic bags and separated shredded paper.
  • Clean off food and other residue. Put hard-to-clean items in your dishwasher or if you wash items by hand, use the dirty dish water to clean off food residue from your recyclables to save water.
  • Keep recyclables inside your blue cart and make sure the lid is pulled over. Your blue cart protects recyclables from rain, snow and wind and helps keep our communities litter-free.
Bookmark calgary.ca/whatgoeswhere in your favourites! Our online search tool lets you look up hundreds of items to find the right recycling, composting or disposal option.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Green Line Next Steps: In-Person and Online Feedback Wanted

Since the Green Line LRT was approved by City Council in June we’ve started preparing for major construction and now we need your help!

Starting this month, The City of Calgary will be hosting events from 16 Avenue N to 126 Avenue S.E. Construction on stage 1 is set to begin in 2020 and work has begun to develop technical documents that will guide that construction.

We want to hear from Calgarians how you want the LRT to integrate into your neighbourhood. Over the next couple of months, The City will be hosting in-person and online opportunities for you to provide feedback on things like street furnishing, fencing, crosswalk treatments, and more.

We also want to know how you see yourself and your neighbours using Green Line stations and plazas as community space, and what would make you feel safer using the LRT.

There’s plenty of in-person opportunities for you to participate, but if you can’t make it out you can provide your feedback online. 

Station design

The City has developed a cohesive look for Green Line LRT stations that will be applied across the entire alignment. Having a consistent design for all stations along the Green Line allows The City to utilize what is known as a “kit of parts.” Green Line – stage 1 will span 20 kilometres through many different communities. The cohesive design has been developed to be easily integrated into each distinct neighbourhood, while maintaining a recognizable look along the line.

At our upcoming sessions we’ll be introducing preliminary concepts for stations. You’ll be able to provide comments on your initial thoughts and speak to the architects who helped create the designs.  

There’s almost 20 opportunities to see us in person! Find an event near you or participate online.  

Baconfest 2018 taps into Calgary’s potential look and feel in the 21st century

Calgary’s own urban planning film festival returns for its fifth year, starting January 17, 2018. We sat down with Rollin Stanley, General Manager of Urban Planning, and got his take on why everyone should attend Baconfest 2018.

1. For those who might be unaware, what is Baconfest?

It’s a film festival meant to get people thinking about how they can be more involved in their city and bring about specific differences in Calgary. 

Each year we go deeper and deeper into challenges, issues and opportunities that cities are facing, predominantly in North America but, to some extent, around the world as well. The first year was about showcasing the films of Ed Bacon [renowned city planner and father of actor Kevin Bacon]. We highlighted those films to get people energized about the way cities have evolved. This year, we’re delving deeper into culture and our environment.

2. Why should citizens care about urban planning or a festival like Baconfest?

Don’t think about it as caring about planning, think about it as caring about what happens in your city. Think about it as caring about knowing how you can get involved, or be aware of the kinds of things that make cities work. 

We’re really looking to expand people’s minds and get them thinking about things that impact them directly. That’s why we chose the films we did. We’re showing a bee film this year. We have to encourage bee colonization, particularly here. That’s something that has to happen. The point is to get citizens thinking about what they can do every day. 

3. What do you hope that people will gain by attending?

There’s this family that comes every year. They bring their son – he’s asked some of the best questions! I think he’s 9. We gave citizens an opportunity to submit their own stories a year ago. We had a gentleman submit one who runs a soccer club here in the city. He immigrated to Calgary from Africa and we got a chance to look at what he’s doing to help kids in the suburbs get involved. We have citizens across all age and ethic spectrums. That’s not planning, that’s participating in the life of a city and that’s what we hope people will go away with. An eye for those kinds of opportunities to participate and the desire to do so.

4. What are the top three reasons someone should attend Baconfest?

Well, the top reason to attend is because attendees will get to enjoy some terrific bacon (yes, real bacon)!

And if that’s not enough, the second reason to mark your calendar is because joining us ensures you have a voice in the conversation about the future of Calgary and how we can all make a difference. 

And third, Baconfest is a great opportunity to get informed about emerging trends and challenges facing cities like ours. 

5. Anything you’d like to add, in closing?

The theme this year is about the future of the city. We’re looking at it through three lenses. Its form, its culture and the environment. Our goal is to show how these three factors have to come together to make sure that what happens as we grow, happens in harmony. We have become a destination city and that opens up new doors for us, new opportunities. We want to show people that they can think more broadly. If a fraction of the people who attend start patronizing restaurants on 17th Ave S.E. where they may never have been, we’ve achieved a really great thing. 

For more information on the film lineup and event details visit Calgary.ca/baconfest.