Greetings, it is still summer and the neighborhood is blooming. A big shout out (thank-you) to all who took the time to make their front yards so attractive.
Notable community events since my last message include community clean up. As usual, we removed nearly three dumpster loads of fire hazard, rodent motels and general unsightliness. A special note of appreciation to Fredy and Diane, and of course Barb, for doing a lot of the organization, the Church of Latter Day Saints for generously allowing the use of their parking lot as an assembly area and all who took the time to move junk.
We had a healthy turnout for our Spring programming. Thanks again to Barb and all the instructors who take the time to add healthy and enjoyable activities to our community. All programmes are wonderful additions to our community. I would like to give a special acknowledgement of the work that Tammy does for the City’s basketball programmes.
Our rink gave excellent service over winter and another season rapidly approaches (ugh!). This is only possible because Fredy, Mahdi, Carlos, Renee and several others arrive as early as 6:30 am to shovel snow and clear the rink so that community members can enjoy the skating. Volunteers to help out this winter would be greatly appreciated; the hours are flexible and many hands make lite work.
A special thank you to the community garden for inviting our family to their annual pot luck. Fun entertainment and wonderful to see productive gardens helping with food security, feeding the needy, providing habitat for Monarch butterflies and simply giving neighbors a chance to enjoy the outdoors.
As usual, the city put on a variety of training sessions for community association members. I attended the President’s workshop, an event that still stands out for its helpful advice on governance and managing community groups.
One notable neighborhood civic improvement is nearly completed. The pocket park outside D’Lish has been rebuilt and looks fantastic. Trent Watts has rebuilt the community library box to complement the development. We hope that the park will be named in honor of Cathy Watts, a tireless advocate for a more sustainable city. Planning is also underway for the renovation of Albert Community Centre. We can expect some disruption to events at the Centre.
Councillors have likely been pre-occupied grappling with recommendations for exorbitant tax increases. The release of final plans for corridor growth along College appear to be delayed. At present I have no credible guidance on the amount and extent of density that will be added to our neighborhood. The Arena proposal may have suffered a blow when a business association suggested it, and other major capital projects, be put on hold till taxation could be bought under control. However, our councillor apparently believes that large capital projects are accomplished without the use of tax payer dollars, so we will see what happens.
Sidewalks: Despite my best efforts to get level sidewalks without icy depressions for driveways, there has been no progress, actually ground has been lost. The official line is currently that level sidewalks with rolled curbs provide no pedestrian safety advantage over traditional sidewalks. It is purely a random coincidence that rolled curbs are the standard in new neighborhoods. An administrative concern seems to be that they might encourage parking on the front lawn. I must admit, I see problem cars parked on the grass every time I venture into new neighborhoods (not really). Okay, forgive the sarcasm, level sidewalks just seem like an obvious safety improvement. Also, having one city wide standard would simplify administration and construction.
Bike lanes: Well, this is a very sad story. We are all shocked and saddened by the killing of mother, educator and international athlete Tasha Fox at the intersection of Wiggins and College. At an emotional city council meeting, a motion was approved for a safety audit of the intersection and for more detailed recommendations on cyclist-driver interactions in Saskatchewan’s Driver Handbook.
In a related story, city administration is recommending a 30 kph speed limit on the multi use section of 14th Street from Clarence to Cumberland. This multiuse road illustrates the problems associated with adding bike lanes to historic neighborhoods. Politically, council gets credit for installing a bike lane, Varsity View’s first. Politicians also score points for doing this without spending any money on capital improvements to benefit cyclists. The little concrete sidewalks extensions that you see jutting out into 14th Street at major intersections? They are put there as pedestrian refuges, not to help cyclists. So, a new bike lane at minimal cost. The problem, as one citizen stated in the question period following the Aden Bowman town hall, is that some cyclists feel safer on adjacent roadways. A 30 kph speed limit will rectify this problem. Overall, cyclists and motorists would prefer physically separate cycle and car paths. This will require both sides of the debate to come together to reach a consensus, as well as discussions about the creative use of public infrastructure like back alleys.
Flooding: Climate change and additional housing density have increased the risk of flooding. The University has agreed that the City can use its land at Cumberland and 14th to build a dry pond to reduce this risk. These are landscaped catchment basins that fill during extreme rainfall and then drain dry as the sewer system can handle the backlog.
A useful list of resources on heating and emissions. To see a city heat map go to https://ici.radio-canada.ca/info/2022/07/ilots-chaleur-villes-inegalites-injustice-changements-climatiques/en. You can type in your postcode and see data for your area. To see how your house fares, visit https://heat.myheat.ca/saskatoon/ It is based on 2019 data. To see if you are getting more money back that you pay in carbon tax, visit https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/cbc-federal-carbon-tax-calculator-2023-24-year-65-dollars-per-tonne-1.6891467
Watch out for updates on the College Corridor plan. Sign up for Fall Programmes at Brunskill School September 7 and 12. Please volunteer, the rink group would really appreciate more helpers. If you are interested in running community wide social events, anything from organizing a best yard award to a movie in the park (yes, please start small), please contact me.
Jonathan Naylor, President VVCA
I may be an optimist but I can sense Spring coming. It may help that the first seedlings have pointed their leaves towards the LED array in my basement.
Your community association has had a very successful winter program with large numbers of members enrolled in our excellent indoor programming events. Special mention goes to the very active Tae Kwon Do and badminton groups. But there are also soccer, a new skating program, arts, exercise, and language programs. If you are struggling financially and want meaningful opportunities for your children or yourself, we have a ‘cost as a barrier program’ that will cover many things. A big thank you to Barb who has tirelessly run this very active part of our association for decades. Tammy, Andrea and all the instructors all deserve special thanks.
The community garden is beginning to think about rebirth too. A special thank you to Trent who made 6 very sturdy benches at no labor charge for the gardens. If you want a small allotment in the city to grow food for your family or for others you can contact email@example.com. It may be worth noting that contact emails for all community coordinators can be found on our website vvcasaskatoon.com, very ably maintained by Roger (thank you).
The new College Corridor plan is just out. Priorities include:
- Sidewalks: Finish missing sidewalks. Separate sidewalks from College with a green buffer zone
- Street crossings: safe crossing points across College
- Cycle paths. Specifically, a cycle only, separated bike lane along College and probably Wiggins
- Possibly extend sidewalks and boulevards onto private land through landscaping requirements.
- Think about anchor sites like the Pres’s residence, Stone Barn and College-Cumberland intersection
- Create public space at College-Wiggins intersection
- Visually attractive human scale buildings
Items missing: density recommendation. Read the full report at http://bit.ly/3ZqdFmH
Following complaints of lack of opportunity for input, a second public hearing was held on potential improvements for the Main St. & Clarence intersection. The Tank wrote an interesting critique in the Star Phoenix if you have not already seen it. A final decision is expected soon.
VVCA held a meeting to discuss crime and decrease in public safety in our community. Take home messages included:
- The blitz to improve safety around 8th St is working. Partly through enforcement of loitering bylaws.
- Report EVERYTHING. Policing responds to needs as assessed by crime reports. If we don’t report it, they will not respond.
- The tension between the need for more police officers and the ever increasing part of taxes consumed by the police budget.
- VVCA made some suggestions for improving online bike registration (use it if you have not: https://saskatoonpolice.ca/obr/) and online crime reporting. I am not sure Board of Commissioners thought these had any merit.
- Police are not in favor of a neighborhood watch on the grounds it was too dangerous (sad).
- We appreciate the rapid response that often occurs when crimes in progress are reported.
The Albert Community Centre Management Committee has snagged a $6.5 million federal grant to repair and restore this great piece of architecture and wonderful resource for our community. Thank you Lisa and Gary and all who serve on this committee.
The big news on our doorstep is the Arena, in the process of being rebranded as an event center. There was a poorly publicized but highly informative presentation by consulting architects and planners at the Roxy. The historical part of the presentation discussed evolution in arena location. Initially in the downtown area when cities were small, then moving to the burbs in response to the wide availability of car transport, now back to city centers to try to capture the economic benefit of arenas. Our councillor assured us no decision has been made, but flanked this with two very positive statements about the benefit of arenas. Council is clearly struggling with how to pay for the arena with no taxpayer or business group rushing to volunteer their members. The public discussion around the Regina arena had a couple of sobering assessments on the economics. One expert observed that it was difficult to get your money back from an arena/event center. Also, the majority of attendees will come from the city, so event centers move spending within the City rather than bringing in new income. An independent financial report on the economics of a downtown Saskatoon event center would be a really helpful decision making tool.
We are beginning to embark on the painful phase of mitigating climate change. The carbon tax is beginning to bite and people are noticing. The city faces similar challenges. Change will not be easy and will sometimes be costly. In the midst of this we are going to see well-meaning people adamantly voice widely different views on how best to adapt. Consensus building is held back by a lack of independent data based on the Saskatoon experience. The City trumpets initiatives but experience suggests benefits are often overstated. We need an independent mechanism to assess the costs and benefits of various options so that we can collectively coalesce around a common plan. I will give you an example. The BRT is touted as the solution to transportation emissions. But there are other options including car pooling and more services available by zoom. Unfortunately, we have no independent data to reconcile these different opportunities. The same could be said for many other areas. Is densification making our city more efficient by reducing the length of sewer pipes or will we reach a point where digging up pipes to make them bigger will add to costs? What is that density point? We lack even basic stats such as the amount of fuel, electricity and gas our city and its administration use on a per capita basis, as a result we cannot track progress. We would agree more, and make better decisions, if we had Saskatoon based data developed by an independent agency.
I wish you all my best and your organizations best wishes for the rest of the year. I thank all who have helped and encourage us all to do whatever we can in whatever way to keep our community strong and safe. Get involved in your association, our AGM is 19 April, in person at Brunskill school. Our big trash (community) cleanup is May 13th. We will likely be in the parking lot of the Church of Later-day Saints on Cumberland and 10th St, mark the date, bring your junk in person between 8:30 and 11:30 am, or better yet volunteer.
There are several pieces of good news and some very important decisions facing our community.
First the great news. Our rink is fully functional! Thanks to all who contributed and particularly to Angela Jones and the Rempels. Others made important contributions including Barb, Fredy, Holly Ann and many who contributed according to their talents. It is truly fantastic to see what a committed community can accomplish as a group. I was there for the media scrum when the Huskies played (I would not like to get in their way on the ice). The media seemed awestruck by the players, but it is the community that made this great rink possible.
The other good news is that VVCA is, mostly, back to in person programming. People are enjoying the physical and social aspects of Badminton, Tae Kwon Do and other activities. Please see Barb’s section later on for more details.
On the development front there are two major sets of decisions that will define our community for years to come. The first is proposed changes to infill regulations. Details are on the City’s engage page on infills: https://www.saskatoon.ca/engage/neighbourhood-level-infill. The proposals are to increase the height above grade for the front door, permit open verandas to encroach into the front yard, allow new builds to align with existing houses, and remove restrictions for building extensions into the rear yard.
Some of these changes are sensible. Enclosed porches and verandas are already allowed, allowing them to be open gives design flexibility. Presently, some older streets have houses that are closer to the road than is presently allowed. When this happens, developers usually get special permission to align their build with existing houses. The proposal would formalize this change and simplify the process. Changes are also being proposed to make it easier to add gables to new buildings. Other proposals were more contentious. One was to allow the front door to start at 1.6 meters (over 5 feet) from grade. The present regulation is 1 meter. At a recent meeting of the community associations and town planners, the vast majority thought that this would lead to an uneven appearance to the street. A Canada Post employee indicated that so many stairs would be hard on the feet. The downside to this proposal is loss of street appeal and houses that dominate, and detract from, their neighbors (thus making them cheaper for developers to buy). After a lot of discussion with the area community associations, the City has decided to recommend front doorways can be up to 1.3 meters above grade.
More importantly, changes to the sidewall rule were proposed. The sidewall rule was bought in several years ago to limit how far back into the lot a house could go. It has been successful in giving neighbors some privacy and sunlight. A new proposal was to exempt extensions that are at least 2.5 meters (8 feet) from the property line. To visualize the overall effect, think of a new build with a long skinny extension into the backyard. Houses would be 20% larger, use more energy, overlook the neighbors, detract from the value of neighboring houses, and add to developers’ profits. Current regulations allow 2,000 square foot, 4 bedroom houses. They are already priced beyond the means of many families.
After discussion with the community associations, this change to the sidewall rule was dropped so there may still be room for a little greenspace in the backyards of new builds.
The other important change is corridor growth which will have a defining affect on the future of our community.
Corridor growth is coming, driven by our councillors. The plan increases Varsity View’s population by about 25%. As tall buildings encroach from the periphery changes will be felt throughout our neighborhood. In the previous issue I talked about the scope of the zoning changes. Currently we are discussing public space enhancements. This could be a huge opportunity to design a compelling public environment for our community. Competing visions for the public space were discussed at the recent public consultation. The City proposes increased use of existing facilities, both in our community and at the University. Pictures of the area around the Bottomley house and at the head of University bridge are used as examples.
Unfortunately, the City’s actions do not align with their message. In the case of the Bottomley house, the City is in the process of selling nearby green space for development. Around University bridge, the new land use plan calls for rezoning for high density. The City also proposes improving existing greenspace as a way to give us recreational space. The problem is that after the community has spent millions of dollars improving our parks, there is less room for improvement. At the meeting, community input centered on preserving trees, vegetation, and historic sites such as the University gates, the Bottomley and Mann houses.
Other concerns were that green spaces must be accessible (close by?), and a desire for outdoor public spaces with room for active transport, trees and seating areas. My contributions have been to push for a parklet bounded by the Bottomley and Mann houses, this would be easier if the sale of green space in this area was compensated for with land purchases. I also promoted wider and better back-alley space. For example, requiring developers to give up footage along the side of back alleys in exchange for zoning density would widen the alleys. In turn, this could be one way to provide room for active transport corridors, trees and seating areas without a major cost to tax payers.
What do you think? The default position is relying on existing amenities. Let your Councillor know. Will the corridor plan nurture and sustain natural areas? There is growing realization that green spaces are essential infrastructure that provides health and environmental benefits at a lower cost than built solutions (check out Nature Briefing, Jan 2022). Examples? Trees providing shade on hot days. Another is the role of open spaces and trees in soaking up rainfall. As council builds and paves over our neighborhood, runoff is more rapid and severe, one reason that we are spending $54 million on flood control (think Ashley Park and similar). It would be nice if council and planners were more holistic in their planning goals.
Lastly, please attend our AGM April 27th at Brunskill School. I also hope to see you at our annual spring clean-up or maybe our community barbeque at Raoul Wallenburg Park in May.
Jonathan Naylor, President VVCA
What’s New in Varsity View and Grosvenor Park.
There are really four major events in recent months, the newly refurbished Varsity View Community Association hockey rink, changes to planning and zoning, crime and a greater focus on the environment.
Firstly, and very wonderfully, the team of Angela, Anne, Barb, Fredy, Holly Ann, and Luke have overseen the completion of our Community Association’s wonderful new rink. There is more about this later in our newsletter. Thanks to all who supported this wonderful venture.
As a side note on winter activities, we will also be paying for ski trails to be groomed around President Murray and Grosvenor Parks. These were much appreciated last year and will reappear as soon as we get some snow.
On the civics/development front our City Council’s plans for intensification are moving ahead quickly. Several meetings and surveys have already occurred. The City’s plan is for medium density housing from College to Temperance. What is planned for Grosvenor is less clear but probably entails increased density from Bate Crescent to Preston. Within these zones the plan calls for housing to 4 stories, or 6 stories around the intersections of College with Munroe and Clarence. However, at one meeting, a developer thought pockets of 20 storey development would be more appropriate. Not surprisingly, our residents took the opposite view with some calling for a cap at three stories and a gradual downward transition towards the interior of our neighborhood. For residents, major concerns include having more commercial services, better traffic flow, and improved public space. This includes preserving historic homes, trees, providing more parks, better walkways and cycle paths. A growing concern is having an overall visually attractive neighborhood rather than row upon row of block housing. Calls for using the green space around the College-University drive junction as a park have been met with the City recommending the sale of part of this space. This is, despite planners lamenting the lack of opportunity for more parks within the corridor. We will find out how this all plays out by the summer of 2022.
One important question is how will the infrastructure that this development requires be paid for? We have two reports, an external one from Hemson Consulting and an internal one from the City, both pointing out that infill of this scale is very costly. Think of the cost of ripping up an existing street to put in bigger sewers. These costs are not currently covered by development levies and so are borne by the general taxpayer. In addition, we will have to pay for the tax breaks that are given higher density housing for the first 5 years of their life.
The other issue is the revisiting of infill guidelines. Most of Varsity View is zoned in 25 foot lots. However, many original homeowners purchased double lots. This is why we often see an older house torn down and replaced by two new homes. The size and height of infill is limited by certain rules. A change about 5 years ago reduced the distance new homes could go deep into the lot which helped neighbors maintain a bit of sun and privacy. Developers are pushing for a relaxation of the depth rule, the ability to build higher, and for automatically allowing garage suites.
At a joint meeting of east side inner city community associations, we were pretty much united in our opposition to these changes. Two issues where there may be room for support are front verandas and roof lines. Verandas are a feature of some of our older houses and can be visually appealing. The problem is in the rules, verandas could easily become enclosed heated spaces which are just another part of the big blob rather than visually appealing semi-open space. Roof lines could be improved without neighbors losing sun or privacy. Gables are presently penalized by the way height (the sidewall rule) is calculated. I would like to see more visually appealing roof lines within the current physical height limit.
Remarkably, we appear to be experiencing some infrastructure renewal (hurray). Parts of Bottomley have been repaved and it will have to give up its title as the worst street in the City. Some of us are also getting new sidewalks (Ted is happy). I personally wish that they were built back with rounded curbs, as we see in new neighborhoods. This would remove the need for driveway cuts that are so slippery for pedestrians in winter. City planners assure me residents have given their blessing to perpetuating the old square curbs with cuts, although I have no recollection of ever being asked this question and wonder why basic pedestrian safety is not paramount.
If you have concerns about these issues, please drop our councillor an email or try adding it to her Facebook page. Your association is, of course, happy to represent any views that are important to the community.
On the public safety front, there is increased concern about petty theft and random violence in our neighborhoods. Some blame influx of people without houses to the Colonial Motel, possibly compounded by its closeness to a liquor store. We are trying to get a meeting with our police liaison to discuss what can be done. A previous meeting basically resulted in the suggestion to lock everything up. I will keep you posted, if we do get another meeting with the liaison, it will be posted on our webpage (www.vvcasaskatoon.com) and Facebook (Facebook.com/vvcasaskatoon). Besides enforcement, more affordable housing would help.
I would like to give a shout out to all who are using their homes to contribute to a healthier planet. You have been very innovative. If you have bought an electric vehicle, installed roof top photovoltaic cells, built a net zero home, or simply installed a better furnace or more insulation, well done! For those who are wondering what to do, you might want to investigate a Canada Greener Home Grant. You can get a home appraisal and a grant of up to $5000 for approved renovations. Link: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/homes/canada-greenerhomes-grant/start-your-energy-efficient-retrofits/23443
Best wishes to all for Christmas, the New Year, and all other upcoming holiday celebrations.
Jonathan Naylor, President VVCA
April saw the election of a new board of your community association and several changes. I return as President, Holly Ann graciously became our Secretary and Theresa our Editor. Barb returns to her long held post as Coordinator of Indoor Activities. Ted is still our Treasurer while Luke and Fredy look after the rink. James and Ted look after the community garden plots and Lisa is our representative on the Albert Community Center. We have a new member at large, Mary Anne. Collectively we have a large range of skills including Holly Ann’s meticulous care for details, Angela’s fundraising acumen, Barb’s encyclopedic knowledge of people, and Fredy’s willingness to help out for any outdoor event. What unites us is a common desire to make our neighborhood a great place to live. I would like to thank all outgoing officers and particular Diane and Theodora who did sterling work as our secretary and editor respectively. Thanks too for the many who volunteered but I have not specifically mentioned. Volunteering takes time and energy; all your contributions are wonderful. For a full list of officers, please see our website.
There have been several big community initiatives over the past few months. COVID made us all more aware of the importance of outdoor spaces and this provided additional impetus to our rink upgrade. We raised over $50,000, thanks to all who contributed, your willingness to support our rink far exceeded my hopes. The upgraded rink should be fully completed come November 1. We held our first post COVID outdoor event early in July, Sum Theater performed a colorful and musical ‘The Other Side of the River’ which was enjoyed by around 300 spectators on a near perfect evening in Grosvenor Park. Community Clean Up succeeded spectacularly, removing over 4000 kg of trash from pretty much every back alley in our neighborhood. Again, thanks to all who volunteered.
We have been working with the City to improve safety in our neighborhood. Mary Anne carried your concerns about 8th street noise and theft from yards and garages to the City Police Commission. This may result in more community involvement in public safety.
Following various fiascos where our Councilors’ pass zoning amendments over the opposition of its residents, City Hall has decided to be more proactive in its communications about development. City planners met with us to discuss new developments that will affect large swaths of our community. Main Street and South, Osler and North, Bate and East are all scheduled to be rezoning to much higher densities. I will advocate for rezoning that maintains our Community, honors the investment that many of you have made to make ours a beautiful and sort after neighborhood, and helps maintain a biodiverse environment.
On the finance front, one worrying development is the publication of two reports on the cost of infill. One is the Hemson 2020 report, and the other a City planning document. Both basically conclude that the scale of infill contemplated for our neighborhood will require costly upgrades to existing water, sewer, and transportation networks. An example is the high cost and major inconvenience, of digging up a road to remove the old sewer and replace it with a larger one. Current infill development levies are very inadequate, particularly for multi-unit buildings. One proposed solution is to add the costs to our taxes. I will advocate for new builds paying their fair share of the cost of growth, we don’t need further property tax increases.
As we swelter in an unaccustomed hot spell, our minds think about climate change. Governments are committing to major reductions in greenhouse gasses that are already directly affecting us (notice the CO2 tax on your gas bill). The European Union is taking aim at two major areas, reducing home heating and transportation emissions. Similar moves are likely coming to our neighborhood. For us, this will mean higher home insulation standards. As more electric vehicles hit the roads, we will need electrical charging stations in our garages. In fact, our neighborhood already has net zero energy homes and owners of all electric cars. These future needs should be directly addressed as our neighborhood redevelops. Lastly, disasters like the fire at Lytton make me concerned that existing construction codes may be inadequate. As our neighborhood gets denser and buildings closer do we have appropriate standards to stop the spread of fire from building to building? Are our storm systems adequate to withstand torrential rainfall that have just devastated Germany? These are all important planning issues where action now will save us time and money down the line. I will advocate for standards that protect our community and our environment.
Enjoy the rest of your summer. As vaccinations take hold, I look forward to a more normal Fall with a full range of programming available to support our physical and mental wellbeing. More details can be found in our newsletter and our Programs page.
Jonathan Naylor, President VVCA
Your community association has been active on three fronts, the restarting of community classes using zoom, fund raising for the ice rink and civics. Civics may be my favorite and by far the most frustrating but I will leave it till last.
With a little help from the City, we now have zoom accounts which we use for meetings and program delivery. First off the mark are yoga and Spanish, thanks Miranda and Bessie for taking the plungs. Like all things new, there was a learning curve but these are now up and running. Difficult to predict the future but I expect us to deliver more zoom programming giving you more choices for activities, socialization, and self actualization (way to go Maslow). Check out the newsletter and our website for details.
The rink has brand new lights! Way to go Luke, Angela, and Fredy. They are bright, they are energy efficient, and they extended skating times into the early morning and evening. They have been very much appreciated and skating has been a widely used and highly appreciated outlet for many this winter.
Many appreciated the cross-country ski trails laid around President Murray and Grosvenor parks. The feedback was both very encouraging and a request for more grooming. This is partly the result of following city guidelines. VVCA-Grosvenor will look into this and hopefully we can have even better ski trails in the future.
Rink Fundrasing in Overdrive
This has surpassed my wildest dreams. A team led by Angela, motivated by Angela and with very able help from Luke, Fredy, Diane, Kenton, Jody and many others has raised thousands of dollars for our rink which suffers from broken boards amongst many other problems. The project has grown from simple repair to a let’s rebuild the whole rink approach. Given that it is a very long time since the rink received serious help, the heavy use of the rink, our current COVID driven needs for outdoor activities to drive physical and mental health, this seems like a very good time to take this on. The project enjoys 150% support from all board members. The major fly in the ointment is the price of lumber. As people flee apartments and look for safe space to live and work, there has been a surge in demand for single family homes. Today, select studs are 4 times the price in happier times and lumber prices are driving up the cost of a full rink replacement. We will have to make some difficult decisions on scope, timing and fundraising for this project.
My passion, my frustration. You may remember from the last newsletter that I thought that it was impossible to deflect council in its relentless drive for developer led infill. Nothing has changed. The latest victims of spot rezoning are the residents on the 1400 block of Cumberland. Following a well tested pattern, a developer purchased several adjacent lots on a street corner and then applied for spot rezoning from residential to multi-unit to allow for a 4 storey condo. The proposal was supported by city planners.
The project was opposed by the neighbors who gathered a record 300 plus signature opposing petition. The Varsity View-Grosvenor Community Association was asked to get involved and came down very firmly in favor of our residents. One reason is that this is seen as a test for what will be allowed in the 250 m wide corridors either side of BRT routes (College, Preston, 8th).
I represented the Community Association at the Public Meeting at City Hall. First off, this was a tele-, as in telephone, conference! I waited around 3 hours to speak wondering if my battery would expire!. It would have been quicker to send a carrier pigeon or wait for a bus and travel downtown to the meeting. There was a video feed, but it was delayed, so you couldn’t watch and speak.
The first order of business was the rezoning of Knox Church to allow for a 19 storey tower. Council refused to follow the recommendation of its own heritage committee and took the option that allows most rapid approval.
Okay, back to our infill problem. The objective arguments in favor were density will (may?) put more people on buses and more residents in walking distance of shops. Arguments against were respect for the local area plan and certainty in zoning i.e. residents should know what the future holds so that they can make appropriate investment decisions for their home. away from buses and onto zoom for more convenient, rapid, and environmentally friendly service.
I have to say, our Councillors are a very sympathetic group. Sympathetic, but not swayable by presentation or the largest petition I have seen on an infill project. One of Council’s main concerns was that residents were concerned/misguided because of a lack of communication about plans for corridor density. Notably, Council thinks these are the Planning Department problems, planners think Councillors make the rules.
It will be interesting to see if our Councillor takes the opportunity to give us specifics about her plans for Corridor Growth in her column in the newsletter.
Save the Date
Our AGM is 21 April, all welcome (membership is $10).
As Spring draws near, I believe we can look forwards to a drop in COVID as we move outdoors and vaccines start getting put in arms. It will be great to have some socially responsible outdoor gatherings and see each other around a barbeque.
Jonathan Naylor, Past-President VVCA
A lot has happened in the last year.
I am so thankful that we live in a single family home in Varsity View. During the lockdown, I was able to swap my commute to work for a little pre-zoom gardening. The sun and the birds sure helped keep us sane. Although our seed supplier ran out long before we could place an order, we were lucky enough to have enough left-over seed. We avoided trips to the grocery, the increased expense of veggies, and uncertainty about supply. I know that to varying degrees, many of you share these feelings and are thankful for our neighborhood and the support we give each other.
On a similar note, the pandemic has reinforced how lucky we are to have an active community association. I watch the people enjoying our rink from before dawn to well after dusk. I hear from skiers enjoying the trails we laid around President Murray and Grosvenor Parks. We all look forwards to the return of zoom programming to give us more activities and interests.
One of the big changes facing our community association is what it is going to look like going forwards. At the AGM no-one stood for the position as President. Since then, Holly Ann has graciously taken over the role of running meetings. On the activities side, Barb is still in place as indoor co-ordinator (thanks Barb) as which means that this will continue. We are experimenting with zoom classes in the New Year to give residents some outlets in these lockdown times. I encourage you to check out the offerings elsewhere in this newsletter. The rink is injected with new co-ordinators and new enthusiasm. Thanks to a city microgrant and Angela Jones efforts, we received enough money that we could install new energy efficient rink lights. A major rebuild is planned and fundraising is needed to support this.
The big hole in our activities is civics, who is going to champion this and what will the efforts look like? For the past 4 years, the community association took a big interest in the various rezoning projects. Except for stopping 4-plexes on corner lots, these efforts have been mostly unrewarded. In my opinion, development decisions are made well in advance of any public hearing or council meeting. What the city wants from community consultation is fine tuning and acceptance. It is also clear from my door knocking experience that there is support for increased density within our neighborhood. A suggestion is that the association focus more on crime and other quality of living issues rather than development. What actually happens, will depend a lot on the person who decides to champion this position, please let me know if you have thoughts.
On the question of development. Our councillor indicated at our last community meeting her plans for more density along our major streets. While this has been on the cards for some time, the scope of this is only now becoming clear. Our councillor indicated that a half kilometer strip around BRT routes will be rezoned for medium density. Think 3 to 5 story apartment blocks from the East side of Bate Crescent to Weir Crescent or from College Drive to Elliott Street. She sent us a map showing what this will look like around 8th St. This is a 60’s inspired, transit centered, view of city planning. It comes at a time when pandemics are reshaping our views of what a healthy city looks like. It also coincides with corporations using modern communications rather than physically moving people to their workplace. Whatever happens, some clarity about the plan will allow us all to make informed decisions about where we want to live and what we want to spend improving our homes.
A New Year is upon us, COVID will retreat in the face of effective vaccines, remote working and other innovations fostered by the pandemic will continue and we will be better for this. Once more we will be able to enjoy each others company without restriction. Happy New Year.
Jonathan Naylor, Past-President VVCA
A few months ago, I wrote your ‘last message as President’. A sheep farmer once said to me ‘We see through the glass but dimly’. Who could have predicted that a pandemic would intervene, our AGM would be cancelled, and that your community association would trudge on with its present board? Our AGM is now scheduled for September 16th at Brunskill School (check the website for any last minute changes). Besides electing new board members there will be a resolution to allow meetings by videoconference so that we are better prepared for whatever the future may bring.
To slow the spread of COVID we had to cancel many of our planned activities. Our barbeque in the park, community clean up, sport, art and leisure programmes were all cancelled. Your board continued to meet by zoom and everyone did their best to support our community in a socially responsible manner.
Before I thank all our volunteers, something that cannot be done enough, I want to mention a change that may affect those who live close to multiunit dwellings. On March 23rd City council considered the parking requirements for multi-unit dwellings. Previously these were required to have between 1 and 1.5 parking spaces per unit depending on the zoning district. I wrote a letter suggesting that Council postpone changes until we had a better handle on how City growth and transportation needs would change in the post COVID era. However, council voted to reduce the parking requirement to 0.75 spaces per unit. On the parking front, council is also moving on modifications to the Residential Parking Permit program. These include limiting the number of permits to a maximum of 3 per dwelling, allowing residents on blocks directly adjacent to an RPP to buy permits, and provisions to allow subzones.
Other civics news includes an improved day care on MacKinnon and 9th Street E. The VVCA board initially had concerns about the number of places; these resulted in the plan being more thoroughly evaluated. In the end, our concerns were addressed, and we welcome this new addition to our community.
Unfortunately, we have several areas of friction between established households and infill developments. These occur when infill is not appropriately permitted, or new builds infringe nuisance bylaws. For some concerns e.g. noise, there are no clear channels for enforcement. These are issues that need to be vigorously addressed if we are to maintain a respectful balance in our community.
I have been remiss in not thanking the many members of VVCA-Grosvenor who volunteer on our behalf. There are many, and I thank you all, even those who I unintentionally leave out of the following list. I will start with Barb. Barb has roots in our community that extend over generations; she gives untiringly of herself to run out indoor programs. Presidents comes and go, but Barb is the reliable clock spring that keeps our association on track. Thank you, Barb. We have Ted whose commitments to keeping our accounts honest, the community garden running, and making sure we never lack for a good joke, is only exceeded by the amount he crams into a day. Thank you, Ted. There is the outdoor crew who keep our rink open, ski trails ploughed, soccer running, and the community clean. Thank you, Gregg, Kenton, Fredy, Luke and Niran. We have our secretary and members at large who provide the bureaucratic backbone of the organization and try to prevent me from making a fool of myself. Thank you, Diane and Holly Ann. We have Roger (web, social media and Albert Community Park) and Theodora (newsletter), we would be voiceless without the work they do our behalf, thank you. We have many who find themselves constrained by time but whose support is still very meaningful, thank you Annika, Anne, and James. We have Cathy (how could I forget Cathy?) who perseveres in championing bike lanes and sidewalks, thank you Cathy. I have somehow forgotten Tammy (newsletter distribution), Mary Anne, and I am regretfully sure, others; thank you all. It has been a pleasure working with you. Seeing everyone’s sincere wish and effort to make ours a stronger community is strengthening and heart warming.
In the doldrums of our year of the COVID, I wish you all good health, stay safe and also sane. Please come to our AGM and volunteer or help elect a new board to move our community forwards. I hope to meet many of you on the campaign trail for City Council and look forwards to learning your concerns.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
This will be my last message to you as President of your Association. VVCA-Grosvenor faces many important issues which deserve your input. I figure that while running against a sitting councillor is tilting at windmills, it is at least a chance to thoroughly discuss the issues and the future we would like to build.
First some very good news. The board has solidified around its next major community improvement. There is wide support for improving our community outdoor rink at Brunskill School. It has fallen into a state of dangerous disrepair and requires both immediate temporary fixes and a major revamp to make it safe and useful for years to come. A small idea of how much community support this project has can be seen in the $2,000 of spare change that Brunskill students collected to start fundraising. Thanks to all parents and grandparents who went without coffee to make this possible! We are planning two more fundraisers soon. One is a raffle with a $1500 cash prize. The other is our second annual park barbecue, May 30th, President Murray Park, noon to 4 pm. This is a great chance to meet other community members and sometimes important people like your MLA. Your kids can have fun on the playground and, of course, the balloon guy will be there giving away fantastic balloon creations. The big players driving these events are our ever-committed Barb, Luke and Fredy. Thanks and thank you for the support you have and will give.
Once more we are going to run our community clean-up. The date is tentatively set for May 2nd. This year we will be based on Copeland Crescent in Grosvenor. Our hours will be 9-12 noon. Bring your junk, your neighbors’ junk, the junk from your back alley. Even better, bring a truck and get a clean up route. I am always amazed by the huge amount of fire hazard, mouse motels, and unsightly mess we haul away.
As usual, non conforming infill has occupied part of my time. We have a request for a child care conversion on ninth street. We are told that there is a shortage of child care, that the Province is providing funding, and that there are likely to be more requests. Our initial response has been qualified support for child care but some concern that 22 places in one house is too many. We expect the City to make sure child care homes are appropriately safe, and follow best practice guidelines for space and staff. There may be an open house to discuss these concerns. Let me know if you have different views.
The fourplex at Clarence and Osler sailed though council February 24th. Come to think of it, every non-conforming development has sailed through council in the 8 or so years I have been with the association. Why is it that once a development gets presented to the community by planning there is no going back? I can only guess. There are many discussions between City planners, councillors, and the developer in the planning stages of these projects. These all happen before the project is presented to the community. Is it only human nature that following this investment of time and resources, that planners and councillors can become committed to a project?
We can expect more of these types of discussions. The City has recently committed to a 50% infill target i.e. every other new housing unit in Saskatoon will be within Circle Drive (as reported in City of Saskatoon Publication: Corridor Transformation Plan). In the past this has often meant in our community. Lack of clarity around what is and what is not allowed in our community and the final width (some say up to two blocks) and height of the high density transit corridors (think College and possibly Clarence and Cumberland) will be a challenge for our community.
On some occasions, we have been successful in changing City Hall’s thinking. What is unique about these occasions? Well, we started early, at the first hint of a new project or change to the zoning law. We papered the entire neighborhood so that everyone knew about the issue. The community was loud and united in its response. Following a pointed meeting at Albert Community Center and an almost unanimous vote (City planners hate votes), the City decided not to pursue a zoning change to allow fourplexes on corner lots. Similarly, a proposed multiunit dwelling on Main and Cumberland was withdrawn after a community petition. My (unwanted) advice to my successor; if there is a development that is likely to gather strong community opposition, start early if you want to have a chance of changing its course.
Lastly (almost) our AGM is coming up, April 26th. I encourage you to attend. We need a new President, people interested in programs and a social coordinator. Above all we need each other to continue to make this a great community. I hope to see you all at Brunskill School on April 22nd, 7 pm in the library for our AGM, at our community clean up May 2nd, and at our Spring barbeque in President Murray park on May 30th. Also, please keep in mind Saskatoon Cycle’s bike sale at Brunskill school, May 9, 9 am to 6 pm. Last, but not least, thanks to all who work to make this a better community.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
Our news mainly falls (yes, I know it’s the season) into three categories:
Our program co-ordinators are doing an excellent job organizing our indoor program. Our many programs contribute to making ours a wonderful neighborhood. Thanks again Barb and all our many indoor instructors for our active Tae Kwon Do, badminton, yoga, language and arts classes. It is great that we can simply stroll to our local school and enjoy such a wide range of activities given by a talented group of people. You can read more about our current offerings later in this newsletter. We also have active soccer and basketball programs and our soon to be reactivated rink. Thanks to all who generously give their time including Greg, Kenton, Luke, Jason, Niran and Robb. I know there are others I have missed in this short list, so thanks to all who help make our community vibrant and active.
A project that we are going to undertake is a refurbishment of our rink. It is a long time since it had serious renovations and you can read more about this in the next newsletter.
The main activities in this area are corner lot redevelopment (301 Clarence Ave N.) and garage suites. Garage suites continue to be built throughout our neighborhood. At least one builder appears to find the process too cumbersome and has built without a permit. The latest example was an unpermitted water connection on 15th. Once the alarm was raised, the connection was put on hold. Soon enough a permit was granted, and the connection completed. City planners also find the process cumbersome. One informed me that the only aspect of a garage suite that he thought was discretionary was how it affected local drainage. This disconnect between the City’s wishes to do things their way and the community’s wishes for meaningful consultation are a discussion item for our next local community association’s meeting with our councillor.
Criminality has been a concern for several groups within the Grosvenor – Varsity View area. A suspected drug house was associated with unsavoury behavior including a high speed car chase. Affected community members brought this to your association’s attention. We organized a meeting, attended by our MLA, Eric Olausson, and gained a better onderstanding of the resources available to monitor drug houses and help disband them. Thankfully, the occupants of the problem house have now moved on. I am unsure if the occupants were arrested. However, if you think there is a problem house in your area, let your community association know because we now have a beter understanding of how to mount an effective response.
The other aspect of criminality is petty theft. Many in our neighborhood have suffered from bike theft, car rummaging and garage break ins. I have lobbied our local police for a more effective response. In November, two members of the service, PC Skinnider and Detective Inspector McKenzie generously attended our monthly meeting and gave some tips on crime reduction.
•Lock up everything. The police observed that we now live in a big City and that those happy days when we could leave things unlocked are gone. They recommend locking all outbuildings, preferably with a dead bolt.
•Don’t leave anything in a vehicle. Inspector McKenzie likened vehicles to display cases. Remove valuables from your vehicles
•Report all suspicious activity. For crimes in process call 911. We posed the example of a person crawling out of a basement window or cycling off on a neighbour’s bike while the police are knocking on the front door. Call 911. For less urgent situations call the general number, (306) 975-8300. This might apply to seeing a suspicious package left in a sand box at one of our parks. I know I can never find the general number when I need it so maybe we should just add it to our contacts in our cell phones.
•CCTV. The police were less supportive of CCTV, particularly of low-quality CCTV. They made the point that images must be of sufficient quality to enable accurate identification.
•Know your neighbors and take an interest in their well being.
On the other side of the coin I have pushed for better enforcement. On behalf of VVCA-Grosvenor I gave a presentation to the Police Commission at its public meeting in the Farmer’s market (https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/crimes-top-ofmind-at-police-board-communityconsultation).
I told them of your concerns around theft and drug distribution. I also pushed for targeted apprehension programs such as a bike-bait program. I was impressed by the recent arrest by University police of a bike thief that resulted in a sawn-off shotgun being retrieved from his back pack. This looks more like preventing a murder than catching a petty thief. The police have discovered they own a tagged bike so it is possible we will see some action in this area.
One area of possible concern is police attitude to petty criminals. One officer suggested that the standard for a criminal conviction was so high that it was difficult to achieve a conviction. On the other side, a Provincial Court judge suggested that police could work harder to present a compelling case. One thing that results from this blame game is a climate conducive to criminal activity.
Ultimately, it is our attitude that has the strongest influence on the character of our neighborhood. I believe that our continued effort in the areas of securing valuables, lobbying for effective policing, and maintaining a strong spirit of community, will help us maintain a strong and vibrant community for us all to enjoy.
As Christmas approaches, I would like to wish you all Best Wishes and a Happy New Year.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
In this issue I am going to tackle the good, the sometimes ugly and the bad.
Park Enhancements (Good)
The good includes several park improvements to our parks, the great community support we give each other, and the many community programs run by our volunteers. The bad is the increased concern about crime which currently seems to weigh more heavily on us than parking and potholes – our favorite worry bones in safer times.
Our latest park improvement is the opening of the reflexology park at Raoul Wallenberg, photo 1 and 2. We held an inaugural barbeque. Mark Bobyn, who I am going to thank again for building the enhancement, came along with his family, photo 3. Strangely his kids have grown considerably since I last saw them in swimming. James, our former president who helped start this improvement, was also present along with his happy new baby! As a fundraiser, the barbeque was a dismal failure. As an opportunity to meet our neighbours, our MLA Eric Olauson, the balloon guy (no, not our MLA), and learn about the Open Door society, it was great. Thanks to all who helped organize – particularly Barb, Ted and Anne. And a special thanks to all who showed up – look out for next Spring’s event.
Nutana is heading up the Albert Rec Unit park improvement and we are giving support. Thanks to a very generous donation, construction should start soon.
We are looking for our next park project, so if you have an idea (under $20,000), please let any member of our board know.
Our winter program is long wrapped up, we helped the community enjoy skating (thanks Greg, Luke and Kenton), cross country skiing with trails in our parks (thanks Luke) and soccer (thanks Niran). Indoors basketball (thanks Jason) and badminton flourish along with Taekwondo and several other activities (thanks again Barb and all who instruct a program). Our next registration is this September, the details can be found later in this newsletter.
VVCA is one of the sponsors of the community garden program at Bishop Murray (thanks to all on the board and all others who volunteer for all the good work you do). I had the privilege of attending the Spring potluck. There are over a hundred plots serving a very diverse group of community members. These range from recent immigrants to well established residents. It also includes those who garden to help those in need. There are many very knowledgeable gardeners. I picked up some helpful tips to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes (water at flowering) and control aphids (hire a ladybug charmer). If you want a plot, put your name on the waiting list, there is a small charge.
VVCA Board Changes
We have a few changes in our board. I would like to welcome Theodora who is our new newsletter editor. Roger has moved to social media and he still very ably runs our website. Dianne is our new secretary and Ted our new Treasurer. After many years of exemplary service, Anne is Presidentelect. Holly Ann, Luke and Allan are all part of our members at large/civics team. Lisa continues as our Albert Community Centre representative. Many of your representatives can be emailed using the addresses found on our website.
Civics (Sometimes ugly)
On the civics front there are four notable events. The high rise at College and Clarence received its final approval from the Meewasin Valley Authority – despite my presentation about the visual and environmental undesirability of this project. I also doubt that there is a need for more high rise construction and the word is that this project is currently on hold.
A proposed boarding house in Grosvenor ignited considerable opposition. Thanks Gary for letling me know about this proposal and the incorrect notification. A corrected notice was sent out by the City and news of the project was spread through the VVCA grapevine. There was considerable local opposition and the proposal was dropped.
A proposed 4-unit, 3 storey quadruplex at Clarence and Osler is expected to go to a public meeting in September. Consistent with the City’s long held policy of minimal notification, don’t expect to get anything in your mailbox unless you live really close by. We will put information on our website about the meeting when we get it. Many of you will remember the community meeting at Albert Hall where residents overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to quadraplexes on corner lots. This proposal will also add to the demands on our community infrastructure without paying its appropriate share of development levies. You can email our councillor, Cynthia.firstname.lastname@example.org and copy me at email@example.com with your views.
A Nutana resident took the City to court for an injunction to prevent a garage suite; they lost. However, the judge did not award costs, suggested greater openness by the City about garage suite plans, and cautioned against encroaching on the neighbour’s property during directional drilling to install utilities.
We ran another successful back alley clean up this Spring, carting away the usual assortment of fire hazards, mouse motels, and general junk. We did not hit the record this year but we still collected several skips of junk and one of metal. Thanks to all who took part.
An issue worrying many residents is crime and safety. Everyone has their own story, some witness crime, others suffer break-ins while they sleep, pretty much everyone expects their car to be entered or their bike stolen if they leave it outside unlocked (or locked). My interest was stimulated by a house search on Cumberland that involved 10 to 20 cops, a swat team with rifles pointed, a command unit, and what looked like an armored car on the front lawn, not to mention a picket line of police officers, photo 4. There was one arrest for possession of a prohibited weapon. Prohibited weapons include machine guns and nasty personal combat items. The arrested man was released on bail the next day. So far, this case has consumed at least 3 court appearances. For some, the criminal law response seems inadequate. Are suspects on bail more likely to commit offences or do they abide by the law? Who knows? Is policing efficient? I tried to report a ransacking of my vehicle using an online tool, only to be informed I had used the wrong method. I was then asked to please call another number. Why not forward the information to the correct section and then send a follow up email? Many wonder what they should do when the police come calling and they witness someone climb out through a window or make off down the street on a bicycle?
Some believe we have insufficient information to understand the events that play out on our streets. Some blame the drug problem. One addictions counsellor told me that the export of drugs (opioids from the middle east, fentanyl from China) is part of some countries’ economic plan. We pay the price; they reap the money.
As a community, we need answers. What should we be doing? How can we help? Will our information be acted on if we provide it? Should we be identifying our stuff – small electronics, money, jewelry, lottery tickets seem popular items. Can the police get our stuff back if we track it down? It’s surprising what appears on Kijiji that looks like it fell out of my car. One tool you may not be aware of is the new register your bike program run by the City of Saskatoon police: https://saskatoonpolice.ca/obr/
I have contacted our community police officer. Tentatively, a community meeting with our liaison officer will take place in September. I hope we can learn what we can do to protect ourselves and help policing. Watch our website for details.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
VVCA’s most recent achievement is the long-anticipated completion of the Raoul Wallenberg reflexology park. This has been a long time coming. Our first construction attempt was through public tender. The only bid was not acceptable because it was approximately twice our budget. Eventually we found a local builder, Mark Bobyn of Design and Build, who took on the project.
He donated his time for design and then swallowed some of the construction costs. The project was finished last year just before snow fall. The pictures are epic (aka stunning) and we are all looking forwards to seeing it with our own eyes when Spring arrives (surely it is on the way). Despite Mark’s donations, we are still several thousand dollars short of being fully funded. The proceeds of the VVCA Summer BBQ & Park Fundraiser on Sunday June 2 afternoon (save the date!) will be devoted to this project. We invite the community to meet with us at Raoul Wallenberg Park that afternoon, celebrate our community, admire the stonework, and maybe buy a hamburger in support.
The other notable development has been the various applications to rezone parts of our community for high-rise development.
The first rezoning was in Nutana, the site of the old Faith Alive church. The process to rezone Eighth Street and Cumberland for a mixed commercial-residential high-rise is underway. Recently, City Council rezoned the corner of College and Clarence for Prairie North’s 12 storey development.
The rezoning of College and Clarence was characterized by a fundamental disagreement between council, which places a high value on infill, and the community, which places a high value on our Local Area Plan. As part of the communities’ opposition to rezoning, a petition with over 130 signatures was presented to council. I, and several members of the community voiced our concerns about parking, traffic congestion, and tax subsidies.
One area where progress may have been made is in the area of tax subsidies. I maintained that this high-rise could cost Saskatoon taxpayers approximately $3 million. As part of the discussion at the public hearing it turned out that the City has not been collecting a door tax, which it is entitled to do, on high-rises. Our councillor, Cynthia, proposed a motion supporting the collection of more development tax and using the proceeds to enhance the local community.
Hopefully, Spring is around the corner. I look forwards to seeing you all in your yards, on the streets, or at our AGM on April 10.
Or, maybe I will see you at our Summer BBQ on June 2, where the food will be great, and it is always refreshing to meet fellow members of our community.
We are also getting ready for our community clean up – this is a great opportunity for residents to pick up the trash from their back alley and bring it to Brunskill School for free disposal. Watch our website for the date and details.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
Varsity View-Grosvenor is one of the more active and successful community associations in our City and it is all thanks to our volunteers. I would like to single out a few of the more notable events for our community and thank all who volunteer for the Varsity View-Grosvenor Communities.
As ever, Barb is the mainstay of indoor programming, but there are many others that make important contributions by helping with registration or being wonderful instructors. This year’s highlights have been Badminton and Tae Know Do. Other programs include children’s soccer, conversational Spanish, Yoga, Art, knitting, self defense, and fitness classes. A big thank you to l Barb and all who volunteer with our indoor program. It helps keep our community mentally and physically healthy. A full list of our winter offerings can be found here and in our newsletter.
This year’s major outdoor effort was the rink. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Kenton, Gregg and many others our rink was used for kids’ hockey, friendly games of shinny, and community skating. I encourage you all to use the rink (at your own risk) this winter (public skating is Saturday 12 to noon and Tuesday and Thursday 6 to 8 pm). You are also welcome to use the rink anytime it is not otherwise occupied. We are partnering with the City to lay cross country ski trails around President’s Murray and Grosvenor parks which is another opportunity to enjoy our outdoor spaces.
Volunteers help our community spaces in several ways. As usual we had a successful Spring clean up. With the City’s help we hauled away several tons of garbage. Many long-term residents along with enthusiastic new volunteers like Freddy helped in this effort. We actually moved more garbage than any other group on our particular weekend. I take this as a tribute to our volunteers, not the slovenliness of our back alleys! Either way, our community is cleaner and safer as a result. A big thank you to all.
This year one of Varsity View-Grosvenor Community Associations major impacts is in park improvements:
• We have successfully completed two projects; the Brunskill School playground upgrade and the Raoul Wallenberg reflexology installation. Anu and Maya, very active advocates on the Brunskill School parent association spearheaded the school playground upgrade. Your VVCA-Grosvenor Community Association gave considerable financial help including the first and last donations that enabled the start and completion of this wonderful project. Our new play structure is lots of fun and safer than our previous wooden structure. Thank you to all who contributed with money, time and effort so that all our children can enjoy our enhanced new play area.
• The Raoul Wallenberg reflexology addition has been on VVCA-Grosvenor’s agenda for years. Two Marks and the City have been instrumental in seeing it completion. I thank Mark Prebble for the idea and for useful design concepts gathered from around the world. We owe a particular big thanks to Mark Bobyn of Design Build MB Inc. who stepped in and built the installation after all others thought it was impossible to build it with anything close to our budget. It turns out that those who wanted a lot more money than we had were correct, the true cost of the installation is around $36,000. Mark B. very graciously donated his professional services and another donation bought our deficit down to $3000 which we are going to fund raise with the help of our Spring social. You can see photos of the installation, including the painstaking stone and pebble work, elsewhere in this issue. A big thank you to the two Marks, the City and Congregation Agudas Israel, our partners in this project.
Civics has been a very big item for your association this year. I am going to talk more about the dreaded Highrise application elsewhere. I would like to particularly thank Holly Ann, Allan, Rob and Luke for all their help with our Civics committee.
I have saved 4 big things for last.
• Firstly, I want to thank Katie and Annika. Katie was our very able newsletter editor and Annika is our President-elect. Both are cutting back on their time with the association slightly, in part because of promotions at work. Clearly, we attract very capable volunteers. Thank you both for the help you have given and will continue to give to our Community of VVCA-Grosvenor.
• I would like to thank Roger and Ted. Ted, aka ataxman, has worked tirelessly as our social coordinator for many years. You will remember his sense of fun from his times as MC at our social functions. Or, if you read the wacky comments in our minutes, from his time as secretary. Ted also gives his time for the community gardens. Thanks Ted for all your work. Roger is our website person, at least that is how I think we roped him into our Association. He has grown to be much more than this. Presently he is one of our representatives for the Albert park improvement and also our newsletter editor – thanks Roger.
• We have a new resident family who are rapidly making themselves indispensable to the association, Diane and Fredy. Diane is our new secretary while Fredy is our hands on guy for jobs around the community.
• You will remember from previous newsletters that VVCA-Grosvenor Community Association initiated the drive (probably not the correct word) for an expansion of the residential parking zone. Joanne spearheaded this campaign; Rene and numerous others went door to door collecting signatures for the petitions. Our request to have the VVCA Residential Parking Zone increased was approved by council and this fall the signs went up! Elsewhere in this issue you will see that the issue of parking around President Murray Park has also been addressed. Thanks to all who contributed their time and effort.
I know I have missed many who have helped, thank you all.
To all our residents, enjoy your Christmas and best wishes for the New Year,
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
A lot has happened in the last few months. Our spring social, community clean up, the end of another season of programming, the start of gardening season, ground breaking for park enhancements, the implementation of our expanded residential parking program, and City planning.
I am going to start with Community Clean Up. We have increased the frequency of clean ups to once a year. However, there is still lots of trash to remove. Clean up brought squeaks from mice disgruntled by the loss of their favorite couch but residents who pay taxes (and cats) will be thankful for the removal of their hiding places. Another benefit is removal of those big piles of flammable trimmings left piled against wooden fences. A much-appreciated contribution to our success was made by residents who loaded up their own back alley trash and then volunteered to do adjacent areas. A big thank you to all who took part and/or loaned trucks (this includes Barb, Renee, Kenton, Kyla, Ted and many others). Every year, I take pictures of this event and this year I can find them.
At the same time the back alley clean-up was underway, our community garden prepared for Spring planting. Ted (AKA a tax man/funny secretary who wrote our minutes) supervised. I dropped by and was impressed with the number of gardeners, all the improvements made to the plots over the years, and the volunteers who grow food for others in need. I wish you all an excellent harvest free from theft by critters of any size.
After a year of hard work by committed community members, the expanded residential parking zone is being implemented. By the time you read this, signage should be up and the zone in operation. A big thank you to our council and all our community volunteers.
The big issue dominating Civics this year has been transportation and in particular the proposed BRT network, Holly Ann and myself attended the long range planning information session at the Western Development museum followed by a second meeting specifically on the BRT at the Cosmo Center. The BRT proposes dedicated bus lanes on College, a widening of College on the north side (where possible) to help accommodate bus lanes, and a continuously moving bus system (no waits at terminals). The idea is to increase bus frequency on core routes at the expense of peripheral routes. Another concept is that the operating costs of the new network will be the same as that of the old network. However, there will be considerable capital costs.
We were asked for input on the BRT and on the AAA (not what you think – this is the All Ages and Abilities cycling network). VVCA’s civics committee met, reviewed the plans and submitted a letter supporting both the BRT and the AAA. For the cycling network, we would like the downtown cycle route to connect with Broadway and University Bridges so that it is accessible from the Varsity View and Grosvenor areas We departed from the script in also advocating for enhanced pedestrian walkways with better snow clearing on main walkway. Twenty five percent of VVCA’s residents walk to work. Treacherous sidewalks are a serious health hazard. This year every member of our household from the fit 12 and 15 year olds to doddery old me slipped and fell. An ex neighbor slipped and broke both her arms. Better snow removal either through City clearing of major walkways or through better enforcement would help keep us all safe.
I am going to go on a bit of a rant now about the final consultation process at City Hall. We were given notice of the City Council meeting to discuss transportation. No VVCA member was able to attend in person because the meeting was scheduled during working hours. This allowed the paid lobbyists from various business associations to dominate the meeting with their concerns. The meeting lasted five hours which must have been a marathon for our councillors.
Next time, maybe there could be a break in the middle. The first half could be reserved for paid lobbyists and the second half for those who have day jobs. It seems ridiculous that businesses, that pay one of the lower tax rates in the Country should have a disproportionate say while residential taxpayers (the highest rate in the Country according to Huffington Post) are effectively locked out. The entire transportation discussion seems to lack any guiding principle.
How about this? Why not spend tax dollars on transportation in proportion to how much each means is used? How about putting public safety before minor commercial gain? How about strong reasons before spending the better part of $100,000 to move the 4th Avenue bike route?
One point that is beginning to gnaw at me is the wish to make it difficult to cycle downtown. This year we all went to the Jazz festival (we met Charlie, sorry His Honorable Worship the Mayor, soaking up the music at the free stage), and my son drove with his family and commented on how happy he was to find a convenient parking place. My wife and I cycled. I was struck by how many bikes there were in the bike parking lot – probably around a hundred. That is a lot of people who were not in cars. All those cyclists helped motorists find places to park. Mixed transportation modes can be a win-win equation.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
VVCA is getting ready for its Spring activities. Yes, there is fresh snow on the ground, but your Association officers are go-getters. Our annual Spring social event, this year called SPRINGO, will be held on May 5th. Come join us for Ukrainian style food (yes, perogies) and a few entertaining rounds of Bingo, held in our historic Albert Community Center. This is the IT event for VVCA, at which numerous luminaries have been spotted in previous years, including our councillor Cynthia Block, our Mayor Charlie Clark, and famed author Alice Kuipers. Save the date (and your pocket money); tickets are available from VVCA board members or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following SPRINGO, we have the Community Clean Up. This is the event at which each year the same half dozen committed volunteers donate their Saturday morning to removing trash (think sodden couches), fire hazards (tree and bush clippings piled against wooden garages) and junk (the odd stove or three) from our back alleys.
You can help in two ways:
1) Bring your own junk to the dumpsters that will be parked at the back of Brunskill school on the morning of May 12th, 8:30 to 11:30 am (please do not use the small school dumpsters – you will get me in trouble) or
2) join us as a volunteer – just show up at the parking lot behind Brunskill by 9 am. You get an extra donut if you bring your own truck.
Two exciting neighbourhood park improvements will get underway later this year – the Brunskill School play-ground and Raoul Wallenberg park (see images page 6 and 7 of the March 2018 newsletter). The community has been anxiously awaiting these new developments.
The City of Saskatoon is planning all sorts of things for us. This includes a new and improved Bus Rapid Transport that will probably use College Drive to our North, 8th Street to our South and Preston Avenue as major routes. An open house was held at the Western Development Museum on March 7th where the City talked about all its plans. Holly Ann Knott and I attended and were interested to see that VVCA housing on the south of College Drive may be rezoned for 4 to 6 story medium rises (see figure on page 6 of the newsletter). One way to learn about plans and make your views known is to visit https://www.saskatoon.ca/engage. We also learnt that a “Transit Village” is a collection of medium rise apartment style buildings around a shopping area. They have public open spaces and are placed on bus routes.
Changes to parking in our area seems to be stuck in some corner at City Hall. New signage for the expanded parking zone will presumably happen shortly. In the longer term, there is concern that parking zones do not cure parking problems, they just move them. The City will likely review its residential parking permit system in the next year or so.
Some residents continue to experience back alley obstruction issues. VVCA supports residents in resolving these problems and our representatives will likely meet with City Hall in the coming months to adress this issue.
Finally and most importantly, our Annual General Meeting is Wednesday, April 18th at 7:00 pm in the library at Brunskill School. This is a great opportunity for new volunteers to get involved with your association. Hope to see you there.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
DECEMBER 2017 / JANUARY 2018
As another year rolls to a close, we can reflect on what you and your community association has achieved in the past year as well as on some of the unique features of Varsity View and Grosvenor Park that make our neighbourhoods such great places to live.
First, our achievements: One of the great things VVCA does is organize a wide variety of outdoor and indoor activities. This is mostly due to the dedication of community member Barb Giles, who has seen many VVCA Presidents come and go while she quietly and efficiently organizes programming. The past year’s activities include Tae Kwon Do, badminton, conversational Spanish, Jazzercise, yoga, basketball, soccer and several others including our new activity for ‘Run, Jump, Throw’ (give it a try if you have a 6-12 year old). In addition, Greg and Kenton are once again getting our rink ready for hockey and community skating.
VVCA has been active in supporting playground improvements. We provided a start-up donation for a new playground at Brunskill School and just recently added a final contribution that will hopefully allow the new playground to be completed in the coming months. Thanks Anu, Maya, and the many community members who supported our new school playground. Meanwhile Roger Williamson, who is also our web guy, has been working with the Nutana Community Association to get park improvements at the Albert Rec Unit funded. The City of Saskatoon replaced the play structures at the end of summer (thank you!). We are raising funds for expanded recreational feature adjacent to the children’s play area. Lastly, we completed fund raising for Raoul Wallenberg park (greatly helped by the congregation Agudas Israel). Sadly, our dream could not be accomplished within budget when the project was tendered. Fortunately, a local builder, Mark Bobyn, has come to our rescue with a less expensive but equally pleasing (in my humble opinion) plan that should be built this coming Spring.
The big news on the Civics front is that residents with the help of VVCA and enthusiastic residents, succeeded in getting sufficient signatures for the extension of the Residential Parking Zone for the length of 15th Street and adjacent connecting streets. I went to City Council and spoke in favor of this extension and council voted to approve the extension. New signs will likely go up in the New Year. Council has also committed to an overall review of parking to come up with a consistent and unified approach. City Council has taken up one of VVCA’s suggestions and signed a memorandum with the University to jointly tackle parking. We look forward to this partnership to solve some parking constraints that affect our residents and neighbours.
The other news is the future relocation of Fire Hall 5 from Central Avenue in Sutherland to the College Quarter development, and the ongoing construction of a new fire hall on Clarence Avenue to replace current Fire Hall 3 on Taylor Street and York Avenue. These moves give broader emergency services coverage to a larger part of the city. The plan for the new Fire Hall 5 will double the size of current Hall 5 from 7,000 to 16,000 square feet, so that aerial equipment can be positioned more centrally and backup fire trucks can be bought indoors.
Okay, back to trees. We do not hear much about the features that make a community, and particularly ours, an attractive place to live. I am the first to say that the dedication of residents is paramount. But there are other features too. Why do we like to live in Varsity View or Grosvenor Park? Could one be the trees? Several interesting studies suggest trees are part of the answer. Canadians who live on city blocks with at least 10 trees are healthier. More green space decreases mortality by about 10% compared with residents of less leafy areas. There are also economic benefits to trees. Want to increase the value of your house by 4 to 15%? Make sure it is close to a mature tree. Lastly, trees remove large amounts of moisture from the soil. A study in urban Minneapolis indicates that about 10,000 L of water is removed annually by mature elm and pine trees (yes, the amount varies with species etc.). For some residences in our area about a quarter of the water from rain and snow may be removed by the trees on the lot. The impact could be even higher because trees remove most of the water in summer when our incidence of flooding is highest. Also, Spring runoff often occurs over frozen ground and is dealt with by the sewers and does not add as much soil water. An interesting question is whether the recent illegal removal of trees along Saskatchewan Crescent will contribute to future subsidence issues along the street and whether flooding in some parts of the city is partly due to deforestation in other parts of the city.
Well, let’s be thankful for the benefit our trees bring. I hope you have decorated your tree, real or otherwise, and that you have a great festive season according to your custom. To all who have volunteered to help make Varsity View and Grosvenor Park such a great place to live, a special thanks to you, and a prosperous New Year to all.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
Greetings Community Members,
The last few months have seen the election of a new VVCA executive, progress on expanding the Residential Parking Permit Zone, community clean up, public consultation about future development within the University, huge progress on fund raising for improvements for our local parks, a redevelopment proposal for the corner of Clarence and College, a great Spring Social, the successful conclusion of another year of indoor and outdoor programming, and preparation for our most costly event of the year – Movie in the Park.
Let’s start with our new executive. Our President-elect, is Annika Anderson. An ICU nurse who has just been very successful in fund raising for Movie in the Park. Thank you, Greystone Homes and Pawluk Homes for your sponsorship. See newsletter for more Movie in the Park details.
Ted Stensrud has moved in to the position of Secretary, vacated by Annika Anderson. Ted is the nicest tax man I know (I only know one – no offence Ted). You may know him better as organizer of our Spring Social (and also witty MC).
Our treasurer remains filled by one of several capable lawyers in our association – Anne Hardy. Anne somehow seems like she has always been rooted in our neighborhood.
We have a number of coordinators and here I tremble lest I forget anyone. Katie Pendleton is our newsletter editor. She leapt into the position last year and we have been grateful ever since. Barb Giles lives opposite our delightful President Murray Park and can often be seen running herd on her daycare kids (and quite often others who collect in her shadow for added security). She is responsible for all our indoor programs, everything from registration to payment and finding new programs. She is also the go-to person in our association for help on just about any matter. Barb is assisted by Maya Wagner who somehow manages to find time to help VVCA and Brunskill school in between work and running a busy family.
Outdoors we have the mythical Jason Kovitch as basketball coordinator. Jason does a fantastic job of keeping basketball organized. Niran Harrison has been doing a great job taking care of planning and organizing our community soccer teams. Our rink r…., sorry, rink coordinators are Kenton Shynkaruk and Greg McDonald. This fantastic team has done a wonderful job in keeping our rink repaired and functional.
James Perkins, our much-appreciated past President has moved to Community Gardens, where he can be found on sunny weekends getting the pulse of the community (no he does not grow pulses- an in joke for the aggies). Our capable and committed equipment manager is Robb Larmer, and on our Civics committee we have Rob Peterson Wakeman, Allen Woo and Holly Ann Knott, all committed supporters of our community. Lisa Kirkham is our official representative to the board of the Albert Community Center, which is the site of our next Spring Social May 5th, 2018. Our social coordinators are Ted and Mark Prebble. You already know about Ted. Mark Prebble is a long-time supporter of our community; he has a special responsibility for the Raoul Wallenberg Park improvement which is close to becoming a reality. Lastly, we have Roger Williamson who runs our website, where this newsletter is also posted. Roger’s help on design and communications is very much appreciated.
Not on our executive, but deserving of special mention for all the work she puts into our community, including taking time for our association meetings, is Cynthia Block our new, and very committed councillor.
Here are some of the things your VVCA has accomplished so far this year:
– VVCA committed $15 000 towards the Brunskill Playground replacement, which laid the foundation for raising $200 000. Thank you to all who donated and especially Anu and Maya for doing all the hard work. The fundraising committee is very close to meeting their goal.
– The upgrade to Raoul Wallenberg park is currently funded, but not to the extent desired by those tendering to do the job (i.e. tenders have come in too high.) Work continues to bring this project to fruition
– We have made some progress in regards to parking in our neighbourhood. A group of committed volunteers including the very capable Joanna Smith and Rene Chapman succeeded in petitioning residents of 15th Street and some adjacent streets. I anticipate this will result in approval of a small extension of the Residential Parking Permit Zone at the next council meeting.
- The Community Clean Up that was held on May 27/17 once more succeeded in remo-ing two dumpsters of fire hazard and other unsightliness from our neighborhood. Thanks to all who helped with this effort.
- Our Spring Social was held at Louis’ Loft in May. This event is always a great mi-ture of good food, community insights (Cynthia Block gave a great speech), funny commentary, meeting old and new neighbors, and dance (banned in favor of alternative entertainment at the next social on ac-count as I am one of the few who dances).
– Civics: the big news is that the lot at the corner of Clarence and College has changed hands. North Prairie Developments is thinking of redeveloping this as a non-conforming high rise. A meeting will be held for community input when planning permission is sought from the City. I en-courage you to attend and have your views heard.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
Your community association has extensively considered the parking problems in our neighborhood over these last few months. I met with Genevieve Russell, Special Projects Manager for Parking and Permits, and Justine Marcoux, Transportation Engineer, at the City of Saskatoon. In addition, there have been several meetings with our City Councillor, Cynthia Block, to discuss parking problems.
There are many parking problems in our area. Too many to be tackled at the same time. The consensus is to deal with parking problems one by one, starting with the blocks bordered North to South by 15th and 12th Streets and East to West by Cumberland and Clarence Avenues. This is a fairly large area and will require the time and support of our residents in this area to canvass their block and collect the required signatures on the approved form. The community association is hoping that at least one resident on each block will champion the petition, attend a briefing meeting on how to get the required information, and canvass their block door-to-door. I hope you are interested and that you will email me at email@example.com to let me know of your willingness to help with the petition. Not everyone in the area reads the newsletter, so if you know of other interested residents, please pass this message along The steps we will have to go through are outlned below:
RESIDENTIAL PARKING: HOW TO CREATE A CONTROLLED PARKING ZONE
A controlled, or Residential Permit Parking (RPP) Zone, exists in our neighborhood with approximate borders of College Drive to the North, Clarence Avenue to the west, 15th Street to the south and Cumberland to the East. This restricts non-residents to short term parking (typically less than 2 hours) but allows permit holders (residents who have applied for and received a permit) to park throughout the day subject to the usual restrictions on long term parking (must be less than 36 hours etc.). A brief summary of the procedure to have your street in Varsity View or Grosvenor declared as a Residential Parking Permit Zone is:
Submit a petition from residents in the area for the new RPP zone. To be successful the petition must have:
• At least 70% support from the residents on each block face i.e. one side of a street block.
• Only one resident per household or housing unit e.g. a legal basement suite, can sign the petition. A resident is a person who lives in a housing unit and can provide proof of that. This includes tenants who are renting.
• The petition asks for the name, address, and phone number of each person who signs. It also asks if at least one member of the household will purchase a RPP permit at a cost of $25 annually.
• Residents must provide contact information.
The process to expand a RPP zone can take time, Parking Services encourages residents to coordinate petitioning so that multiple blocks can be included in one request. Petitioning for multiple blocks will also prevent the displacement of parking congestion and reduce the need for future petitions.
Following submission of the petition, City Administration springs into action. They verify the identity and residential address of the petitioners and conduct a parking survey. At least 25% of vehicles parked in the area during the day must be transient parkers (non-resident vehicles) and there must be significant parking pressure.
If both of the above criteria are met a report is submitted to City Council to seek approval of the proposed RPP zone expansion and amend the Residential Parking Program Bylaw #7862.
This outline is only a guide for information purposes. The full policy can be found at https://www.saskatoon.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-clerk/civic-policies/C07-014.pdf. The Bylaw can be found at https://www.saskatoon.ca/sites/default/files/documents/community-services/parking-services/residential_parking_program_bylaw_no._7862.pdf.
At the end of the day, creation of a new RPP zone is at the discretion of council.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
As I walk around our neighborhood one of the major issues is parking. Residents are concerned they cannot park near their home, tradespeople have difficultly finding parking to perform needed repairs, there is no room for visitors to park, and back alleyways are obstructed by delivery and builders’ trucks. In the residential parking zone close to the University, the concerns are around lack of parking on weekends. From 15th Street south, work day parking is the problem. It is not completely clear who is parking in our neighborhood. Some tell stories of students parking outside their house and catching a bus up to Place Riel, others think RUH employees are an important factor. Another factor is the increased housing density in our area. Every time a lot is subdivided we lose front street parking to curb cuts and/or gain more cars.
The VVCA Civics committee is working to understand our options to address our parking problems. In October we met to discuss this issue with two University of Saskatchewan representatives James Cook (Manager of Business Opportunities and our College Quarter liaison) and Quintin Zook (Director of Consumer Services). We learned that during the work week, all University parking spaces are occupied and that there is a waiting list for daytime on-campus parking. On the weekends the University has spare parking capacity. There are several lower cost parking options for students, typically in the more peripheral areas of campus. Faculty and staff have access to more centrally located lots as part of their parking plan. We plan on meeting with student representatives and RUH to get their take on the parking situation. Ultimately, if our neighboring employees are unable to help, one option will be to apply for an extension of the residential parking plan to cover a wider area and longer hours. Another suggestion is to allow residents to sell off-road parking; this private enterprise approach would require architectural guidelines to ensure that parking was appropriately hidden and landscaped. Finally, I hope that the planning department will insist that new construction follows existing by-laws and that parking exemptions for new builds are no longer approved.
Another change that is likely to affect our community is the development of College Quarter. The new hotel is already under construction. Other plans call for sporting areas, mixed residential and commercial construction. Development will remove green space, remove campus parking lots, increase the number of cars in our area and bring young families; changes that could impact parking, schools and parks in Varsity View. Another problem will be how the City and the school system get money to provide these services as University lands are exempt from municipal taxes. James Cook will give an overview of College Quarter development at January 18th at 7 pm in the library at Brunskill school. I hope you will attend as it will be an opportunity to get answers to your concerns and opportunities that this development brings to our neighbourhoods.
An interesting overview of the demographics of Varsity View can be found by searching for neighborhood profiles, 2015, City of Saskatoon. The data was recently updated. Both Grosvenor Park (12 units/hectare) and Varsity View (15 units/ hectare) have a greater housing density than the whole City (11 units/hectare). We have a much greater pressure on our parks than the whole City; there are 386, 487 and 235 people/hectare of park for Grosvenor, Varsity View and the whole City respectively. In Varsity View the majority of dwelling units are rented (41% home ownership), Grosvenor has 56% home ownership and the whole City has 66%. Taken together this information suggests there is a lot of pressure on our neighborhoods and it is fantastic that the efforts of our residents make this a sought-after area. Throughout the City, more people walk to work than take the bus. We excel at walking, 25% and 17% of us walk to work in Varsity View and Grosvenor respectively, compared with a City average of 5%.
Finally, I would like to thank our many volunteers. Above all it is the people that make Varsity View a great community. Our volunteers run sports, arts and educational programs for everyone from school children to retirees. Our volunteers organize many community events including Movie in the Park, skating at our rink and our Spring Community Dinner. Our volunteers remove junk form the back alleys and provide community gardening. Our volunteers fundraise for new park equipment and keep the City informed of development concerns. Our volunteers print newsletters, post on social media and deliver community updates door to door. Thanks to all and to all of you a very Happy Christmas, Festive Season and/or New Year.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
The last few months have seen major decisions about the rezoning of corner lots, a Sum theater produc-tion, our Spring social, fundraising for park improvements, and a full activities program. Upcoming events include the start of our fall activities, movie in the park, addressing parking problems, and park improvements.
Corner Lot rezoning: City planning held information sessions with local community associations located within Circle Drive. The purpose was to gather views about rezoning corner lots to allow four-unit dwellings. The Varsity View Community Association meeting was held at Albert Community Centre following a neighborhood-wide drive to alert residents about the meeting. Approximately 75 people attended, and there was a vigorous discussion about the potential merits and problems of four-unit dwellings. Meeting attendees voted overwhelmingly against rezoning. City planning considered the views of all the community associations and decided that the potential benefits of increased housing density were outweighed by the problems. These included loss of light, front yard gardens and privacy, along with potential drainage problems and decreased property values. For the moment at least, blanket rezoning of corner lots for four-unit dwellings is not going to be allowed. This decision owes a lot to the good turn out at the meeting and our community sharing similar concerns on this issue. Thanks to the community for the great turn out and for making your views known. Our next major initiative is likely to be parking (i.e. the lack of it). Your in-volvement and support will be critical.
Spring Social: our spring social was held at Louis (thank you Ted). We enjoyed great music, a great talk from Alice Kuipers (born in Britain) about why she and her husband Yann Martel (from Montreal) decided to raise their family in Saskatoon. Our open spaces, ease of getting to work and the joys of our neighborhood (okay… Nutana across the road) all got mentions. Charlie Clark, our councillor, gave a short talk, won the 50/50 and graciously donated his winnings to fund park improvements in our neighbourhood.
Park improvements: we currently have three park improvement projects supported by VVCA. Improvements to Raoul Wallenberg park by adding a reflective garden and better landscaping is the longest standing project. It is a joint effort between Mark Prebble for the VVCA, the Congregation Judas Israel and the City of Saskatoon. Plans and fundraising are mostly completed. We hope to see ground breaking soon. The newest project is the renovation of Albert Recreational Park. The playground equipment no longer meets current standards. We support an ambitious project led by Rahul Mainra of the Nutana Community Association to renovate and reinvigorate the play areas for the enjoyment of community families. Lastly we are fully committed to playground improvements at Brunskill School. Plans call for the old wooden play structures to be replaced by a safer and even more fun play area. This effort is led by the volunteers on the Brunskill Home and School parents’ association. We have a unique collection of parks and pocket parks and their improvement will enhance our neighborhood for families and friends. Previously, VVCA has supported park improvements at President Murray Park and today these are a widely enjoyed and appreciated part of our community.
Theater in the Park: Traditionally VVCA supports two outdoor entertainment events over the summer. Sum Theater put on a production of Little Badger and the Fire People in July at Grosvenor Park. They always put on a great performance which entertains both kids and adults. We will once again host our Movie in the Park at 7pm, September 10 at President Murray Park; I look forward to seeing you there.
Fall Activities: Our fall activities program starts with registration on September 6th and 8th from 7 to 8:30 pm, at Brunskill School – thanks to Barb Giles and all who generously give their time as coaches, organizers, coordinators, and instructors.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
As new President of Varsity View Community Association I have a great respect for the work that our community and community association does to make Varsity View a safe and desirable place to live. It is also clear that the City relies on us for some of the basic amenities that we sometimes take for granted.
A recent example is the neighbourhood cleanup organized by Mark Prebble with the help of the City. Although we only managed to visit about half the back alleys we removed four skips of trash. Some of it was a fire hazard, all of it an eyesore. For those of you whose alleys we missed the City has a new site for compostable waste. The East Compost Depot is now located off Highway 5 at Zimmerman Road, east of the former Sundown Drive-in; it is open Thurs-Mon, 11-5.
Another example of community improvement is Cathy Watt’s championing of the solar compactor in President Murray Park (the one with all the Spruce trees). Now we have a reliable receptacle for waste that emails the City when it is full and needs emptying.
One of the most important contributions is the various sporting, physical activities, crafts and self-improvement programs organized by the community association. These help both the physical and mental health of the community. A special thanks to Barb Giles, Jason Kovitch and Colin for organizing these.
One of the major challenges for the coming year is going to be funding of three park improvements in or adjacent to Varsity View. These will collectively cost the better part of a million dollars and the community associations of Nutana and Varsity View support these initiatives. Although some of the money will be raised from grants, the generosity of residents is likely to play the major role in fund raising. This is needed to allow the new safer playgrounds and park improvements to be built at Albert Park, Brunskill School and Raoul Wallenberg Park.
One positive note is the City finding funds for new pedestrian pavements. One of the shortcomings identified in the local area plan was the need for better North-South communications. Adding pavement to at least one side of all our streets would make them safer and easier to navigate.
On the Civics front we will be looking for better solutions to our perennial parking problems and working to develop a reasonable stance to the Cities’ proposal to consider rezoning corner lots to allow 4 housing units i.e. condos on corners.
I know that VVCA and the community has many dedicated and committed volunteers and I look forwards to working with everyone to keep Varsity View a great place to live. I look forwards to meeting you over the summer, perhaps at Sum Theater (Grosvenor Park, July 12th, 7 pm) or our movie night in September.
Jon Naylor, VVCA President
My message to you for Fall 2015 draws again from Sum Theatre’s 2015 performance of Hercules (special thanks to Joel and crew for their performance in Albert Park for our residents!). Their empowering
and family-friendly performances have quickly become a staple of summer life in Varsity View/Grosvenor Park.
The final scene of the play has Hercules and all the children in the audience becoming ‘heroes’ and forming a ‘brick brigade’ to rebuild the town. I’m still gobsmacked at how the cast so quickly and
easily engages 80-100 children they’ve never met each year in a different task and gets them to cooperate! It’s an apt comparison to the pitching in I see each year in VVCA as volunteers of all ages and backgrounds come together for the common good.
Our VVCA ‘heroes’ provide youth sport, culture and literacy programs, adult recreation opportunities and advocate for the interests of Varsity View/Grosvenor Park in civic matters. Our partnerships with local organizations including Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, Congregation Agudas Israel, Albert Community Centre and Nutana Community Association have already, or are leading to, new opportunities for our residents to enjoy a vibrant community.
If you’re not familiar with our programs, projects, or rich history, I would encourage you to check us out at http://vvcasaskatoon.com/
As I prepare to move to the role of Past-President this spring, I would like to again extend my continued thanks to our volunteer heroes that make our programs and projects possible.
Regards, James Perkins, President
It takes a town to build a town to make a town a town,
It takes a town to build a town to keep a town a town…
My message to you this month started one nice fall day in the backyard as my 4-and-a-half year old daughter (who knows more residents than I do now that she’s in preschool) began to chant the theme song (above) of Sum Theatre’s “The Pied Piper” she saw months earlier in President Murray Park. Her ‘town’ in the sandbox was coming along quite nicely, such that she didn’t notice my look of shock at hearing that tune again, out of time and context.
The shocking part of this intro is that she gets it (with full credit to Sum Theatre of course). Our ‘town’ is our community, and that’s where the magic really happens. And it takes all of us.
Given our family’s professions and volunteer activities, we talk a lot about helping people and pitching in to help make good stuff happen. But to understand that a community is richest when everyone is engaged through neighbours helping neighbours, a bit of volunteering or charitable donation is a valuable gem of knowledge to pass on to our children. I am always proudest talking with my daughter about the projects and advocacy VVCA has taken on for the community’s benefit.
Looking at the milestones of our recent successes – the Local Area Plan (LAP), advocacy for proper infill guidelines and sensible traffic solutions, a wonderful partnership unfolding with Congregation Agudas Israel to enhance Raoul Wallenberg Park, and positive youth & adult programming almost every night of the week, I’d say our ‘town’ is a rather fine looking ‘town’ indeed.
This year at our AGM, we will be looking for some new ‘townsfolk’ to get involved to keep our town a town. Have an interest in community issues? Want to boost your resume or learn a new leadership skill? Join us at our April AGM and see how you can help.
Special thanks to those that help build and keep (up) the ‘town’ of Grosvenor Park/Varsity View through our community association and other community-based organizations.
The Joy of Community Service
As a long-time resident of Varsity View and Grosvenor Park with several years of involvement in our community association, I often talk about my volunteer commitments which leads to the people to ask, “so….that’s fun?”
The question, (in its many forms) doesn’t come that sharply of course; it is always more oblique but does show the speaker’s curiosity why volunteers do what they do. With family commitments, extra-curricular lessons, and our jobs, it is a valid question.
My first answer is always the volunteers. VVCA has a diverse group of talented people that are a pleasure to work with. Volunteering with them has given me opportunities to work with wonderful individuals outside my field and build friendships with our families.
The second part of my answer is the programs and projects. With the organization’s broad mandate to improve the quality of life for residents in our neighbourhood, it’s such a rewarding accomplishment to be able to create a new program for children, host a new rec sport, or start a new tradition like Movie in the Park. Sitting with the VVCA executive or a potential partner group, I often ask “why can’t we do this?” and know that some elbow grease and problem solving is the only thing we need to do to make amazing things happen.
By this point, (if my listener hasn’t drifted off to the artichoke dip), I share that the third aspect is the community. Thank yous from our neighbours and community make a big difference to us and we are thrilled when our programs are full or there’s a field of attendees for Theatre in the Park. Support from the community in terms of gratitude, recognition and financial support through donations is a huge motivator to our volunteers and I encourage you to thank them next time your family uses our programs or attends our events.
As we move forward this fall with our partners on park improvements in Raoul Wallenberg Park and Albert Recreation Centre, we hope we can continue to count on the support of our community to make our neighbourhood a better place.
Special Projects Update: Making Dreams a Reality in Varsity View and Grosvenor Park
Firstly, a big thank you to those of you who shared your views of our community the past few months. By consulting residents through dialogue, our website, and email, we built a clear picture of what residents would support in our community. Your feedback
put a strong emphasis on enriching public spaces, which is certainly a theme we will embrace.
Projects we are advancing through proposals, partnerships, and grant requests:
- Functional art/seating area spaces in Raoul Wallenberg park (in partnership with Congregation Agudas Israel) and other parks.
- Upgrades to Albert Recreational Park (in partnership with Nutana Community Association).
- Playground upgrades to Brunskill School (in partnership with the school community).
- A litter reduction project.
- A heritage trail and signage.
As grants and partnerships are finalized in the coming months, we will tell residents more about these projects and will be asking for your financial support to enhance the beauty, uniqueness, and opportunity of our neighbourhood.
I encourage you to join us at our AGM April 16th to share your views on these ideas for our community (and also to discuss a slight change to our constitution, intended to bring the length of notice of our AGM in line with The Non-Profit Corporations Act).
Get involved in making a difference!
Making Dreams a Reality in Varsity View and Grosvenor Park
VVCA is excited to announce that we are considering our next major project(s) for Grosvenor Park/ Varsity View neighbourhoods. On the heels of our success with the playground improvements in President Murray Park and energized by a strong core of volunteers, we are eager to gather feedback from residents about what projects would best benefit our community and fulfill our mandate of improving quality of life for our residents.
Within the themes of promoting active lifestyles, building positive aesthetics, and engaging young families, we have come up with a number of potential projects for our community. Projects should bring our community together, provide a long-term asset to our community, and build pride in the great community we live in. Several of the projects have potential partners or grant opportunities we can utilize to maximize the success of the project.
How You Can Help:
The projects proposed are listed in the January 2014 The View newsletter with a short write up of how they are envisioned at this point. As residents in our neighbourhood have a wide array of worldly experiences and skills, we ask that you comment on which projects resonate the most with you and for ideas on how to make them world-class. We will be taking comments at our next registration night, January 21th, and gathering feedback via our email firstname.lastname@example.org. After a period of public consultation, VVCA will announce our next major project(s) at our annual Louis’ event in the spring.
It is an exciting time to be living in our community and I am eager to hear each of you share your best and brightest ideas!
Infill Development & Urban Planning
The City of Saskatoon is developing a Neighbourhood Infill Strategy, concerning Infill within built-up areas of the City. This is of particular concern to VVCA, especially given the growth of the University’s College Quarter development, arguably the City’s largest infill experiment. After an initlal Public Workshop in December, 2012, the City is currently seeking input on recommendations for a draft strategy, addressing the following:
- development standards and architectural guidelines
- site design – including consideration for garage/garden
- building design
- streetscape and landscape design
It has scheduled a Community Conversation, as follows:
Thursday, March 14, 2013, 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm (Presentation 7:15- 8:00pm)
Delta Bessborough – Battleford Ballroom
We encourage participation. If you are unable to go to the discussion, please review the materials, which will be available after the meeting on the City’s website, and feel free to submit comments online.
As part of VVCA’s continued involvement in infill and visionary development, it is supporting a speaking event in partnership with the Regional and Urban Planning (RUP) program of the College of Geography and Planning at the University of Saskatchewan and like-minded organizations. Mr. Larry Beasley of Vancouver has accepted an invitation from the RUP to be Planner in Residence for 2013. He has extensive experience with the City of Vancouver and as a planning consultant working around the world. A number of events are scheduled for the week of March 18 to 22 or 23, 2012. These events will include a public lecture on:Wednesday, March 20, 2013, Roxy Theatre, 7:00 pm
Mr. Beasley will speak from a Canadian context, with examples and experiences from Canada. For further details contact either the College of Geography and Planning at
the University of Saskatchewan or James Perkins.
How Do We Make Great Neighbourhoods Better?
The New Year is a time of taking stock of the year behind and planning for the year ahead.
A common theme to the year behind, and the year ahead, is neighbourhood change. Varsity View has been working on a Local Area Plan (LAP) with the city of Saskatoon and the city itself is exploring Neighbourhood Infill. Meanwhile, the University of Saskatchewan has been busy building new residences in the College Quarter development.
Preserving the character and feel of our neighbourhoods has consistently been a priority for residents. I am proud of the work done by the LAP Land Use and Infill subcommittee to establish where development should happen and identify guiding principles as to how it should be implemented. The LAP document is on track to be completed this year.
A public workshop on Neighbourhood Level Infill Development was held December 4th for all Saskatoon residents. Led by Brook McIIroy and SK Arc consulting firms, they are preparing recommendations for the City as to how to direct infill in a positive manner and recommend pilot projects. This will include Garage and Garden Suites, which I’m sure will be of interest to Varsity View and Grosvenor Park residents. The draft recommendations
will be presented to the public in mid-February, so I urge you to make your voice heard in this process.
Another significant development in the Varsity View and Grosvenor Park area is the College Quarter development. Building continues ahead and your community association has been
meeting regularly with the U of S representatives to give feedback and make suggestions for improvement. We are scheduled to meet again with the representatives at ourFebruary meeting (Feb. 13th, 7 pm @ Brunskill School) to give suggestions to the current plan for College Quarter.
In all of these processes, it is the active engagement of residents that makes improvements for all of us. Your thoughts and ideas in the early stages of each of these projects have a huge impact on the final outcomes – complaints afterward are too late. Please come out to the public meetings and stay tuned to the VVCA website as we work to make great neighbourhoods better!
Varsity View – A Neighbourhood of Vibrance, Change.
I’m proud to share that the Varsity View Community continues to show its energy and dynamic nature in finding new solutions to building a strong community.
The Varsity View Local Area Plan, a ‘blue print’ for future growth had a very successful first year writing phase and now involves detailed input from community stakeholders like you. This innovative ‘participatory’ planning has produced draft documents on cycling and transportation, infill and other maters of interest to residents. You can catch up on the discussion here: vvcasaskatoon.com and watch for notices of new meetings this fall.
Varsity View continues to advocate for effective Infill Guidelines that will shape the revitalization of our neighbourhood. Issues such as garage and garden suites, densification,
and heritage preservation will no doubt play a role in Saskatoon’s civic election this October. I urge you to speak to the candidates in your area about your concerns and make your voice heard.
And while on the subject of being heard, election years are great reminders to get involved. Everyone of every age has something to contribute to our community – sports, activities,
classes, and gardening all add to the richness of a community.
VVCA is currently looking for committed volunteers to maintain a key resource – the hockey rink at Brunskill. As well, we need a soccer coordinator in order to be able to
provide the program for U6-U10 children during the fall/ winter of 2012 and the spring of 2013. Please let us know if you can help in either way.
One big change to Varsity View programs this year is our Code of Conduct policy for participants and their families. Based on the principle, “be a fan, not a fanatic,” we remind
participants and/or parents that respect of others is an essential lesson we learn and (show to young eyes) in our sports and activities. This Code of Conduct reminds our coaches, volunteers, coordinators and families to treat each other in a respectful manner – a cornerstone of any community.
Best wishes as you return to your fall routines and happy harvest.
Varsity View continues to be a dynamic and exciting neighbourhood to live in. I’d like to share with you a few of the interesting projects going on in Varsity View.
The consultation phase of the Varsity View Local Area Plan (LAP) has completed. Over the past year, sessions on road maintenance, safety, parking, heritage and the College Quarter development attracted a lot of interest and comments from residents. By far the most well-attended session was the Infill Development workshop – clearly this is a significant issue in our historic neighbourhood.
Many speakers at the Infill Development workshop recognized the importance of newly built homes and multi-family buildings matching the character of their street in many ways – setback, garage location, size, orientation, and architectural features, to name a few. As we learned in the workshop, the City of Saskatoon currently has no mechanism to ensure new or renovated houses are “wellmannered” and reflective of the streetscape. It is my belief that these alterations around our homes should exemplify best architectural and building practices as opposed to what is cheap, easy, and detracting from common character. Having worked on this issue for several years prior to the LAP process, I hold dear to the simple maxim that any change in a streetscape should provide, “a net benefit to the community” such that new homes enhance the nature and aesthetics of what is already a great neighbourhood to live in. We should expect that, as each house in our community is updated or upgraded, it adds to the beauty of its street and thereby neighbouring homes as well.
Work has now begun to articulate the collective vision of Varsity View residents into a permanent document. The next step will be the writing process, as our Planning and Development Branch consultants from the City of Saskatoon evaluate feedback from the community. A number of public LAP meetings will be held in the Fall and New Year to share drafts of the document.
Ensuring our neighbourhood is desirable for youth, Varsity View has purchased an addition to the upgraded playground in President Murray park and will add on the new section late this year. The Park has become a ‘destination park’ for many people and another benefit to our community. Thank you to the volunteers who have helped make this happen!
Thank you for your continued support of VVCA activities and events.
James Perkins, President
As we reach the holiday season, it’s time to reflect on what has happened during the past year and to make plans for the upcoming year.
The Varsity View Local Area Plan process is still underway. Consultations have been completed, and the report is being written in stages. LAP meetings are being scheduled immediately after VVCA executive meetings, which take place on the third Wednesday of every month at 6:30 pm in the Library at Brunskill School. Community residents are invited to participate in both sets of meetings. We always welcome new volunteers for VVCA, and we encourage everyone to provide commentary about the LAP process.
As reported in the last newsletter, VVCA has purchased an addition to the upgraded playground in President Murray park. Unfortunately, the ground froze before installation of the new section, so children of all ages will have to wait until spring to play on it. New benches, honouring the major donors to the playground, are to be installed at the same time.
VVCA cooperated with Nutana CA in hosting the third annual Pumpkins in the Park Festival in Rotary Park, on November 1, 2011. Thanks to the hard work of community volunteers, it was once again a great success, with several hundred people bringing pumpkins to be lighted and enjoying hot dogs and hot chocolate.
Registration for winter programs will take place on January 17th, 2012 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. At that time, previous Varsity View Bishop Murray Community Gardeners (VVBMCG) are invited to sign up for the 2012 gardening season. A sign up date for new gardeners will take place in late April or early May.
We are once again planning a fundraising social at Louis. It will take place on Saturday, March 31, 2012. Come enjoy an evening of socializing and music with other community members!
And last, but certainly not least, we have a new website! Many thanks to Paige Goebel and Roger Williamson for its creation and upkeep. Please visit us at vvcasaskatoon.com.
Thank you for your continued support of VVCA activities and events.